This may look like General Reference, but I've googled "list of nicknames for England", "list of nicknames for the United Kingdom", and all I got was "list of city nicknames in the United Kingdom" or "list of nicknames for counties of the United Kingdom" and even "list of names and nicknames for the English". I'm not looking for nicknames for the English or the British, though. My question is: Are there nicknames for England (or the United Kingdom)? Where and when did they originate?

  • 1
    Yankeeland is just a part of the US though, it doesn't encompass the whole country. Do people use the other terms as nicknames for the country? I only use Uncle Sam to refer to the government, and Columbia is very dated, I've never actually heard anyone use it in modern times. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 0:29
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    'Old Blighty,' with the "when and where did it originate" comes up quickly on a search for England nickname, or nickname for the country England. I'm sure I can find others. Additonal information: Google is not the only search engine. Bing!
    – pazzo
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 0:30
  • 2
    Albion is archaic/poetic, and Blighty is hopelessly dated/upper middle class. I don't think there's any particularly widespread alternative today. Apart from anything else, would it include Scotland? We did used to be The Workshop of the World. Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 0:49
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    How about "Britannia," "[perfidious] Albion," "This Sceptered Isle," "the Nation of Shopkeepers," or "Limey Land"? Also, the personification of England (corresponding to Uncle Sam) is John Bull, I believe. I'm not sure who our (U.S.) equivalent of Colonel Blimp is though—Buck Turgidson, maybe?
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 0:50
  • I think of Uncle Sam as the character portrayed on military recruiting posters, so the British equivalent would be Lord Kitchener — although, being a real person, he doesn't work so well as a metonym.
    – sjy
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 3:02

4 Answers 4


There is the British Bulldog, which is a real breed of dog which is often used to symbolise Britain - this Pitt Nutter blog site has many illustrations

This Wikipedia page on National Personifications features Britannia side-by-side with Uncle Sam.

Britannia and Uncle Sam

It also has this recruiting poster showing John Bull - a much less familiar version than the Kitchener one mentioned by @sjy

John Bull recruiting poster

  • Would you consider "Old Bighty", "Broken Britain", "Old Dart", and "Old Country" valid entries in your answer? Is it Worth mentioning them?
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 1:30
  • 'Blighty' is widely known but old fashioned. It's still familiar because it has been used in living memory and is referenced in many films and books. 'Broken Britain' is not a personification or nickname, and is hardly flattering. 'Old Country' would be used by ex-pats living abroad. I've never heard of 'Old Dart'. John Bull is nationalistic, IMO - could be used to brand eg traditional British/English food, or could have more sinister right wing overtones. I think 'Britannia' is the best match, and still used.
    – Mynamite
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 14:14
  • Centaurus re Blighty - just this evening I watched a BBC programme about the FWW which mentioned soldiers returning to Blighty. Although it's not used in a modern sense there was no need for the programme to explain the reference, everyone understands what Blighty means. I think the difference is Blighty is a location whereas Britannia and John Bull are personifications.
    – Mynamite
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 22:34
  • I heard an old Irish song mentioning "John Bull's tyranny" recently. I also heard the word "Tory" but I can't remember the exact context.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 22:50
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    A Tory is a member or supporter of the Conservative Party. Often heard of and mentioned, unfortunately. Not to be confused with Brits, England or the UK as a whole.
    – Mynamite
    Commented Oct 21, 2014 at 22:55

Off the top of my head (I'm not from the UK), I can think of blighty which is defined by the online Oxford dictionary as:

An informal term for Britain or England, used by soldiers of the First and Second World Wars.

It is often used as old blighty, as in the song Take me back to dear old Blighty. It's origin according to the same OD link is

first used by soldiers in the Indian army; Anglo-Indian alteration of Urdu bilāyatī, wilāyatī 'foreign, European', from Arabic wilāyat, wilāya 'dominion, district'.

