• (UK) IPA(key): /ˈbɹɪt.ən/, [ˈbɹɪt.n̩]
  • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈbɹɪt.ən/, [ˈbɹɪɾ.ᵊn̩], [ˈbɹɪʔ.ᵊn̩]
  • Rhymes: -ɪtən
  • Hyphenation: Brit‧ain
  • Homophone: Briton

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English Breteyn, from 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. More at Britto.

This etymology is incomplete. You can help Wiktionary by elaborating on the origins of this term.

Proper nounEdit

Britain (plural Britains)

  1. The island of Great Britain, consisting of England, Scotland and Wales. [from 10th c.]
  2. (loosely) The United Kingdom.
  3. (historical) Brittany. [from 13th c.]
  4. (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’.
  6. (nonstandard) The British Isles.
  • Tokelauan: Peletānia
Related termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

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 alsoEdit

Further readingEdit