Britain (name)

Britain (name)

The name "Britain" is derived from the Latin name "Britannia" (earlier "Brittannia"), via Old French "Bretaigne" (whence also Modern French "Bretagne") and Middle English "Bretayne, Breteyne". The French form replaced Old English "Breoton, Breoten, Bryten, Breten" (also "Breoton-lond, Breten-lond").

"Brittannia" or "Brittānia" was the name used by the Romans from the 1st century BC. Following the Roman conquest of AD 43, it came to be used for the Roman province, which happened to be restricted to the island of Great Britain (the portion south of Hadrian's wall). Because of this, "Brittannia" was increasingly used for Great Britain in particular, which had formerly been known as "Albion".The form with single "-t-", "Britannia", is secondary, but can be traced to the Roman period. [e.g. a 1st century AD coin inscription "DE BRITANNIS"; see cite web|url= |title=Britannia on British Coins |publisher=Chard |accessdate=2006-06-25]

Latin "Britannia" is derived from the travel writings of the ancient Greek Pytheas around 320 BC, which described various islands in the North Atlantic as far North as Thule (possibly Iceland or the Shetland Islands [cite web
title=Tacitus, Thule and Caledonia
last=Wolfson |first=Stan |accessdate=2008-07-09
] ).Pytheas described Thule as the northernmost part of Πρεττανικη ("Prettanike") or Βρεττανίαι ("Brettaniai"), his term for the entire group of islands in the far north-west. [H.J. Mette, Pytheas von Massalia. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1952, fragment 14, after Cleomedes] cite book
last = Snyder
first = Christopher A.
title = The Britons
publisher = Blackwell Publishing
date = 2003
id = ISBN 0-631-22260-X
] cite book
last = Foster (editor)
first = R F
authorlink =
coauthors = Donnchadh O Corrain, Professor of Irish History at University College Cork: (Chapter 1: "Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland")
title = The Oxford History of Ireland
publisher = Oxford University Press
date = 1 November 2001
location =
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-19-280202-X
Diodorus in the 1st century BC introduced the form Πρεττανια "Prettania", and Strabo (1.4.2) has Βρεττανία "Brettania". Marcian of Heraclea in his "Periplus maris exteri" describes αἱ Πρεττανικαὶ νῆσοι "the Prettanic Isles".
Stephanus of Byzantium glosses Ἀλβίων "Albion" as νῆσος Πρεττανική, Μαρκιανὸς ἐν περίπλῳ αὐτῆς. τὸ ἐθνικὸν Ἀλβιώνιος ("the Pretannic island, according to Marcian in his "periplus"; the Albionian people" "Ethnica" 69.16). The peoples of these islands of "Prettanike" were called the Πρεττανοι, "Priteni" or "Pretani". These names derived from a Celtic name which is likely to have reached Pytheas from the Gauls, who may have used it as their term for the inhabitants of the islands. [ [ Encyclopedia of the Celts] : Pretani] "Priteni" is the source of the Welsh language term Prydain, "Britain", which has the same source as the Goidelic term Cruithne used to refer to the early Brythonic speaking inhabitants of Ireland and the north of Scotland. The latter were later called Picts or Caledonians by the Romans.

"Brittia" appears as a name for Great Britain in Procopius, reportedly used by the 6th century population of the Netherlands.

The Latin term (Bede has "Brittania") is loaned into Old English by Alfred the Great as "bryttania". The 9th century "Historia Brittonum" presents an aitiology for the name by introducing the character of Brutus of Troy.

ee also

*Alternative words for British
*British Isles (terminology)
*Britons (historic)


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