Scandinavia[a] is a historical cultural-linguistic region in Northern Europe characterized by a common ethno-cultural Germanic heritage and related languages that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Modern Norway and Sweden proper[b] are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula, whereas modern Denmark is situated on the Danish islands and Jutland. The term Scandinavia is usually used as a cultural term, but in English usage, it is occasionally confused with the purely geographical term Scandinavian Peninsula, which took its name from the cultural-linguistic concept. The name Scandinavia historically referred vaguely to Scania. The terms Scandinavia and Scandinavian entered usage in the 18th century as terms for the three Scandinavian countries, their peoples and associated language and culture, being introduced by the early linguistic and cultural Scandinavist movement. Sometimes the term Scandinavia is also taken to include Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Finland, on account of their historical association with the Scandinavian countries. Such usage, however, may be considered inaccurate in the area itself, where the term Nordic countries instead refers to this broader group.
The southern and by far most populous regions of Scandinavia have a temperate climate. Scandinavia extends to the north of the Arctic Circle, but has relatively mild weather for its latitude due to the Gulf Stream. Much of the Scandinavian mountains have an alpine tundra climate. There are many lakes and moraines, legacies of the last glacial period, which ended about ten millennia ago.
The Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish languages form a dialect continuum and are known as the Scandinavian languages—all of which are considered mutually intelligible with one another. Faroese and Icelandic, sometimes referred to as insular Scandinavian languages, are only intelligible with continental Scandinavian languages to a very limited extent. Finnish and Sami languages are related to each other, as well as to Hungarian, Estonian and several minority languages spoken in Western Russia, but are entirely unrelated to Swedish, Norwegian and Danish.[c] They do, however, include several words that have been adopted during the history from the neighboring languages, just as Swedish, spoken in Finland today, has borrowed from Finnish.
The vast majority of the human population of Scandinavia are Scandinavians, descended from several (North) Germanic tribes who originally inhabited the southern part of Scandinavia and what is now northern Germany, who spoke a Germanic language that evolved into Old Norse and who were known as Norsemen in the Early Middle Ages. The Vikings are popularly associated with Norse culture. The Icelanders and the Faroese are to a significant extent, but not exclusively, descended from peoples retroactively known as Scandinavians. The extreme north of Norway, Sweden and Finland, as well as the most North-Western part of Russia, is home to the region's original inhabitants, the today's minority of Sami, who originally inhabited a much larger area, before the expansion of the Scandinavians northward.