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  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈbɹɪ.tən/, /ˈbɹɪ.tn̩/
  • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈbɹɪ.tn̩/, [ˈbɹɪ.ɾᵊn̩], [ˈbɹɪ.ʔᵊn̩]
  • Rhymes: -ɪtən

Etymology 1[edit]

Old English Breoton, Bryten etc., from Latin Britannia; later reinforced by Anglo-Norman Britaine, Old French Bretaigne, from Latin Brittannia, variant of Britannia, from Britannī. Ultimately from Proto-Brythonic *Prɨdėn (Britain) from *Pritanī (also compare *Prɨdɨn (Picts) from *Pritenī), attested to in Ancient Greek as Πρεττανική (Prettanikḗ), compare Welsh Prydain. Doublet of Brittany.

Proper noun[edit]

Britain (plural Britains)

  1. The island of Great Britain, consisting of England, Scotland and Wales. [from 10th c.]
  2. (loosely) The United Kingdom.
  3. (now historical) Brittany. [from 13th c.]
  4. (now historical) The British state and its dominions and holdings; the British Empire. [from 17th c.]
  5. (in the plural) The British Empire. [from 19th c.]
    • 1874, The Times, 14 July 1874:
      The name of 'Britain' [] ought to answer every purpose, or if that be thought too condensed, it may be pluralized into ‘The Britains’.
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Latin Britannus (adjective and noun, plural Britannī), apparently from Brythonic (compare Old Welsh Priten).


Britain (plural Britains)

  1. (now rare, historical) An ancient Briton. [from 15th c.]
    • 2002, L. C. Lambdin and R. T. Lambdin, Companion to Old and Middle English Literature, 2002, page 12:
      The Britains’ struggles with the Scots and Picts [...] led to the Britains asking the Romans for help in constructing a great wall.


Britain (comparative more Britain, superlative most Britain)

  1. (obsolete) Briton; British. [16th-18th c.]
    • 1596, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, IV.11:
      mightie Albion, father of the bold / And warlike people which the Britaine Islands hold […].

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]