Bretons (French)
Bretoned/Breizhiz (Breton)
Roderic O'Conor - Une Jeune Bretone.jpg
Une Jeune Bretonne, painting by Roderic O'Conor
Total population
c. 6–8 million
Regions with significant populations
 France6–7 million
     Brittany3,120,288[1] · [note 1]
             Loire-Atlantique1,246,798[2] · [note 2]
     Île-de-France1,500,000 [3]
             Le Havre70,000[4]
 Canada (predominantly  Quebec)14,290[5]
French, Breton, Gallo
Predominantly Roman Catholic, Druidry
Related ethnic groups
Celts: Britons (Cornish, English and Welsh) Gaels (Irish, Manx, Scots),[6]

The Bretons (Breton: Bretoned, Breton pronunciation: [breˈtɔ̃nɛt]) are a Celtic[7][8] ethnic group located in the region of Brittany in France. They trace much of their heritage to groups of Brittonic speakers who emigrated from southwestern Great Britain, particularly Cornwall and Devon, mostly during the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. They migrated in waves from the 3rd to 9th century (most heavily from 450 to 600) into Armorica, which was subsequently named Brittany after them.[9]

The main traditional language of Brittany is Breton (Brezhoneg), spoken in Lower Brittany (i.e. the western part of the peninsula). Breton is spoken by around 206,000 people as of 2013.[10] The other principal minority language of Brittany is Gallo; Gallo is spoken only in Upper Brittany, where Breton is less dominant. As one of the Brittonic languages, Breton is related closely to Cornish and more distantly to Welsh, while the Gallo language is one of the Romance langues d'oïl. Currently, most Bretons' native language is standard French.

Brittany and its people are counted as one of the six Celtic nations. Ethnically, along with the Cornish and Welsh, the Bretons are Celtic Britons. The actual number of ethnic Bretons in Brittany and France as a whole is difficult to assess as the government of France does not collect statistics on ethnicity. The population of Brittany, based on a January 2007 estimate, was 4,365,500.[11] It is said that, in 1914, over 1 million people spoke Breton west of the boundary between Breton and Gallo-speaking regions – roughly 90% of the population of the western half of Brittany. In 1945, it was about 75%, and today, in all of Brittany, the most optimistic estimate would be that 20% of Bretons can speak Breton. Brittany has a population of roughly four million, including the department of Loire-Atlantique, which the Vichy government separated from historical Brittany in 1941. 75% of the estimated 200,000 to 250,000 Breton speakers using Breton as an everyday language today are over the age of 65.

A strong historical emigration has created a Breton diaspora within the French borders and in the overseas departments and territories of France; it is mainly established in the Paris area, where more than one million people claim Breton heritage. Many Breton families have also emigrated to the Americas, predominantly to Canada (mostly Quebec and Atlantic Canada) and the United States. People from the region of Brittany were among the first white settlers to permanently settle the French West Indies, i.e. Dominica, Guadeloupe and Martinique, where remnants of their culture can still be seen to this day.[citation needed] The only places outside Brittany that still retain significant Breton customs are in Île-de-France (mainly Le Quartier du Montparnasse in Paris), Le Havre and in Îles des Saintes, where a group of Breton families settled in the mid-17th century.


Historical origins of the Bretons

The Brittonic-speaking community around the sixth century. The sea was a communication medium rather than a barrier.

In the late 4th century, large numbers of British auxiliary troops in the Roman army may have been stationed in Armorica. The 9th-century Historia Brittonum states that the emperor Magnus Maximus, who withdrew Roman forces from Britain, settled his troops in the province. Nennius and Gildas mention a second wave of Britons settling in Armorica in the following century to escape the invading Anglo-Saxons and Scoti. Modern archaeology also supports a two-wave migration.[12]

It is generally accepted that the Brittonic speakers who arrived gave the region its current name as well as the Breton language, Brezhoneg, a sister language to Welsh and Cornish.

There are numerous records of Celtic Christian missionaries migrating from Britain during the second wave of Breton colonisation, especially the legendary seven founder-saints of Brittany as well as Gildas. As in Cornwall, many Breton towns are named after these early saints. The Irish saint Columbanus was also active in Brittany and is commemorated accordingly at Saint-Columban in Carnac.

In the Early Middle Ages, Brittany was divided into three kingdoms — Domnonée, Cornouaille (Kernev), and Bro Waroc'h (Broërec) — which eventually were incorporated into the Duchy of Brittany. The first two kingdoms seem to derive their names from the homelands of the migrating tribes in Britain, Cornwall (Kernow) and Devon (Dumnonia). Bro Waroc'h ("land of Waroch", now Bro Gwened) derives from the name of one of the first known Breton rulers, who dominated the region of Vannes (Gwened). The rulers of Domnonée, such as Conomor, sought to expand their territory, claiming overlordship over all Bretons, though there was constant tension between local lords.[citation needed]

Bretons were the most prominent of the non-Norman forces in the Norman conquest of England. A number of Breton families were of the highest rank in the new society and were tied to the Normans by marriage.[13] The Scottish Clan Stewart and the royal House of Stuart have Breton origins. Alan Rufus, also known as Alan the Red, was both a cousin and knight in the retinue of William the Conqueror. Following his service at Hastings, he was rewarded with large estates in Yorkshire. At the time of his death, he was by far the richest noble in England. His manorial holding at Richmond ensured a Breton presence in northern England. The Earldom of Richmond later became an appanage of the Dukes of Brittany.

Modern Breton identity

The modern flag of Brittany: Gwenn-ha-du (White-and-black)

Many people throughout France claim Breton ethnicity, including a few French celebrities such as Marion Cotillard,[14] Malik Zidi,[15] Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, Yoann Gourcuff, Nolwenn Leroy and Yann Tiersen.[16]

After 15 years of disputes in the French courts, the European Court of Justice recognized Breton Nationality for the six children of Jean-Jacques and Mireille Manrot-Le Goarnig; they are "European Citizens of Breton Nationality".[17] In 2015, Jonathan Le Bris started a legal battle against the French administration to claim this status.

Breton diaspora

The Breton diaspora includes Breton immigrants in some cities of France like Paris, Le Havre and Toulon, Breton Canadians and Breton Americans, along with other French immigrants in other parts of the Americas. Some of the more notable examples include Jack Kerouac, Celine Dion, Augusto Pinochet, Jim Carrey and Sylvester Stallone.[18]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Bretonners
العربية: بريطون
aragonés: Bretons
Bân-lâm-gú: Breton lâng
беларуская: Брэтонцы
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Брэтонцы
български: Бретонци
brezhoneg: Bretoned
català: Bretons
čeština: Bretonci
Cymraeg: Llydawyr
dansk: Bretonere
Deutsch: Bretonen
español: Pueblo bretón
Esperanto: Bretonoj
euskara: Bretoi
français: Bretons
Gaeilge: Briotánaigh
Gaelg: Britaanee
galego: Pobo bretón
հայերեն: Բրետոնացիներ
hrvatski: Bretonci
Bahasa Indonesia: Suku Breton
italiano: Bretoni
ქართული: ბრეტონელები
кырык мары: Бретонвлӓ
lietuvių: Bretonai
magyar: Bretonok
Nederlands: Bretons (volk)
日本語: ブルトン人
polski: Bretończycy
português: Bretões
română: Bretoni
русский: Бретонцы
Simple English: Bretons
slovenčina: Bretónci
српски / srpski: Бретонци
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Bretonci
suomi: Bretonit
Türkçe: Bretonlar
українська: Бретонці