The name Norway comes from the Old Norse word norðrvegr, "northern way" or "way leading to the north", which the Geats and the Danes named the coastline of western Norway, contrasting with suðrvegar "southern way" for Germany, and austrvegr "eastern way" for the Baltic.

The Old Norse name was borrowed into Old English, as Norðweg, Norweg, giving rise to modern Norway by regular development via Middle English Norwey, Norwei. The adjective Norwegian, on the other hand, recorded from c. 1600, is derived from the latinization of the name as Norwegia.

By the 9th century a number of petty kingdoms existed along this coast, which were unified into the first kingdom of Norway under Harald Fairhair after the Battle of Hafrsfjord ca. 872. Ohthere of Hålogaland, a Norwegian seafarer, gave his account of his travels to King Alfred of Wessex in about 890 and referred to the kingdom he came from as norðmannaland, "land of the northmen". Ohthere identified the Sami from their nomadic way of life and separated the Danes from his countrymen politically or geographically. Old Norse norðmaðr was Latinized as Nortmannus in the 9th century to mean "Norseman, Viking", giving rise to the name of the Normans.[23] After Norway had become Christian, Norégr and Norégi had become the most common forms, but during the 15th century the newer forms Noreg(h) and Norg(h)e, found in medieval Icelandic
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