As you can see from this NGram (run on British English), the term had its heyday at the time of the first world war but it is still in use today:

enter image description here

Another option is Albion. This is not a nickname however, it is more of an archaic name and tends to be used with more reverence than familiarity. I have never heard it used in speech but I have read it often enough. According to Wikipedia, its etymology is

The Brittonic name for the island, Latinized as Albiō and Hellenized as Ἀλβίων, derives from the Proto-Celtic nasal stem *Albi̯iū (oblique *Albiion-) and survived in Old Irish as Albu, genitive Albann, originally referring to Britain as a whole, but later restricted to northern Britain/Scotland (giving the modern Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland, Alba). The root, *albiio- also found in Gaulish and Galatian albio- "world" and Welsh elfydd (Old Welsh elbid) "earth, world, land, country, district", and may be related to other European and Mediterranean toponyms such as Alpes and Albania. It has two possible etymologies: either *albho-, a Proto-Indo-European root meaning "white" (perhaps in reference to the white southern shores of the island, though Celtic linguist Xavier Delamarre argued that it originally meant "the world above, the visible world", in opposition to "the world below", i.e., the underworld in Celtic religion), or *alb-, Proto-Indo-European for "hill".

  • Chances are someone will come up with 3 or 4 nicknames and I will be very sorry not to accept such a beautifully illustrated answer. It has happened.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 0:42
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    @user463240 no worries. Your (assumed) upvote just sent me past the 10k mark, so I'm a happy camper.
    – terdon
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 0:47
  • ....It was mine. Congrats. Hope to get there someday.
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 0:52
  • Would you consider nicknames like "Old Country", "Old Dart", "John Bull" and Brittania valid entries in your answer? Is it worth mentioning them?
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 1:32
  • @user463240 all of those have been mentioned in other answers. Also, the only one I knew of before this question was. Britannia so I can't speak as to the others.
    – terdon
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 10:43

"John Bull" is the personification-phrase most people associate with Great Britain.

  • This is the answer (IMO). FWIW, it is known even in France as an English term: "Maintenant que vos controverses se sont tues Qu'on s'est bien partagé les cordes des pendus Maintenant que John Bull nous boude, maintenant Que c'en est fini des querelles d'Allemand"
    – Drew
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 16:21
  • Would you consider nicknames like "Old Country", "Old Dart", "Old Blighty" and Brittania valid entries in your answer? Is it worth mentioning them?
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 1:33
  • Rost-Bif- err -Land !
    – Fattie
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 15:45

There is a newish nickname for the UK, but it's not a flattering term, quite the opposite in fact. It's been gaining territory as far as I can tell from the late nineteen nineties, but I could be mistaken. It's a nickname that constantly crops up in The Daily Telegraph comment pages, mostly used by "middle-class" men and women who preach to the choir from their soap boxes.

Broken Britain refers to a Great Britain that no longer works, it is a derogatory epithet aimed at the alleged substandard care provided by the National Health Service, the crumbling welfare state, and the (still alleged) rise in serious and petty crimes.

Wikipedia has this to say

Broken Britain
David Cameron has referred to "Broken Britain" during his time as leader of the Conservative Party, and pledged to "fix" Broken Britain during the campaign for the 2010 general election. In September 2009, The Sun announced that it would back the Conservatives in the 2010 election, having supported the Labour Party in 1997, 2001 and 2005, stating that Labour had "failed on law and order". Iain Duncan Smith published two reports, "Breakdown Britain" and "Breakthrough Britain", dealing with similar themes, through the Centre for Social Justice.

By contrast, The Guardian ran a series of articles in 2010 questioning this theme, under the title "Is Britain Broken?".

  • Would you consider nicknames like "Old Country", "Old Dart", "John Bull" and Brittania valid entries in your answer? Is it worth mentioning them?
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 1:28
  • @user463240 I didn't mention old Blighty in my answer because it had already been mentioned. "Old Dart" and "Old Country" I have never heard of until today. Britannia, and John Bull I don't consider to be "nicknames".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 3:00
  • If you consider "Old Blighty" to be a good answer, you might include it. Read this is a piece of advice I got at meta from a high-rep member: "The ideal is that we end up with a single acknowledged "best" answer to each question. If two good answers give you the same information, go for the most succinct/clearest. If they give you different information, ideally you should hold out for a single answer combining all the "necessary" information."
    – Centaurus
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 12:00
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    @user463240 I've visited meta and what FumbleFingers says is true but (in my opinion) it's appropriate when no one else has suggested other terms. If I combined the other suggestions offered so far it would, yes, be unethical. They are not my proposals. I'm afraid you will have to either not accept an answer or choose the one that helped you the most or has received the highest number of upvotes.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 12:40

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