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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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297936 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...

Dolores Keane - Caledonia (With On-Screen Lyrics)

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

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.

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56938 news items

The Commercial Dispatch

Jackson Clarion Ledger
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 12:05:01 -0700

Maliah's 7-month-old sister was found deceased in the family's home in Caledonia this morning, said Investigator Eric Granderson with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department. Harris and Studdard are the children's parents. The three left together this ...
Journal Times
Thu, 24 Apr 2014 04:46:02 -0700

CALEDONIACaledonia and Mount Pleasant will celebrate Arbor Day at 4 p.m. Friday with the planting of two trees at Caledonia-Mount Pleasant Memorial Park, 9614 Northwestern Ave. Individuals from Caledonia and Mount Pleasant who have contributed ...
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 20:09:52 -0700

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central's Katie Clay scored with 15 minutes left in the game to lift her team to a 1-0 win over host Caledonia on Wednesday. Clay received a cross from Olivia Everin, and shot from a one-hop volley, FHC coach Jeremy Stacy said.
The Commercial Dispatch
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 09:32:26 -0700

CALEDONIA -- In a sport where numbers add to its allure, Caledonia High School baseball coach John Wilson credits all the kids who have played for him in helping him to achieve his latest milestone. On April 16, Wilson earned his 400th victory as a ...

The Caledonia Argus (subscription)

The Caledonia Argus (subscription)
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 07:30:16 -0700

Dave Kunst, the first documented man to have ever walked around the world, will speak about his life-altering journey at the Four Seasons Community Center from 5-7 p.m. His visit is sponsored by the Caledonia Area Chamber of Commerce and will offer the ...
New York Daily News
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 14:33:21 -0700

Authorities believe Maliah Harris was snatched from her Caledonia home by her parents moments after her younger sister's body was discovered around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. Lowndes County Investigator Eric Granderson said the girls' grandfather called ...
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 21:04:24 -0700

On a rainy Monday night, OK White rivals Jenison and Caledonia battled to a 1-1 tie in girls soccer action. Jenison struck first on a goal by Lindsay Furness. Jenison built up possession in midfield, and found Furness at the top of the box, who fired ...
Journal Times
Tue, 22 Apr 2014 04:32:06 -0700

Steve Wishau (right) gives a presentation in September 2013 relating to the creation of a 3-D printer for use in space. Wishau and other students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are working on the printer as part of NASA and the National Space ...

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