|Painting by Rex Woods|
Noun. Old English.
[Latin Brit(t)annia, Brittania (Bede), corresponding to Greek Brettania (Diodorus Siculus): see BRITAIN noun.]
1 The Latin name of Britain; Britain personified as a female;
the figure emblematic of Britain, a woman with a shield, helmet, and trident, shown on coins, etc. OE
2 In full, Britannia metal. An allow of tin with small proportions of antimony and copper, resembling silver. E19
Britannian adjective (now rare) = BRITISH adjective. L16
Britany obsolete noun Britain LME-M17
Just in case you've ever wondered who she is, the trident-wielding woman that often features on British coins and patriotic posters is Britannia, the female personification of Britain. Such personifications aren't unusual - France has Marianne, the USA has Columbia and New Zealand has Zealandia (said to be the daughter of Britannia). Britannia, however, is truly ancient, being the Roman name for Great Britain. As a symbol of the island, she developed in the second century, shown as a Roman goddess bearing a trident and shield and wearing a Corinthian helmet. She survived as an emblem long after the Roman withdrawal, and the imagery evolved and became particularly associated with the British Empire. Typically, she is shown during times that call for national solidarity or patriotism, and bears a trident representing Britain's historic naval power, a shield showing the Union Flag and a lion, one of Britain's prominent national symbols, at her feet. If you didn't know who she was, however, you're in good company: a Royal Mint survey in 2013 found that 1 in 4 adults in Britain couldn't identify Britannia, variously mistaking her for Boadicea, Athena, Queen Victoria, Joan of Arc and even Margaret Thatcher. Rule Britannia, indeed.
|Photo by Philippe Giabanelli|
Well did you know who she is?
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