Britons, British people, or the British are people from Britain – either from the United Kingdom or the island of Great Britain. In history, the people of the British Empire, and later the British Commonwealth, were also named British or Britons.
The first people to be named Britons were the people of ancient Britain, the ancient Britons. The ancient Romans named the people of Britain in Latin: Britanni, lit. 'Britons'. People from Roman Britain called themselves in Latin: Brittones. Bede used the spelling in Latin: Brettones, the spelling of which was possibly learned from the Old English word of the same meaning.
Originally, the word Briton in the English language meant a person from one of the Brythonic languages-speaking peoples in Great Britain and northern France: mostly the people of Strathclyde, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany. This meaning of the word was used in Middle English from the 13th century and after. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Briton could also be a name for Welsh people.
The use of Britons to mean all the people of Britain was not common in the English language before the early 18th century. It became more usual after the Acts of Union 1707 joined together the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain. The word Briton was frequently used in the 18th and 19th centuries with the suggestion of "qualities of bravery and fortitude". The rare word "Britoness" was sometimes used in the past for women from Britain. Writers like Edmund Spenser, Thomas Babington Macaulay, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson used it for strong women like the ancient British queen Boudica (who fought the Romans) and the English queen, Elizabeth I (whose Royal Navy defeated the Spanish Armada).
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