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Coronation of King Alexander III on Moot Hill, Scone on 13 July 1249. He is being greeted by the ollamh rìgh, the royal poet, who is addressing him with the proclamation "Benach De Re Albanne" (= Beannachd do Rìgh Albann, "Blessings to the King of Scotland"); the poet goes on to recite Alexander's genealogy.

Alba is the Scottish Gaelic name (pronounced [ˈal̪ˠapə]) for Scotland. It is cognate to Alba (gen. Albann, dat. Albainn) in Irish and Nalbin in Manx, the two other Goidelic Insular Celtic languages, as well as words in the Brythonic Insular Celtic languages of Cornish (Alban) and Welsh (Yr Alban) that also, in modern practice, are the Goidelic and Brythonic names for Scotland; although in the past they were names for Britain as a whole, related to the Brythonic name Albion.


The term first appears in classical texts as Ἀλβίων Albíon or Ἀλουΐων Alouíon (in Ptolemy's writings in Greek), later as Albion in Latin documents. Historically, the term refers to Britain as a whole and is ultimately based on the Indo-European root for "white".[1] It later came to be used by Gaelic speakers in the form of Alba (dative Albainn, genitive Albann, now obsolete) as the name given to the former kingdom of the Picts which had by the time of its first usage with this meaning, expanded around the time of king Causantín mac Áeda (Constantine II, 943-952). The region Breadalbane (Bràghad Albann, the upper part of "Alba") takes its name from it as well.

As time passed that kingdom incorporated others to the southern territories. It became re-Latinized in the High Medieval period as "Albania" (it is unclear whether it may ultimately share the same etymon as the modern Albania). This latter word was employed mainly by Celto-Latin writers, and most famously by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It was this word which passed into Middle English as Albany, although very rarely was this used for the Kingdom of Scotland, but rather for the notional Duchy of Albany. It is from the latter that Albany, the capital of the US state of New York, takes its name.

It also appears in the anglicised literary form of Albyn, as in Byron's Childe Harold:

And wild and high the 'Cameron's gathering' rose,
The war-note of Lochiel, which Albyn's hills
Have heard, and heard, too, have her Saxon foes

Modern uses

Scotland welcomes arrivals on the A7, Fàilte gu Alba

Belgian Michel Roger Lafosse who claims the Scottish throne, has styled himself as "HRH Prince Michael James Alexander Stewart, 7th Count of Albany" since 1978.

Runrig recorded a song called Alba on their album, The Cutter And The Clan.

In the mid-1990s, the Celtic League started a campaign to have the word "Alba" on the Scottish football and rugby tops. Since 2005, the SFA have supported the use of Scots Gaelic by adding Alba on the back of the official team strip.[2] However, the SRU is still being lobbied to have "Alba" on the national rugby union strip.[3][4]

In 2007 the then Scottish Executive re-branded itself as "The Scottish Government" and started to use a bilingual logo with the Gaelic name Riaghaltas na h-Alba. However, the Gaelic version from the outset had always been Riaghaltas na h-Alba. The Scottish Parliament, likewise, uses the Gaelic name Pàrlamaid na h-Alba.

A television channel broadcasting mainly in Scottish Gaelic, BBC Alba, was launched in September 2008 and is a joint venture between MG Alba and the BBC.

A new welcome sign on the historic A7 route into Scotland was erected in 2009, with the text Fàilte gu Alba.

Phrases such as Alba gu bràth may be used as a catch-phrase or rallying cry. It was used in the movie Braveheart as William Wallace encouraged the troops at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

See also


  1. MacBain, A An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language Gairm 1896, reprinted 1982 ISBN 0-901771-68-6
  2. "Gaelic added to Scotland strips". BBC News. 24 August 2006. Retrieved 2010-01-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Scottish Rugby Union: "Put 'Alba' on Scottish Ruby Shirt" Facebook
  4. "Gàidhlig air lèintean rugbaidh na h-Alba". BBC Scotland Alba. 24 June 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>