On Thuringian Loibas

The question of the “original” (or at least the Middle Ages) name of the Thuringian Forest (Thuringer Wald) has been on the minds of many people for quite a while.  Specifically, the “forest” which is actually a mountain range covered by a forest has, in the past been referred to by the following names:

  • loiba
  • lovia
  • liuba
  • liube

The question, as usual, is what this means.


The word appears seemingly for the first time in a report about the Polish Queen Richeza.  Richeza was the wife of Mieszko II.  She was apparently pledged to him at the summit at Merserburg in 1013 as a means of fostering peace between Poland and the Empire.  Although that did not work and the wars continued until 1018, Richeza or “Rixa” did her part by giving birth to MIeszko II’s son – Casimir (the Restorer) – and to two daughters (whether or not she was also the mother of Boleslaw the “Forgotten” depends partly on whether you think Boleslaw the Forgotten really existed – a topic for another time).  In any event, when Mieszko II became king of Poland in the year 1025, Richeza became Queen.  She was, however, as a German princess before, also the owner of various estates throughout Germany.  One of those was an area in Thuringia where the Thuringer Forest range stood.


In a report about her life, we have the first mention of the word – lovia.  Specifically, the monk of the Braunsweiler Abbey says:

In the forest mountains of the Slavs, which, by reason of the shadowy forest wilderness in their language is called lovia and which, on account of its wide desolateness length- and width-wise, still nourish a great quantity of bears, a huge bear caused much damage…  [The surrounding peoples called the count palatine Otto for help, because] it was his district – the Saalfeld – that he [the bear] destroyed the most.


This was with respect to the eastern part of the Thuringer Wald. But similar names are used for the western parts as well:

  • vastae solitudinis Loibae [Schenkungsurkunde Emperor Conrad’s to Ludwig the first local Landgraf, year 1039] [Codex dipl. Sax. reg. I, 1, nr. 85] [the Urkunde is false but that has no being on the words used in the document]


  • Terra quam Louvia et Haertz sylvae concludunt [Annales Quedlinburgenses MGH Scriptores III, p. 32.]
  • Scouunoburg in confinio loibae, cujus partem complurimam, quam eidem comiti ad id negotium genitor noster donavit [Schenkungsurkunde of Emperor Henry III, year 1044]
  • monasterium situm in confinio Loibae silvae [Stiftungsurkunde by Emperor Henry IV of the Reinhardsbrunn Abbey, year 1089] [Cod. Sax. I, 1, nr. 160; Schannat vind. I, 108]
  • monasterium situm in confinio Loibae silvae [Privilegium Pope Urban II’s, year 1093] [Cod. Sax. reg I, 1, nr. 168]
  • Luiba/Luibe [Urban II’s Konfirmationsurkunde, year 1092]
  • Loyba [an announcement by Archbishop Ruthard of Mainz]
  • praedium omne circa vel infra Loibam silvam jacens cum villuis prope positis aut ponendis scilicet montem Schoweburg, Dressenrot, Ermbrechtsrot, Friderichsrot, Unssenrot, Erphesrot [Emperor Henry V’s annonucement confirming, year 1114]
  • Silva, quae dicitur Leuba [Burgelin Abbey Stiftungsurkunde, year 1144]
  • blosse Loibe [Legend of Boniface]


Immisch Pr. 74 claims that the name is derived from a Wend tribe lub which leads to luba the beloved.  There are apparently a whole number of Slavic names that use this and that later had been Germanized into Laube, Laube, Leube, Lobe or Lube – a favorite or best place.  Immisch decides against a derivation from lipa (Linden tree).

Reinhold Schottin in his book “The Slavs in Thuringia” (Die Slaven in Thüringen) discusses all these cases and concludes with the following noteworthy summary:

What a difference of views [about the origin of this word]! I do not see why one has to try to force this to be a German name since it has, admittedly, been used for a then Slavic area, [since] it has been labeled by the is monk of the Braunsweiler Abbey expressly as a Slavic word and [since] it is also otherwise commonly found, even today, in many different formerly Slavic places, but not in other purely German areas.

In any event, as possibilities for the origin of this word, we have the Slavic:

  • lube – beloved or friendly, see, e.g., Lubeck]
  • lipa – a lindentree
  • laba – the Labe, i.e., Lave, i.e., the Slavic name for the Elbe River (the author gives as an example also the castle Lauenburg which comes from Slavic name).

And speaking of that – we also now know that Łeba meant “forest” in Wendish…

So what does that mean for all the -leben suffixes in Germany?


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August 12, 2016

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