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This article is about Caledonia as the Latin name for Scotland. For other uses, see Caledonia (disambiguation).
Personification of Caledonia by the Victorian artist William Hole

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) later 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.

The name of the Caledonians may 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".[2][3]

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

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.[4][5] 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.


According to Zimmer (2006), Caledonia is derived from the tribal name Caledones (or Calīdones), which he etymologizes as "'possessing hard feet', alluding to standfastness or endurance", from the Proto-Celtic roots *kal- "hard" and *φēdo- "foot".[6] Similarly, Moffat (2005) suggests the name is related to the Welsh word caled, "hard", which could refer to the rocky land or the hardiness of the people.[7] Keay and Keay (1994) state that the word is "apparently pre-Celtic".[8]


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).[note 1] During the brief Roman military incursions into central and northern Scotland,[note 2] 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.[5][8]

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. 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.[9][10] The web series Caledonia and associated novel is a supernatural police drama that takes place in Glasgow, Scotland.[11][12]

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.[13][note 3]

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.[note 4] 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. ^ Haverfield (1911, p. 987) in Encyclopædia Britannica, though, states that "a tribe of Caledones" are "named by the geographer Ptolemy as living within boundaries which are now unascertainable".
  2. ^ Hanson (2003, p. 198) states that 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.
  3. ^ The extent of the reduction is a matter of debate. This association with a Silva (literally the flora) reinforces the idea that Caledonia was a forest or forested area named after the Caledonii, or that the people were named after the woods in which they dwelt.
  4. ^ Bede used a Latin form of the word Scots as the name of the Gaels of Dál Riata. (Bede, the Venerable Saint 1999, p. 386)


  1. ^ Moffat 2005, pp. 21-22.
  2. ^ Bennet 1985, p. 26.
  3. ^ Watson 2004, p. 21.
  4. ^ Lacy, Ashe & Mancoff 1997, p. 298.
  5. ^ a b Koch 2006, p. 332.
  6. ^ Zimmer 2006, pp. 163-167.
  7. ^ Moffat 2005, p. 22.
  8. ^ a b Keay & Keay 1994, p. 123.
  9. ^ "Rock and roll years: the 1970s". The Scotsman. 16 October 2003. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  10. ^ "Biography". Dougiemaclean.com. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  11. ^ Beacom, Brian (14 January 2014). "New detective drama set to hit our screens". Evening Times. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  12. ^ Marshall, Andrew (26 August 2014). "Caledonia". Starburst. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  13. ^ Smout, MacDonald & Watson 2007, pp. 20-25.


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caledonia — Please support Wikipedia.
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443754 videos foundNext > 

Dougie MacLean - Caledonia

Dolores Keane - Caledonia (With On-Screen Lyrics)

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

Celtic Woman - Caledonia

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

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 ...

Paolo Nutini - Caledonia (LIVE)


Nathan Carter - Caledonia (Acoustic)

Music video by Nathan Carter performing Caledonia. (C) 2015 Decca, a division of Universal Music Operations Limited ...

Nathan Carter - Caledonia

Producer/Director Michael Bracken at brackenentertainment.com. Video Copyright Bracken Entertainments.

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 ...

Dougie Maclean & Guests - Caledonia

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

Caledonia ( Frankie Miller )

Some photos of Scotland. 'Caledonia' sung by Frankie Miller.

443754 videos foundNext > 

2781035 news items

Jackson Clarion Ledger

Jackson Clarion Ledger
Thu, 28 Apr 2016 09:07:30 -0700

Despite a less than ideal start to their day, two Caledonia High School anglers took the top spot on the leaderboard in The Bass Federation/ Fishing League Worldwide High School State Championship. Competing on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, ...

Journal Times

Journal Times
Thu, 28 Apr 2016 03:33:16 -0700

Caledonia OKs assessments for Highway K water, sewer lines. MARK FELDMANN mark.feldmann@journaltimes.com; 6 hrs ago; 2. Highway K Water and Sewer hearing. Buy Now. GREGORY SHAVER, Journal Times file photo. Water and sewer lines are ...
The San Luis Obispo Tribune (blog)
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 10:35:04 -0700

The grand opening of the Rios-Caledonia Research Library, which focuses on the history of California, San Luis Obispo County and the old West, will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Adobe, 700 Mission St. The library includes a large collection of ...


Thu, 28 Apr 2016 00:18:45 -0700

A couple of decades of unrest in New Caledonia ended in 1998, when pro and anti independence groups signed a 20 year agreement. 18 years later, the solidarity of both sides has splintered, but it's believed that most indigenous Kanaks want independence ...

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Tue, 26 Apr 2016 15:51:07 -0700

Jamison LiMuti is betting that barbecue fans will find their way to his fledgling Jamison's Real Wood BBQ in Caledonia, a small town in Livingston County, southwest of Rochester. The drive requires passing through a fair amount of farmland, but ...

Paso Robles Daily News

Paso Robles Daily News
Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:15:00 -0700

–The public is invited to take a tour, enjoy some refreshments, and celebrate the grand opening of the new Rios-Caledonia Research Library on Sunday, May 1 from 1-4 p.m. The library, located across the street from Mission San Miguel, is the newest ...

The Commercial Dispatch

The Commercial Dispatch
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:15:17 -0700

"The first inning was really big," said Caledonia senior catcher Cassie Obman, who had three hits. "I thought (Cleveland) really laid down after that inning. We punched them in the mouth first and they never recovered. When you are playing at home and ...

Simcoe Reformer

Simcoe Reformer
Thu, 28 Apr 2016 10:48:45 -0700

Police say sometime between April 20-22, someone attended a Sims Lock Drive address and removed both plates off of a pickup truck that was parked in the driveway. Anyone with information regarding this case is urged to call the OPP at 1–888–310–1122.

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