Where does the word “frank” come from and What does frank mean?

In the late sixth and early seventh centuries A.D., a warlike German tribe living along the lower stretches of the Rhine, moved steadily southward.

The Roman legions had at one time conquered this tribe and had used its forces as honored allies, but now the Roman power had become weak and the tribe finally occupied all the coastal country north of the Pyrenees.

The members of this tribe were known to the Romans as Franci (plural of Francus), after the javelin with which they were efficiently armed. The English equivalent is Frank, and the tribe is referred to in English accounts as the Franks.

After their conquest of the country the Franks imposed their own laws, subjugating the natives and arrogating all the privileges to themselves.

Thus they became the only free people in the land. Hence their name, having lost the old Roman meaning, came to be used as meaning “free.” And because of this and their power, they scorned the use of subterfuge in their dealings among themselves or with others.

Thus the Franks became noted, not only for their freedom, but also for integrity. Hence, the word “frank” came to denote the characteristics attributed to these people, straightforwardness and candor.

Part of the country which they occupied still honors this old free tribe by the name it bears, France.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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