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Caledonia is the Latin name given by the Romans to the land in today's Scotland north of their province of Britannia, beyond the frontier of their empire. The etymology of the name is probably from a P-Celtic source. Its modern usage is as a romantic or poetic name for Scotland as a whole, comparable with Hibernia for Ireland and Britannia for the whole of Britain.

Original usage[edit]

The original use of the name, by Tacitus, Ptolemy, Lucan and Pliny the Elder, referred to the area (or parts of the area) also known as Pictavia or Pictland north of Hadrian's Wall in today's Scotland.[1] The name may be related to that of a large central Pictish tribe, the Caledonii, one amongst several in the area and perhaps the dominant tribe, which would explain the binomial Caledonia/Caledonii.

According to Historia Brittonum the site of the seventh battle of the mythical Arthur was a forest in what is now Scotland, called Coit Celidon in early Welsh.[2] Traces of such mythology have endured until today in Midlothian: near the town centre of Edinburgh stands an old volcanic mountain called Arthur's Seat.

The north-west ridge of Schiehallion - the "fairy hill of the Caledonians"

There are other hypotheses regarding the origin of Caledonia (and Scotia). According to Moffat (2005) the name derives from caled, the P-Celtic word for "hard". This suggests the original meaning may have been "the hard (or rocky) land".[3] Keay and Keay (1994) state that the word is "apparently pre-Celtic".[4]

The name of the Caledonians can be found in toponymy, such as Dùn Chailleann, the Scottish Gaelic word for the town of Dunkeld meaning "fort of the Caledonii", and possibly in that of the mountain Sìdh Chailleann, the "fairy hill of the Caledonians".[5][6]


The exact location of what the Romans called Caledonia in the early stages of Britannia is uncertain, and the boundaries are unlikely to have been fixed until the building of Hadrian's Wall. From then onwards, Caledonia stood to the north of the wall, and to the south was the Roman province of Britannia (consisting of most of what is now England and Wales).[7] During the brief Roman military incursions into central and northern Scotland,[8] the Scottish Lowlands were indeed absorbed into the province of Britannia, and the name was also used by the Romans, prior to their conquest of the southern and central parts of the island, to refer to the whole island of Great Britain. Once the Romans had built a second wall further to the north (the Antonine Wall) and their garrisons advanced north likewise, the developing Roman-Britons south of the wall had trade relations with the Picts north of the wall, as testified by archaeological evidence, much of it available at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Modern usage[edit]

The modern use of "Caledonia" in English and Scots is either as a historical description of northern Britain during the Roman era or as a romantic or poetic name for Scotland as a whole.[4][9]

The name has been widely used by organisations and commercial entities. Notable examples include Glasgow Caledonian University, ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne, and the now-defunct British Caledonian airline. The Caledonian Sleeper is an overnight train service from London to Scottish destinations operated by First ScotRail. In music, "Caledonia" is a popular folk ballad written by Dougie MacLean in 1977 and published in 1979 on an album of the same name; it has since been covered by various other artists, including Amy Macdonald.[10][11]

Ptolemy's account also referred to the Caledonia Silva, an idea still recalled in the modern expression "Caledonian Forest", although the woods are much reduced in size since Roman times.[12]

Some scholars point out that the name "Scotland" is ultimately derived from Scotia, a Latin term first used for Ireland (also called Hibernia by the Romans) and later for Scotland, the Scoti peoples having originated in Ireland and resettled in Scotland.[13] Another, post-conquest, Roman name for the island of Great Britain was Albion, which is cognate with the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland: Alba.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Moffat (2005), pp. 21-22.
  2. ^ Rise, Brian Edward. "Caledonian Wood". Encyclopedia Mythica. Pantheon.org. 
  3. ^ Moffat (2005), p. 22.
  4. ^ a b Keay (1994), p. 123.
  5. ^ Bennet (1985), p. 26.
  6. ^ Watson (2004), p. 21.
  7. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica (1911), though, states that "a tribe of Caledones" are "named by the geographer Ptolemy as living within boundaries which are now unascertainable" (Haverfield 1911, p. 987).
  8. ^ The military presence of Rome lasted for little more than 40 years for most of Scotland and only as much as 80 years in total anywhere. At no time was even half of Scotland's land mass under Roman control. See Hanson (2003) p. 198.
  9. ^ "Caledonia". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  10. ^ "Rock and roll years: the 1970s". The Scotsman. 16 October 2003. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  11. ^ "Biography". Dougiemaclean.com. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  12. ^ Smout et al. (2007), pp. 20-25. The extent of the reduction is a matter of debate. This association with a Silva (literally the flora), by extension, forest or woods reinforces the explanation that Caledonia was a forest or forested area named after the Caledonii or these were named after the woods where they dwelt.
  13. ^ Bede used a Latin form of the word Scots as the name of the Gaels of Dál Riata.
    Bede, the Venerable Saint (1999) [731]. McClure, Judith; Collins, Roger, eds. The Ecclesiastical History of the English People; The Greater Chronicle; Bede's Letter to Egbert. World's Classics. Oxford University Press. p. 386. ISBN 0-19-283866-0. 

