Wends, the name of a Slavic tribe, forming a subdivision of the northwestern stem of the Slavs. (See Slavic Race and Languages.) Roman writers called all the Slavs with whom they were acquainted Venedi (Wends), and the Germans also gave the name of Wends to all Slavic peoples, but more especially to that division of them which Schafarik has designated as Polabs (embracing Obotrits, Sorabs, and others). These inhabited, from the 4th to the 9th century, the eastern portion of Germany, from the Saale and Elbe as far north as the Eider. Charlemagne drove the Wends back toward the Vistula, and by the close of the 13th century his successors in Germany had almost extirpated them. In the 16th century remnants of this Slavic population were still scattered over the whole region between Berlin and Frankfort-on-the-Oder, and there was a remnant of Wends also in Hanover, where they kept up their language until the middle of the 18th century. They are now found in portions of Brandenburg, Silesia, and the kingdom of Saxony, and principally on the banks of the Spree. Their number has been recently estimated at 186,000, of which Brandenburg and Saxony contain 50,000 each.
Most of the Wends are Protestants, though a large proportion of those living in Saxony are Catholics. The name Southern Wends is often applied to the Winds in the Illyrian provinces of Austria. (See Winds.) - The language of the Wends is similar to the other branches of the northwestern stem of the Slavic languages, the Polish and the Bohemian. It is divided into the dialect of Lower Lusatia, which is but little developed, and that of Upper Lusatia. The latter is subdivided into the evangelical dialect, near Bautzen; the Catholic dialect, near Kamenz and in the northwest; and the northeastern dialect. The differences are mostly confined to shades of pronunciation. The Wends have mostly made use of the German letters. There are eight vowels, a, o, u, e, i, all of which are pronounced as in German and Italian, 6 (between o in note and u in full), e (like long English e), and y (approaching the German u). Of consonants there are 32: j (y consonant), w (v), i£ (v soft), b, V (soft), p, p (soft), m, m (soft), n, H, (soft, Fr. gn I, t(as in Polish), r, r (soft), s, £ (Fr. j), s, s (sh), d, dz, d£ (dsh soft), ds, t, c (tz), 6 itch soft), (tch), fo, h, ch (M), g (hard), k. There is no article. The substantives are of three genders, masculine, feminine, and neuter.
Substantives ending in a consonant are mostly masculine, those in a and i feminine, and those in o and e neuter. There are seven declensions, two for the masculine, three for the neuter, and two for the feminine. The language has a dual number. There are seven cases, viz.: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, locative (to express the relation of m), instrumental (to express the relations of by and with), and vocative. The adjectives end in y i (masculine), a (feminine), o and e (neuter). The comparative is formed by the termination ii, and in order to form the superlative the syllable naj is placed before the comparative. The personal pronouns are irregular; the others are declined like adjectives. The verb has six tenses, present, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect, future, and future perfect; five moods, indicative, subjunctive, optative, imperative, and infinitive, besides a gerund; and three participles, present and perfect active, and perfect passive. The extent of the entire Wendish literature has been estimated at 300 volumes.
The oldest monument of the language is a translation of the Epistle of St. James, dating from 1548 (edited by Lotze, Leipsic, 1867). There are grammars of the Wendish language by Ticinus (Prague, 1679), Matthiii (1721), Seiler (Bautzen, 1830), and Jordan (Prague, 1841). - See Giesebrecht, Wendische Geschichten (Berlin, 1843) and Das hannoverische Wendland (Luchow, 1863), and Obermuller, Die Urgeschichte der Wenden (Leipsic, 1874).