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Scotia was originally a Roman name for Ireland, inhabited by the people they called Scoti or Scotii. Use of the name shifted in the Middle Ages to designate the part of the island of Great Britain lying north of the Firth of Forth, the Kingdom of Alba. By the later Middle Ages it had become the fixed Latin term for what in English is called Scotland.


Etymology and derivations

The name of Scotland is derived from the Latin Scoti, the term applied to Gaels.[1] The origin of the word Scoti (or Scotti) is uncertain. It is found in Latin texts from the fourth century describing a tribe which sailed from Ireland to raid Roman Britain.[2] It came to be applied to all the Gaels. It is not believed that any Gaelic groups called themselves Scoti in ancient times, except when writing in Latin[2]. Old Irish documents use the term Scot (plural Scuit) going back as far as the 9th century, for example in the glossary of Cormac úa Cuilennáin.[3]

Oman derives it from Scuit; a man cut off, suggesting that a Scuit was not a Gael as such but one of a renagade band settled in the part of Ulster which became the kingdom of Dál Riata.[4]

The 19th century author Aonghas MacCoinnich of Glasgow proposed that Scoti was derived from a Gaelic ethnonym (proposed by MacCoinnich) Sgaothaich from sgaoth "swarm", plus the derivational suffix -ach (plural -aich)[5] However, this proposal to date has not been met with any response in mainstream place-name studies. Pope Leo X (1513–1521) decreed that the use of the name Scotia be confined to referring to land that is now Scotland.[6][7]

Virtually all names for Scotland are based on the Scotia root (cf. French Écosse, Czech Skotsko, Zulu IsiKotilandi, Māori Koterana, Hakka Sû-kak-làn, Quechua Iskusya, Turkish İskoçya etc.), either directly or via a third language. The only exceptions are the Celtic languages where the names are based on the Alba root, e.g. Manx Nalbin, Welsh Yr Alban.

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