Albion (Ἀλβιών in Greek) is the oldest known name of the island of Great Britain. Today, it is still sometimes used poetically to refer to the island. It is the basis of the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland, "Alba".


Gallo-Latin "Albiōn" (Middle Irish "Albbu") is from a Proto-Celtic stem "*Alb-i̯en-". Together with other toponyms such as "Alpes" it may either derive from a Proto-Indo-European root "*albh-" "white" (also found in Welsh "elfydd" meaning "world" and in the Germanic Elves), or may be of pre-Indo-European origin. [IEW (1959), s.v. "albho-".]

It is often hypothesised that the Romans took it as connected with "albus" (white), in reference to the White cliffs of Dover and Alfred Holder's "Alt-Keltischer Sprachschatz" (1896) unhesitatingly translates it "Weissland" ("white-land").


The early writer (6th century BC) whose periplus was translated by Avienus at the end of the 4th century AD (see "Massaliote Periplus") does not use the name "Britannia"; he speaks of "nesos 'Iernon kai 'Albionon": the islands of the "Ierni" and the "Albiones". Likewise, Pytheas of Massilia (ca. 320 BC) speaks of "Albion and Ierne". But Pytheas' grasp of the "νῆσος Πρεττανική" (Britanic island) is somewhat blurry, and appears to include anything he considers a western island, including "Thule". [G. F. Unger, "Rhein. Mus." xxxviii., 1883, pp. 156-196.]

By the 1st century AD, the name refers unequivocally to Great Britain.The Pseudo-Aristotelian text "De mundo" (393b) has::Ἐν τούτῳ γε μὴν νῆσοι μέγισται τυγχάνουσιν οὖσαι δύο, Βρεττανικαὶ λεγόμεναι, Ἀλβίων καὶ Ἰέρνη:"the largest islands they reached were two, called the Britannic [isles] , Albion and Ierne."
Pliny the Elder, in his "Natural History" (4.16.102) likewise has::"It was itself named Albion, while all the islands about which we shall soon briefly speak were called the Britanniae."

Cultural references

Various British football clubs bear the name Albion, the highest profile being West Bromwich Albion F.C., based in the West Midlands. Others include Burton Albion F.C., based in Burton upon Trent, Stirling Albion F.C. and Albion Rovers F.C. in Scotland.

Brighton & Hove Albion F.C., based on the south coast behind the chalk downs has foremost claim to the name, from the white chalk cliffs to the east and part of the city. There is also at least one rugby club to use the name - Plymouth Albion R.F.C., based in Plymouth.

*The original lyrics to Advance Australia Fair contain a reference to Albion in the second verse:

:When gallant Cook from Albion sail'd,:To trace wide oceans o'er,:True British courage bore him on,:Till he landed on our shore.

*The videogame Fable is set in a fictional land called Albion, which is a allegory for Britain (indeed, the protagonists pants are emblazoned with the British flag). The sequel will also be set in Albion.

*"Down in Albion" is an album by British band Babyshambles: "dreaming of sailing to the fictional land of Arcadia on the "Good ship Albion"".

*Irish Black metal band Primordial recently referred to Albion in a song off their "To The Nameless Dead" album named "Heathen Tribes" with the line "And shadows of ancient Albion" in relation to the beginning of the British Empire.

*Folk metal band Skyclad made reference to Albion in a song from their album "Folkémon" entitled "Think Back and Lie of England" with the line: "Fake alibis for Albion"

*British rock band Led Zeppelin makes mention of Albion in the song "Achilles Last Stand," on their 7th studio album: "Oh Albion remains, sleeping now to rise again."

*British rock band Jethro Tull references Albion in their song "Coronach" from the "20 Years of Jethro Tull Boxed Set".

*British metal band Cradle of Filth mentions Albion in the song "Haunted Shores" on their album "Dusk... and Her Embrace": "The wolves are dead in Albion whilst the passive flocks roam free."

*The pejorative sobriquet "perfidious Albion" takes its meaning from this old name for Britain.

*The Albion Band was a British electric folk band with varying membership but always including Ashley Hutchings, existing from 1972 until 2002.

*HMS Albion has been the name of several large Royal Navy warships.

*In the book "Keep the Aspidistra Flying" by George Orwell, New Albion is the ad company by whom the main character is employed.

*Albion is the name of a street in Chicago, IL.

*Albion Road is the name of a street in Edinburgh, UK

*Lancelot Albion is the name of a robot in the japanese animation, Code Geass

*Albion College is the name of a small private liberal arts college located in Albion, Michigan.


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