Alternative names for the British

Alternative names for the British

Alternative names for the British (people from the United Kingdom) include nicknames and terms, including affectionate ones, neutral ones, and derogatory ones to describe the British people and more specifically English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish/Irish people.


Alternative Names for British

Ang Moh

"Ang Moh" is a term to describe British and other Western nationalities in Malaysia and Singapore. It originates from the Hokkien dialect language referring to the "red hair" British military based in the Straits Settlements after the Second World War.


Limey is a Caribbean and North American slang nickname for British people, originally referring to British sailors and seamen. This term is believed to derive from lime-juicer, referring to the Royal Navy and British Merchant Navy practice of supplying rations of lime juice to British sailors to prevent scurvy. The term "Limey" is thought to have originated in the Caribbean in the 1880s.

An alternate explanation comes from the Limes Britannicus, which was the northern most border of the Roman Empire dividing Scotland and England but it is unlikely that this term was well known in the Caribbean and North America at the time this nickname arose.

A certainly false etymology is that "Limey" is a derivative of the phrase "Cor blimey" ("God blind me!").


The term pommy, pom or pomme, in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, commonly denotes a person of British (usually of English heritage) origin. A derogatory term, it was controversially ruled no longer offensive in 2006 by the Australian Advertising Standards Board and in 2010 by the New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority.[1] Despite these changing views, many British people or those of British origin consider the expression offensive or racist when used by people not of British origin to describe English or British people, yet acceptable when used within that community: for example, the community group British People Against Racial Discrimination was among those who complained to the Advertising Standards Board about five advertisements poking fun at "Poms", prompting the 2006 decision.[2]

The origin of this term is not confirmed and there are several persistent false etymologies. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) strongly supports the theory that pommy originated as a contraction of "pomegranate".[3] The OED also suggests that the reason for this is that pomegranate is extinct Australian rhyming slang for immigrant; it cites an article from 14 November 1912, in a once-prominent Australian weekly magazine The Bulletin: "The other day a Pummy Grant (assisted immigrant) was handed a bridle and told to catch a horse." A popular alternative explanation for the theory that pommy is a contraction of "pomegranate", relates to the purported frequency of sunburn among British people in Australia, turning their fair skin the colour of pomegranates.[4] However, there is no hard evidence for the theory regarding sunburn. Another unofficial explanation is that P.O.M. stands for 'Prisoner of Millbank ' or that P.O.H.M.E. stands for 'Prisoner of Her Majesty's Exile'. However, the OED states that there is no evidence for these terms or abbreviations being used and that they are an unlikely source. The most viable potability is that the term stands for P.O.M.E. - Prisoner of Mother England Historian Richard Holt maintains the origin of the term comes from English cricket tours of Australia where the English gentlemen amateurs would drink Pommery Champagne in preference to Australian beer.[5]


Today, the French enjoy calling the English Rosbifs (French pronunciation: [ʁɔsbif]) due to their tendency to turn bright red from over-exposure to the hot French sun—particularly when holidaying in the warmer climate of Southern France. But the original explanation of this French term is that rosbif referred to the English style of cooking roast beef, and especially to the song The Roast Beef of Old England.[6] In Portugal, the term bife (literally meaning steak, but sounding like beef) is used as a slang term to refer to the British. There is a feminine form, bifa, mainly used to refer to British female tourists.

Rooinek, Khaki, Soutie

In South Africa the term 'Pom' may also be used, while Afrikaans speakers use the term rooinek (literally 'red neck', another reference to sunburn).[7]

During the Second Boer War, they became known as Khakis, in reference to the colour of their uniforms - which, by then, was no longer the red coats so unsuitable to the South African climate.

Another common term in South Africa used mostly by the Afrikaans is Soutie or Sout Piel. This is from the concept that the Brits have one leg in Britain and one leg in South Africa, leaving the penis hanging in the salt water. Sout Piel means Salt Penis (or rather "dick"). However, this term refers more specifically to British people who have settled in South Africa, as they are more likely to be imagined as having one foot in each country than a Briton who is simply visiting as a tourist.[citation needed]

Britisher, Angrez, Angrej, Ingraj, Anggrit, Firang, Sayip, Engilisi

The term Britisher is still used in India, and to a lesser extent in the United States, but is largely obsolete elsewhere.[citation needed]. Brit is increasingly used both as a noun and an adjective in the US and elsewhere (as well as in Britain itself), and is an apparent contraction of the full word, Britisher or British (cf Britpop). Angrez, Angrej, Ingraj, Anggrit are versions of French word Anglais meaning Englishman.

Ingraj is used in Maharashtra (Marathi) and West Bengal (Bengali) region of India to refer to British people.

Engrez is of Slavic origin and is sometimes used to refer to British people.

"Engilisi" is of Persian origin.

Among South Asians, Angrez has the same meaning, although its more specific meaning is Englishman, with Angrezan for an English woman. This is mostly seen as an ethnic, rather than a territorial, term and applied specifically for people of Anglo-Saxon origin. So people of South Asian origin living in England do not usually refer to themselves as Angrez or Angrezan. Replacing the z with j and j with z is common practice especially amongst people from India, particularly Indian Punjab; hence it would be "Angrej" (masculine) and "Angrejan" (female). Pakistanis and especially Urdu speakers always pronounce z and j correctly.

