The early English preferred the term Englisc when speaking of themselves. While sources sometimes refer to the “Angles and Saxons,” the much rarer compound term “Anglo-Saxon” survives mostly in the Latin titles of kings or in sources from outside England, where it served to distinguish the English Saxons from the continental Saxons. The term appears almost exclusively in Latin. It occurs only three times in Old English. In the 19th century, “Anglo-Saxon” became the preferred historical term when it became synonymous with “white.” The current fervour over scholars using a different term lays bare this supposedly historical term’s racial, national roots. Scholars retired the term “Aryan,” for instance, after World War 2, a model for how to contend with terminology that has become attractive to racists.
Erik Wade is a visiting lecturer at the University of Bonn