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This article is about modern ethnic Germans. It is not to be confused with the ancient Germanic tribes. Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe, who share a common German ancestry, culture and history. The English term Germans has historically referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages. Of approximately 100 million native speakers of German in the world, roughly 80 million consider themselves Germans. Used as a noun, ein diutscher in the sense of “a German” emerges in Middle High German, attested from the second half of the 12th century. The Old French term alemans is taken from the name of the Alamanni.
It was loaned into Middle English as almains in the early 14th century. Old Norse, Finnish, and Estonian names for the Germans were taken from that of the Saxons. The English term Germans is only attested from the mid-16th century, based on the classical Latin term Germani used by Julius Caesar and later Tacitus. It gradually replaced Dutch and Almains, the latter becoming mostly obsolete by the early 18th century. The Germans are a Germanic people, who as an ethnicity emerged during the Middle Ages.
Originally part of the Holy Roman Empire, around 300 independent German states emerged during its decline after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 ending the Thirty Years War. The concept of a German ethnicity is linked to Germanic tribes of antiquity in central Europe. The early Germans originated on the North German Plain as well as southern Scandinavia. Conflict between the Germanic tribes and the forces of Rome under Julius Caesar forced major Germanic tribes to retreat to the east bank of the Rhine. The first major public figure to speak of a German people in general, was the Roman figure Tacitus in his work Germania around 100 AD. Germany, they encountered Celts to the south, and Balts and Slavs towards the east.