The Wikipedia page for Staaten der Erde contains a couple of options for the names of some capitals. Since I’m not a native German speaker, I wonder how I can find out, which of the options are most common in daily use, for example:

  • Zagreb or Agram?
  • Vilnius or Wilna?
  • Bratislava or Pressburg?
  • Ljubljana or Laibach?

I’m working on a country/capital quiz app, so I need to choose the ones that German-speaking people would feel familiar with.

  • 1
    Welcome to German Language SE. I made your question a little bit more general, as otherwise you would technically have to ask a question for each capital. As the answer is still valid and helpful to you, this should not be a problem.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Aug 23, 2015 at 13:09

2 Answers 2


If you run an N-gram for each pair, these are the results:

In the actuality, as used in (scanned) books:

  1. Agram < Zagreb
  2. Wilna > Vilnius (the trend being, apparently, that Vilnius replaces Wilna)
  3. Laibach < Ljubljana
  4. Pressburg < Bratislava

Except the pair of names for the capital of Lithuania, the original name is much more used nowadays, while their "German version" dominated till the beginnings of the XXth century.

  • 7
    I wasn’t aware of Agram before, at all.
    – chirlu
    Aug 23, 2015 at 12:17

One possible way: If you google for Agram, the Wikipedia-page that shows up is not really useful. But two places below Zagreb shows up. You can also open the English Wiki page and click on German/Deutsch on the left side where it says "Languages".

My impression is that the modern Germans try to use the native name of cities or persons as much as possible, while older people still hang on to the "German" names.

  • 3
    I re-added the information to the Wikipedia article, which a careless editor who never heard of Agram before (understandably) and didn’t bother to check had simply removed. – Regarding the second paragraph of your answer, I don’t think it’s that simple. There is no tendency to say Roma instead of Rom, or Milano and Venezia instead of Mailand and Venedig. It’s rather that certain parts of Europe once belonged to German-speaking countries (Germany and Austria) and/or had a considerable German-speaking population who used German names, and this is no longer the case.
    – chirlu
    Aug 23, 2015 at 14:19
  • 1
    In the special case of places being renamed after e.g. WWII, the choice depends on whether we are talking in a historical or contemporary context.
    – Raphael
    Aug 23, 2015 at 15:05
  • @chirlu you are right, good examples.
    – user17038
    Aug 24, 2015 at 3:09
  • To add on @chirlu ’s comment: we also say Tokio, Peking and most notably Moskau (even though that last one was definitely affected by the last war Germany waged).
    – Jan
    Aug 29, 2015 at 1:25

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