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I've been familiar with the country name "Bosnia and Herzegovina" for quite some time, but until this morning I've never seen it referred to as BiH.  I came upon this usage in news reports about the delivery of PRC medical supplies to that country, e.g., here.  Although the Chinese printing on the boxes in the background of the photograph in this report is small and blurred, we can verify from other sources (e.g., here) what it says:

wànlǐ shàng wéi lín, xiāngzhù wú yuǎnjìn 万里尚为邻,相助无远近 ("ten thousand miles but still neighbors, mutual assistance has no far or near")

Other recent uses may be found here and here.

Can anybody transcribe and translate the printing in Roman letters (Bosnian? Croatian?) that is also on the boxes?

Back to BiH (also written as BIH, B&H, etc.). says that it is also "an abbreviation of the word bitch".

Wikpedia's disambiguation page gives the following:

Here's the etymology of the name:

The first preserved widely acknowledged mention of Bosnia is in De Administrando Imperio, a politico-geographical handbook written by the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII in the mid-10th century (between 948 and 952) describing the "small land" (χωρίον in Greek) of "Bosona" (Βοσώνα).

The name is believed to have derived from the hydronym of the river Bosna coursing through the Bosnian heartland. According to philologist Anton Mayer the name Bosna could derive from Illyrian *"Bass-an-as"), which would derive from the Proto-Indo-European root "bos" or "bogh"—meaning "the running water". According to English medievalist William Miller the Slavic settlers in Bosnia "adapted the Latin designation […] Basante, to their own idiom by calling the stream Bosna and themselves Bosniaks […]".

The name Herzegovina ("herzog's [land]", from German word for "duke")[19] originates from Bosnian magnate Stjepan Vukčić Kosača's title, "Herceg (Herzog) of Hum and the Coast" (1448). Hum, formerly Zahumlje, was an early medieval principality that was conquered by the Bosnian Banate in the first half of the 14th century. The region was administered by the Ottomans as the Sanjak of Herzegovina (Hersek) within the Eyalet of Bosnia up until the formation of the short-lived Herzegovina Eyalet in the 1830s, which remerged in the 1850s, after which the entity became commonly known as Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On initial proclamation of independence in 1992, the country's official name was the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina but following the 1995 Dayton Agreement and the new constitution that accompanied it the official name was changed to Bosnia and Herzegovina.


I suspected that the "i/I" between "B" and "H" must mean "and" in the official languages, and so it is in Bosnian and Croatian, и in Serbian (I already knew that from Russian).

[Thanks to Jim Fanell and Ross Darrell Feingold]


  1. Philip Taylor said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 12:49 pm

    In British English (BBC radio broadcasts, usually Radio 4), I have never heard a conjunction between "Bosnia" and "Herzegovina". I hear only /ˈbɒz ni‿ə ˌhɜːts ə ˈɡɒv ɪn ə/. Which is not intended to suggest that the speakers do not use a conjunction, simply that I never consciously hear one.

  2. J.W. Brewer said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 2:33 pm

    The BBC is presumably following the common and longstanding Anglophone convention of spelling the compound toponym in question "Bosnia-Herzegovina," with the hyphen left unpronounced on the radio. The only obvious reason to switch (in English) to the "and" form is to humor the present government, and opinions might differ as to whether that's a sufficient motive.

    FWIW, one of the earliest uses I can find of the hyphenated form in the google books corpus is a book published in 1895 titled "Rambles and Studies in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Dalmatia," by Robert Munro, M.A., M.D., F.R.S.E. (To save the rest of you the googling, the last set of initials is apparently for "Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.)

  3. Andy said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 2:35 pm

    It says: Mala pomoć iz daleka, veliko prijateljstva od srca (a little help from afar, much friendship from the heart).
    I can make out all of it clearly, except for the second word, but I can discern the p and the ć, so I'm pretty sure it is 'pomoć'.

  4. Andy said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 2:50 pm

    Now that I think about it, it could also be 'veliko prijateljstvO' -'a great friendship', as opposed to 'much friendship'.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 4:28 pm

    Thank you very much, Andy.

  6. Antonio L. Banderas said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 5:09 pm

    According to the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, AmE
    ˈbɑːz ni‿ə
    ˌhErts ə ˈɡoʊvɪnə

  7. AntC said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 5:12 pm

    Is this the medical kit that other European countries have returned as defective? Is that why it's free? Note that China made great play of its friendship/international co-operation in providing that kit, although they were charging commercial rates for it.

