It seems intuitively to mean “roughly English in style or form” in the sense of how Georgian or Edwardian means “evocative of the style prevalent in the era of [those respective monarchs]”.

Why does it seem in practice to specifically refer to the religious sect rather than a more general idea like architectural style or a type of cuisine?

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    Isn't this just one example of the very general phenomenon of 'getting that meaning first, etymology be damned'? Homophobia means prejudice against gay people rather than fear of things being the same; a board meeting is a meeting of a certain group of people, not a meeting of a plank; lesbian means attracted to other women rather than from Lesbos.
    – dbmag9
    Sep 17, 2023 at 20:01
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    That’s another good perspective, albeit in this case Geoff’s happens to shine further. Sep 17, 2023 at 20:19
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    See also "catholic" which means roughly "universal" but is used specifically to refer to certain Christian groups.
    – Rich
    Sep 18, 2023 at 2:26
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    I also find it interesting that the verb form, anglicize, is back to referring to general Englishness rather than having a religious connotation. Sep 18, 2023 at 13:21
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    @dbmag9 As I understand it, Lesbian also means "from Lesbos", and the inhabitants of Lesbos aren't too happy with its dual meaning.
    – Hearth
    Sep 18, 2023 at 14:37

4 Answers 4


There is a word similar to Georgian or Edwardian to mean, of England, derived from Angles (the Latin for the the people of England, or more precisely the Germanic Anglii people who migrated to England in the post-Roman era), and that is Anglian.

"Anglican" specifically derives from the Latin, Anglicana ecclesia, literally, The Church of England.

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    Does Anglian still find current use? Sep 17, 2023 at 16:46
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    It is certainly dated, and it mostly survives in references to East Anglia, where local businesses and organisations use it. However, Angle is still used to refer to the English (and more broadly, the British) but primarily in the form Anglo, such as in Anglo-French which still appears frequently in the printed news media. Sep 17, 2023 at 17:06
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    There is a better word derived from “Angle” to refer to the people you mention, and it is of course “English”.
    – Mike Scott
    Sep 18, 2023 at 8:49
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    @user3840170 So, if the English were continuing some practice just because they've "always done it that way," would that be Angular momentum?
    – reirab
    Sep 18, 2023 at 14:59
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    @reirab Actually that would be inertia. The London Marathon is, however, Angular momentum. Sep 18, 2023 at 15:17

The term was used in the Magna Carta to refer to the English Church and the sense has retained its specificity ever since:

According to the site Oxford Languages:


early 17th century: from medieval Latin Anglicanus (its adoption suggested by Anglicana ecclesia ‘the English church’ in the Magna Carta), from Latin Anglicus, from Angli.

The word Anglican originates in Anglicana ecclesia libera sit, a phrase from Magna Carta dated 15 June 1215, meaning 'the Anglican Church shall be free'.



It is perhaps worth noting that the word "English" itself can be used in more or less the sense you describe it, according to the OED (adjective sense 4):

  1. Characteristic of or marked by the behaviour of an English person; possessed of virtues or failings regarded as peculiar to English people.

Adjective sense 1 could also match for non-human objects:

  1. Of or belonging to England (or Britain) or its inhabitants.
  • How is that second definition one of a noun? Sep 18, 2023 at 23:07
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    @Seekinganswers - None of the uses we've covered are nouns ; they're adjectival qualifiers of the nouns "people" and "church" subjected to nominalisation and/or zero derivation. The sentences have been contracted in conventional uses to remove the actual noun from the phrase leaving the qualifier, which could itself appear to be a noun - or even a proper noun. If one instance of this is more common, it will take precedence, which is why people think of Ignacio Anaya's tortillas and not his bicycle. Sep 19, 2023 at 9:35
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    IMHO this is the correct answer to "why do we use Anglican mostly just to refer to the church of that name?" Because in most peoples' minds there's a more transparent word that has the same meaning" "English". Except that, or course" the "English Church" would be wrong in most peoples minds because "Anglican" is how the church is traditionally/commonly referred to. Sep 19, 2023 at 10:07
  • @Seekinganswers You're right, I meant "adjective" in both cases. Edited the post to fix
    – elutionary
    Sep 19, 2023 at 14:54
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    Right so as in “English food,” “English music/art/literature” etc Sep 19, 2023 at 16:51

Because we already have the word "English" to refer to other general aspects of "Englishness".

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