I understand that the word exists in Welsh, but that it's a modern loanword from Gaelic referring to Scotland.

Albion first appears in ancient Greek accounts along with Ierne as being part of the British Isles. The Romans don't appear to have used the term much, preferring Britannia though the term survived enough for Aethelstan in the 10th century to use it as part of his title. Presumably the word survived in Gaelic or maybe Pictish which is where the modern word comes from, but does anyone know if the word has any historic use in Welsh?

I can hazard a guess that Roman rule replaced the native word in common use, much like Welsh adopted the use of Welsh to refer to themselves instead of the native Cymry, though it's only a guess.

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    Perhaps English.Stackexchange.com is a better fit for this. What do others think? Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 22:37
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    My question has nothing to do with the English or the English language. While it has a language element to it, I'm primarily interested in the historic use of the word to describe the island of Great Britain in a Celtic context. I'm hoping someone familiar with the Roman or sub-Roman period or someone familiar with Welsh history can answer this.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 23:19
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    The word probably originates in the Common Brythonic language, and so predates Welsh by some margin. From there, the term reached the Greek world no later than the 5th century BC. I've read suggestions that the Latinised form of the word may have brought back with the Romans, and survived here after they left. Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 0:08
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    Wikipedia addresses the Brittonic and Welsh forms of it, but not when and how they were used.
    – John Dee
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 1:30
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    The regular contributors at English.stackexchange.com are much more experienced at researching the etymology of English words than those here. It's just a matter of where the individuals who can best answer this question hang out most. Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 9:35

2 Answers 2


I believe it's thought to be a hellenisation of the common brythonic form *ėlβɨð 1 giving Albíōn and latinised as Albiōn.

That common Brythonic form giving Old Welsh elbid, meaning that native word wasn't replaced and continues to the modern day with the Welsh word elfydd "earth, world, land, country, district".

The Common-Brythonic meaning is thought to be “upper world” (as opposed to underworld) so in the British context it likely wasn't used as a term for the island of Britain per se but the world in general; the fact that it comes into Latin and Greek as a word for Britain suggests the Britons they encountered were referring to the island as the "world" and travellers took the word to just mean the island.

I've not found any stringent sources beyond Wiktionary and Wikipedia so take all this with some healthy scepticism. But, if true the Britons would of used a Brythonic form of the word akin to *ėlβɨð, and by the time any idea of 'Welsh' identity was starting to ferment elbid, and later elfydd, unless they were speaking Latin, in which case they might have used Albiōn.


There was no Wales in Viking times or before hand. Albion related to traders at see who called the white cliffs of Dover the (white) Albion land. Nothing to do with Scotland or Wales. The wild lands of the Pict not Alba as some repeatedly say is correct. Albion relates to Dover cliffs only. First sight of Britainia until the Roman who used Britanus as base. Built a wall across England to stop the Pict mingling with them. Wales as Cymry was also at first linked in with England but blue faced warriors from the hills put up resistance but Rome moved in on them fast and cleared them out .Built CARDIFF after Chester to protect interest and involve Business men from Roman world to trade in Chester all over Britanicus. The Normans took over and Wales as subdued as trouble makers .Scotland was secured owing to location for defensive safety doing away with border so to defend all land from attach. Scotland was part of all same as England but England was warm and they lived there instead. All was once part of France joined up to Britani and so my guess it is why Romans called us Britain

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    I've read this a couple of times and it's not at all clear what you're trying to say. This could do with a re-write to put in some structure, some focus on answering the actual question and to add some sources for the assertions you're making. Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 8:13
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    Some sources and formatting would greatly help this answer.
    – Tom Sol
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 8:34
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    I'm not sure this actually answers the question.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 11:50

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