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Servus - the young tradition

Today I learned that the cultural phenomenon of saying “Servus” as a greeting in Bavaria and the rest of Germany is rather young. While many people associate it with “old Bavarian traditions” the greeting wasn’t used for most of history. It’s originating in the Latin language and is short for “I’m your servant”. It made its first appearance in Germany when the Roman empire expanded to the north. But it disappeared soon afterwards again until the 19th century where Latin was used as a military language by foreign armies. At that time words like “Ade” were more commonly used, but due to the war with France got out of the trends quickly and was replaced by “Servus”. Over time it made it’s way into more sayings and replaced various words to make things sound less direct. In the 20th century it got more and more popular due to pop culture and similar trend setting events. Nowadays basically everyone in Germany knows the greeting and a lot of people use it on a regular basis as a greeting.

I came across this while striving through the internet. A video by the BR (Bavarian public television)1 jumped at me and I decided to look into it. Language always fascinates me and therefore this was a nice opportunity to learn something new about a very commonly used word.

  1. The video was removed by the BR.