Sippe is German for “clan, kindred, extended family” (Frisian Sibbe, Norse Sifjar).
It continues a Proto-Germanic term *sebjō, which referred to a band or confederation bound by a treaty or oath, not primarily restricted to blood relations.[1] The original character of sibb as a peace treaty is visible in Old English, e.g. in Beowulf (v. 1858):
hafast þû gefêred, þæt þâm folcum sceal,
Geáta leódum ond Gâr-Denum
sib gemæne ond sacu restan.
The Sippe came to be a cognatic,[2] extended family unit, exactly analogous to the Scottish/Irish sept.[3]
Most of the information left about the nature and role of the Sippe is found in records left by the Lombards, Alamanni, and Bavarians.[4] One of the functions of the Sippe was regulating use of forests. The average Sippe likely contained no more than 50 families.[5] The Sippe seems to have been absorbed into the monogamous family later on; P.D. King asserts that this was already the case among the Visigoths during the time of the Visigothic Kingdom.[6]