ancient name of England, attested in Old English, from Latin, sometimes said to be from the non-Indo-European base *alb "mountain," which also is suggested as the source of Latin Alpes "Alps," Albania, and Alba, an Irish name for "Scotland." But more likely from Latin albus "white" (see alb), which would be an apt description of the chalk cliffs of the island's southern coast.
Breoton is garsecges ealond, ðæt wæs iu geara Albion haten. [translation of Bede's "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum," c. 900 C.E.]
Perfidious Albion, a reference to the supposedly treacherous policies of Britain when dealing with foreign powers, translates French rhetorical phrase la perfide Albion, said to have been in use since 16c. but popularized by Napoleon in the recruiting drive of 1813.
updated on August 20, 2020