The word Firangi is used in the same sense as Angrez. "Firangi" or Firang is derived from the word "Franks" and arose during the Crusades, when all invading Christians of the Latin Church came to be seen as Franks. It tends to refer to West Europeans and the European diaspora. "Firanghi" is also used in Persian language and Indian (Sanskrit origin) speaking countries to denote the meaning of "foreigner" or "outsider", generally meaning a "Westerner."

Indian Punjabis use the term Englandi for any other citizen of England, including Asian British people, regardless of that person's ancestral ethnicity.

The adjective Gora (Gori for females) is also commonly used amongst South Asians and South Asian British to refer to white Britons, although the term literally translates to "fair-skinned one", and thus could and is applied to individuals of any ethnicity with a fair complexion including south Asians themselves. The adjective has also been used as a noun to describe white people—hence its potential as a racial slur.

Malayalis of Kerala use the term Sayyip to refer to a male westerner. The feminine equivalent is Madaamma.

In Thai, the word anggrit (อังกฤษ) is used to described both the English in particular, and the British in general. The terms Scotland and Scot are also used to describe the people, country and whisky of Scotland.

John Bull

John Bull was originally a character created by John Arbuthnot in 1712 to satirise the Whig war party. Later in the 18th century, British satirical artists James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and George Cruikshank contrasted the stout and healthy British cartoon character with scrawny French revolutionary sans-culottes Jacobins. During the 19th century the American cartoonist Thomas Nast also drew John Bull. This character has tended to be more popular in England, and to be more associated with England, than with either, Scotland, Wales, or Ireland. In light of this fact, John Bull's creator, John Arbuthnot, gave John Bull a sister, Peg, to represent the Scots.


The name Tommy for any soldier in the British Army is particularly associated with World War I. The French and the British Commonwealth armies used the name "Tommy" for the British. "Tommy" is derived from the name Tommy Atkins which had been used as a generic name for a soldier for many years (and had been used as an example name on British Army registration forms). The precise origin is the subject of some debate, but it is known to have been used as early as 1743. Rudyard Kipling published the poem Tommy (part of the Barrack Room Ballads) in 1892 and in 1893 the music hall song Private Tommy Atkins was published with words by Henry Hamilton and music by S. Potter. In 1898 William McGonagall wrote Lines In Praise of Tommy Atkins.

The paybooks issued to all British soldiers of World War I used the name "Tommy Atkins" to illustrate how they should be filled in.


The term Redcoat is a defunct slang term (along with "lobsterback") for a British soldier. This term applied from the mid-17th century to around 1902 when British Army soldiers wore distinctive Venetian Red coats as part of their formal fighting wear and military dress uniforms. This term, "redcoat", is often used in a modern sense towards the British in a jovial manner, especially by Americans.

However, the term "redcoat" has become somewhat associated with all Canadians because of the distinctive flame-red dress uniforms of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which are worn only during ceremonies. This colour was chosen by the Canadians because Native Americans in the Canadian North West were more comfortable dealing with police officers in red uniforms, which they associated with the British Empire, rather than the standard police blue, which was negatively associated with the United States Army.[citation needed]


German for Island Monkeys. British bricklayers in Germany in the 1980s and 1990s were often jovially referred to as "Inselaffen" or "monkeys from the island".

Alternative names for English

Some of the terms above used for the British are used for the English in Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

  • Sassenach - used to describe the English, by their immediate neighbours: the Scots, the Welsh who use the word Saesneg and the Irish. The term is derived from the original name of the Germanic settlers in what is now England - the Saxons.
  • Sais - The Welsh word for Englishman, Saesnes is the female form. The Cornish word for an Englishman is "Sows", and the Cornish word for the English language is "Sowsnek".
  • les goddams - During the Hundred Years War, the French took to calling the English les goddams because of their frequent use of expletives.
  • Left-legger - Although it is traditionally related to a Protestant, it is often also used, traditionally by the Irish, towards a British person, usually one from Northern Ireland.

Alternative names for Scottish

Alternative names for Welsh

Other languages

In the East African Bantu languages Muzungu has come to mean any white European but more often than not especially the British or English due to their colonial past in the region.

In one of the Vindolanda tablets the Latin pejorative of Brittunculi (wretched little Britons) [8] is used (presumably by a Roman official) in a commentary of their particular military tactics.