  8. Dr. Emilio Lizardo said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 5:29 pm

    Don't forget this creative approach to international aid that was recently used by the PRC:
    Italy forced to buy back medical supplies it had donated to China

  9. Bozo said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 7:34 pm

    Also I find it interesting that the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina also includes (officially anyways) Republika , which is nether Bosnia nor Herzegovina.

  10. Bozo said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 7:35 pm

    Republika Srpska it should have been above

  11. Scott said,

    April 11, 2020 @ 8:51 pm

    Andy got the Bosnian right. In Bosnian, the country is Bosna i Hercegovina, which means Bosnia and Herzogivina.

    i = and

    Speakers say it when saying the country name.

  12. Doreen said,

    April 12, 2020 @ 4:31 am

    In Europe, the abbreviation is seen on oval stickers on the rear of cars registered in that country.

  13. Fred said,

    April 12, 2020 @ 3:29 pm

    Serbian/Bosnian/Croatian herceg is not a direct borrowing from German Herzog but via Hungarian herceg (where German /o/ was substituted with /e/ due to vowel harmony).

  14. Vanya said,

    April 13, 2020 @ 4:53 am

    I suspected that the "i/I" between "B" and "H" must mean "and" in the official languages, and so it is in Bosnian and Croatian, и in Serbian

    It is also “i” in Serbian. Both alphabets are acceptable in Serbia and in popular culture there seems to be a definite trend towards favoring the Latin alphabet.

  15. V said,

    April 13, 2020 @ 6:33 pm

    I'm puzzled by the fact that Bosna is called "Bosnia" in English. Where does the "i" in "Bosnia" come from?

    BiH is transparent" Bosna i Her[mumble]egovina.

  16. Andrew Usher said,

    April 13, 2020 @ 7:28 pm

    If 'Bosna -> Bosnia' happened in English, it was no doubt just the influence of so many other names in '-ia'. But I'd guess it more likely was in Latin or some other language.

    k_over_hbarc at

  17. mollymooly said,

    April 13, 2020 @ 9:03 pm

    Wikipedia says…

    "Bosnia and Herzegovina" comprises two portions, one of which is called the "Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina". Both "Bosnia" and "Herzegovina" are partly in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and partly in the other portion. One canton of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina calls itself the "Herzeg-Bosnian Canton" but the federation does not, because the "Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia" was a separatist protostate in the Bosnian War.

  18. Andrew Usher said,

    April 14, 2020 @ 6:11 pm

    The question was why we say 'Bosnia' and not 'Bosna'. That doesn't seem relevant – and as anyone can use Wikipedia, a post solely consisting of a quote from there is a little irritating anyway.

  19. Fred said,

    April 15, 2020 @ 4:31 am

    Maybe the /i/ comes from analogy with the demonym bošnjak/бошњак, where -nj-/-њ- is a palatal /ɲ/. This is often 'unpacked' into /ni/ when words containing it are borrowed into other languages.

  20. Philip Taylor said,

    April 15, 2020 @ 4:51 am

    Is it not possible that it is simply by "lazy analogy" with (e.g.,) Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, … ? Of course, we might to have chosen to model it on Moldova (for example), but there are far fewer countries in the region ending in /|ə/ rather than /i‿ə/.

  21. Fred said,

    April 15, 2020 @ 4:55 am

    Yes, that's much more likely! Hungary is an outlier, but you often hear foreigners say 'Hungaria' in English, modelling it either on the form in their own language or the 'lazy analogy' suggested by Philip Taylor.

  22. Rodger C said,

    April 16, 2020 @ 7:35 am

    Some people even think there's a connection between Hungaria and Sumeria. (Disturbingly, the latter word isn't flagged by my spellcheck.)

  23. Andrew Usher said,

    April 16, 2020 @ 5:11 pm

    Definitely the analogy plays a role, and 'Hungaria' also is strengthened by the analogy of 'Hungarian'. But as I stated, it's probably incorrect to believe that English speakers are responsible: many/most other languages have forms corresponding to the Latin 'Bosnia' and 'Hungaria' (more for the first, as with English).

    Rodger C:
    What word did you intend for 'Sumeria' – Sumer? If so I think it's an acceptable alternative form.

  24. Rodger C said,

    April 17, 2020 @ 7:21 am

    Well, there is something awkward about "Sumer."

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