The first attestation of the term is in the charter of duke Trpimir from 852 AD, whose original has been lost but a copy has been preserved from 1568 (Lujo Margetić has proposed in 2002 that the document is in fact of legislative character, dating to AD 840). The oldest stone inscription is the Branimir Inscription (found in Šopot near Benkovac), where Duke Branimir is mentioned:
The Old Croatian ethnonym *xъrvatъ (hŭrvatŭ) is of variant stem, and is attested in the earliest Croatian written monument, the Baška tablet from 1100 AD: zvъnъmirъ kralъ xrъvatъskъ ("Zvonimir, king of Croats").
The first foreign-language sources that unambiguously mention the name Croat were written in the 10th century, in the documents of Split Church Councils and the De administrando imperio, written by Byzantine emperor Constantine VII.
The most widely held theory by Croatian linguists is that of the connection with an Iranian name, based on the Old Persian toponym Harahvat-, the native name of Arachosia. "Arachosia" is the Latinized form of Greek Ἀραχωσία – Arachosíā. In Old Persian inscriptions, the region is referred to as Harahuvatiš (, from h-r-u-v-t-i-, corresponding to Vedic Sarasvatī). The derivation from the Old Persian /xaraxwat-/ is usually cited as being substantiated by a 3rd-century "Scythian" form /xoroaθ-/ (ΧΟΡΟΑΘΟΣ) attested in the Tanais Tablets, an inscription from Tanais.
There are still numerous attempts to derive the name from alternative origins; Gołąb (1990) proposes a borrowing from Proto-Germanic that came to mean "warriors clad with horn-armour". According to this scenario, an exonym C(h)rovati, Xrōbátoi, Hrváti etc. over time was adopted as a self-designation.
Thus in the Duchy of Carinthia one can find Hrvatski kotar and Chrowat along upper Mura; in Middle Ages the following place names have been recorded: Krobathen, Krottendorf, Krautkogel; Kraut near Spittal. In the Duchy of Styria there are toponyms such as Chraberstorf, Krawerspach, Chrawat, etc.
In Slovenia there are Hrovate and Hrovača. In Germany along Saale there were Chruuati, Churbate, and Korbetha, west of Leipzig.
In the southern Balkans, the Republic of Macedonia has a place named Arvati (Арвати) situated near lower Prespa; in Greece there is a Charváti (Χαρβάτι) in Attica and another in Argolis, as well as Charváta (Χαρβάτα) on Crete; and in Albania, Hirvati.
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