Scandinavia is a historical and cultural-linguistic region in Northern Europe characterized by a common ethno-cultural North Germanic heritage and mutually intelligible North Germanic languages. It comprises the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula, whereas modern Denmark consists of Jutland and the Danish islands.
The term Scandinavia is usually used as a cultural term, but in English usage, it is occasionally confused with the geographical term Scandinavian Peninsula, which took its name from the cultural-linguistic concept. The name Scandinavia originally referred vaguely to the formerly Danish, now Swedish, region Scania. The terms "Scandinavia" and "Scandinavian" entered usage in the late 18th century as terms for the three Scandinavian countries, their Germanic majority peoples and associated language and culture, being introduced by the early linguistic and cultural Scandinavist movement. In foreign usage, the term Scandinavia is sometimes incorrectly taken to also include Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Finland, on account of their historical association with the Scandinavian countries and the Scandinavian peoples and languages; however this broader group of countries is officially and commonly known as the Nordic countries.
The southern and by far most populous regions of Scandinavia have a temperate climate. Scandinavia extends 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, although Danish is considered much closer to Norwegian. Faroese and Icelandic, sometimes referred to as insular Scandinavian languages, are intelligible in continental Scandinavian languages only to a very limited extent. Finnish, Estonian, Sami languages and several minority languages spoken in Western Russia are related to each other, but are entirely unrelated to the Scandinavian languages. They do, however, include several words that have been adopted during the history from the neighboring languages, just as Swedish, spoken in Sweden today, has borrowed from Finnish.
The vast majority of the 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 retrospectively known as Scandinavians. A small minority of Sami people live in the extreme north of Scandinavia.