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Posted by R. Berg on May 06, 2001

In Reply to: Nation posted by CT on May 06, 2001

: Big debate elsewhere about when the word or concept 'nation' was first used. Any ideas?

The earliest quotations containing "nation" in the Oxford English Dictionary are dated approx. 1300. Example: "All naciun and lede aght vr lauerd for to drede." The OED has an editorial comment, "In early examples the racial idea is usually stronger than the political; in recent use the notion of political unity and independence is more prominent."

Another sense in which "nation" was used early was religious: "the nations" meant "the heathen nations, the Gentiles." The OED's first quotation for this sense is dated approx. 1340.