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caledonia — Please support Wikipedia.
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212798 videos foundNext > 

Dougie MacLean - Caledonia

Celtic Woman - Caledonia

Lisa Kelly sings "Caledonia" at the Slane Castle, Ireland.

Celtic Thunder - Caledonia

From: Celtic Thunder - "The Show". If you would like to pick up a copy today, please visit our Official Store on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Celtic-Thunder/...

Boogie Song "Caledonia"

Caitlin Bell - Caledonia (Cover) - Dougie McLean

Scottish and proud ;) Definitely one of my favourite songs. My Channels! http://www.youtube.com/caitlinbellvlogs http://www.twitter.com/caitlinbell8 http://w...

Caledonia Best presents Caledonia

Since Caledonia Best's first TV advert aired across Scotland in December 2012, we've had an overwhelming response to its soundtrack featuring Anderson, McGin...

Dougie Maclean & Guests - Caledonia

Barbara Dickson, Rab Noakes, Martha Wainwright, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eddi Reader, Ralph McTell, Karine Polwart, Kris Drever, Dick Gaughan, Phil Cunningham,...

Caledonia- Dougie MacLean

Sticking to the Scottish theme, this a truly beautiful song by Dougie MacLean about memories. This brings back memories of my High School, as I used this dur...

Caledonia by Eileen Laverty

Caledonia is a modern Scottish folk ballad written by Dougie MacLean. It is sung here by a great female vocalist Eileen Laverty.

Dolores Keane - Caledonia (With On-Screen Lyrics)

Beautiful version of this Scottish love song by Irish singer Dolores Keane.

212798 videos foundNext > 

52848 news items

Fri, 18 Apr 2014 20:33:45 -0700

“That gave us a lot of confidence,” Caledonia coach Tom Kaechele said. “I was really proud of my kids. A split with Hudsonville shows how tough we are going to be. Going into this, I knew if we could force a split with Hudsonville, we are going to be ...
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:26:15 -0700

Rubina Zeerakone found Kaylin Wolter to score the game's only goal and secure the victory. “We've looked good offensively controlling the ball,” Caledonia coach Steve Sanxter said. “We just haven't been able to score like we need to. “It feels like we ...
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:26:15 -0700

Caledonia's Ashley Watson had three goals and three assists, leading her team to a 17-6 win over Mattawan at home on Friday. “She's a natural left-hander, and she has a very hard shot,” Caledonia coach Ralph Shefferly said. “She works very hard and she ...
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 20:07:39 -0700

Caleb Sleeman allowed just two hits in seven innings on Friday to help Caledonia earn an 8-1 victory at Jenison. Sleeman recorded six strikeouts and walked three to pick up the win. Mitch Horgan and Trent Foreman each had two hits for Caledonia, while ...
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 21:58:40 -0700

Logan Hudson had two hits, including a double, and two RBIs for Caledonia, which scored five runs in the fifth inning to beat visiting Jenison 6-4 on Thursday. "The key was that we stayed really aggressive at the plate and we found some green space," ...
Portage Daily Register
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:11:15 -0700

Caledonia Town Board Chairman Steve Pate stands Tuesday to count the number of hands raised in support of authorizing the board to negotiate with the Portage School District to buy the closed Caledonia Elementary School. Enlarge Photo. CALEDONIA ...
School News Network
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:14:13 -0700

Voters in the Caledonia Community Schools district will go to the polls next month to decide on a bond issue leaders call a “zero millage increase.” The $41 million bond translates into no increase because it simply extends the current bond payment ...
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:30:00 -0700

Caledonia's Mitch McCallum finished with two hits to lead the Scots, and pitchers Dan Zeman and Trent Foreman combined to give up one run in six innings of work to keep Caledonia in the game. "Their pitcher was just dominant; he's a great talent that ...

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