According to Wikipedia, "The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English Church." However, this usage referred to the Catholic Church in England.

Although the use of the word 'Anglican' "did not become general until the latter half of the 19th century", it was used in the context of the Protestant Church of England long before this.

The online dictionary.com says 1625-35 while Merriam-Webster gives the earlier date of 1598. Wikipedia is less specific, saying the 16th century. However, none of these sources say where or who first used it. I've looked at several religious sites but have found no mention of first usage. In fact, these sites use the word 'Anglican' as if it had been in use since the founding of the Protestant Church of England (see, for example, here and here).

Is the Merriam-Webster date of 1598 the first documented use? If so, where was it used, or who used it? If not, what is the first documented use?

2 Answers 2


The most recent (third) edition of the OED cites 1598 as the earliest English-language reference for "Anglican". The quotation is as follows:

1598 King James VI & I in D. Calderwood True Hist. Church Scotl. (1844) V. 694 I minde not..to bring in Papisticall or Anglican bishopping; but onlie to have the best and wisest of the ministrie appointed by the General Assemblie.

The next oldest is from 1600:

1600 J. Melvill Autobiogr. & Diary (1842) 471 Antichristian and Anglican Episcopall dignities..ar flat repugnant to the Word of God.


The OED (first edition) attests the first use to a letter dated Aug. 25, 1635, to a Dr. B. from James Howell and collected in his Familiar Letters on Important Subjects, published 1650. (Letter XLVIII)

...; yet they all concur in opposition to the Roman church, as also they of the Anglican, Scotican, Gallic, Argentine, Saxonick, Wirtenbergick, Palatine, and Belgic confessions.

This usage is thought to be inspired by the phrase Anglicana ecclesie in the original Latin text of Magna Carta, 1215.

  1. In primis concessisse Deo et hac presenti carta nostra confirmasse, pro nobis et heredibus nostris in perpetuum, quod Anglicana ecclesie libera sit, et habeat jura sua integra, et libertates suas illesas; ....

translated to

  1. In the first place we have conceded to God, and by this our present charter confirmed for us and our heirs for ever that the English church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate;

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.