In many languages, the equivalent terms for 'English' and 'England' are often used interchangeably with 'British' and 'Britain', and this is also relatively common in many non-British varieties of English. For example in Turkish 'İngiltere' is used for both Britain and England, despite there being a separate word for Britain, 'Britanya'. Welsh people in particular are very often referred to in French as 'Anglais' rather than 'Gallois', in Russian as 'англичанин' Angličanin, and so on. The same occurs rather less frequently in the case of individuals from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Scotland and Ireland remained at least partially separate entities until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries respectively, when the Kingdom of Great Britain and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland were formed. However, even these countries may still sometimes be considered to form part of Angleterre or the equivalent. In some languages, as in French, forms like Britannique ('British') are restricted to more official contexts, and tend to be used for governments rather than for individuals. In Assam (became part of British India in 1828), one of the last states to join British India, British are called as Boga Bongal (literally meaning White Foreigners or White Intruders). Bongal was a derogatory word for foreigners and invaders in Assam under Ahom rule and it still is used.

In Polish a common formal term to describe an Englishman is Anglik, or Brytyjczyk for a British. The first one is derived from the Polish word for England Anglia, the latter from a Polish word for Great Britain Wielka Brytania. Derogatory terms for an English/British man coined in the recent years are Angol or Brytol respectively; however, due to its negative connotations they are not used in formal writing or by the media.

In Nepal, the British are often referred to as Kuires/Khaires which means people of white or pale colour. It is also used in general for any Caucasian person with white skin.

The Malaysia, one common Malay equivalent is mat salleh. The term may had originated from the general depiction of British colonial sailors who were often drunk (Mad Sailors); due to the inability of locals to pronounce English words correctly, it became mat salleh (Mat and Salleh are both typical Malay names). Another possible origin of the phrase is the Mat Salleh Rebellion, led by North Borneo chief Mat Salleh, against the British North Borneo Company during the late-19th century. Another alternative to mat salleh is orang putih (literally "white people" in Malay) or its shortened rural form, omputih. In ancient Malaccan times, the term orang deringgi was also used.

Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese use terms for Britain/British which are derived from the words "England" and "English". The Japanese word for Britain has its origins in the Portuguese word for English: Inglês became イギリス Igirisu.

Although the Chinese Yīngguó (Hanzi: 英国), Japanese Eikoku (Kanji: 英国), Korean Yeongguk (Hangul: 영국), and Vietnamese Anh Quốc are all derived from "Eng-" in England, they are used to mean "Britain" and "British", including both Great Britain and UK. They are still used to mean England in unofficial contexts. There are also more formal specific names for the UK, such as the Chinese 聯合王國 Liánhéwángguó and Japanese 連合王国 Rengōōkoku literally meaning "United Kingdom". Separate words exist in all of these languages for each of the constituent parts of the UK, including England, although, as elsewhere, there is little awareness of correct usage. However, sport teams are called by their correct name, as can be seen in any World Cup schedule.

The written form of Yīngguó in Chinese is made up of two characters: 英国. The first 英 (yīng) in Adjective means "outstanding" and "fine",in Noun means "flower", the second is 国 (guó) which means "country", "state" or "kingdom". Originally the adjective word was written as 英吉利 Yīngjílì as an approximation of the adjective word English, and is still used to mean English in the Chinese word for the English Channel 英吉利海峡 Yīng jí lì hǎi xiá. The noun word was written as 英格兰 Ying ge lan for the noun England, also 苏格兰 Su ge lan for Scotland, 爱尔兰 Ai er lan for Ireland and 威尔士 Wei er shi for Wales. Also in history books Great Britain is written 大不列颠 da bu lie dian, from 大 (Great) and the sounds of the words 不列颠 similar to the sound interpretation. The word 英吉利 was given the reading igirisu in Japanese, and the same abbreviation was adopted, 英国 eikoku, taking the first character and using the more usual 'Chinese' reading. These days, the word is usually written using katakana script as イギリス Igirisu, although 英国 Eikoku is still common.[9] The first character is also used in the word for the English language, 英語 eigo.[10] Additionally, Vietnamese đảo Anh (literally, "English island") means the island of Great Britain.


  1. ^ "'Pommy git' okay, BSA rules - National - NZ Herald News". 2010-04-06. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  2. ^ "Pom ruled not offensive". The Sunday Telegraph (Australia). Retrieved 20 January 2010. 
  3. ^ "Online Oxford English Dictionary entry for "Pomegranate"". 
  4. ^ Boycott, Geoffrey (10 January 2008). "Cricket must crack down on the abuse - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  5. ^ [Richard Holt 'Sport and the British: A Modern History' (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992) p.232]
  6. ^ "BBC - Why do the French call the British 'the roast beefs'?". BBC News. 2003-04-03. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  7. ^ "Political Correctness - Weaver". Archived from the original on 2009-10-25. 
  8. ^ "Vindolanda Tablet 164 Leaf No. 1 (front)". Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  9. ^ "{{lang|ja|イギリス【英吉利】, えいこく【英国】}}}". 2002-11-30. Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  10. ^ The abbreviation of 英國, 英吉利 and 英語 (Simplified Chinese: 英语; Chinese Pinyin: Yīngyǔ; Japanese Kana: えいご, Rōmaji:Eigo; Korean Hangul: 영어, Revised Romanisation (RR): Yeong-eo; "English language") is 英 (Chinese Pinyin: Yīng; Japanese Kana : えい, Rōmaji: Ei; Korean Hangul: , RR: Yeong; Vietnamese: Anh).

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