Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- This article is about the archaic name of the British Isles. For other meanings, see Albion (disambiguation)
Albion (in Ptolemy Alouion), is the most ancient name of Great Britain, though often used to refer specifically to England. Occasionally it instead refers to only Scotland, whose name in Gaelic is Alba (and similarly, in Irish) and which has also historically referred to the island of Great Britain.
The name is perhaps of Celtic origin, but the Romans took it as connected with albus (white), in reference to the chalk-cliffs of Dover, and A. Holder (Alt-Keltischer Sprachschatz, 1896) unhesitatingly translates it Weissland (whiteland). The early writer (6th century BC) whose periplus is translated by Avienus (end of 4th century AD) does not use the name Britannia; he speaks of nesos 'Iernon kai 'Albionon (island of the Ierni and the Albiones). So Pytheas of Massilia (4th century BC) speaks of Albion and 'Ierne. From the fact that there was a tribe called the Albiones on the north coast of Spain in Asturias, some scholars have placed Albion in that neighbourhood (see G. F. Unger, Rhein. Mus. xxxviii., 1883, pp. 156-196).
Avalon may be simply another spelling of the same name.
The pejorative slogan "perfidious Albion" takes its meaning from this old name for England.
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