Word Origin & History
O.E. Angli Saxones, from L. Anglo-Saxones, in which anglo- is an adverb, thus lit. "English Saxons," as opposed to those of the Continent (now called "Old Saxons"). Properly in ref. to the Saxons of ancient Wessex, Essex, Middlesex, and Sussex. After the Norman-Fr. invasion of 1066, the peoples of the
island were distinguished as English and French, but after a few generations all were English, and L. scribes, who knew and cared little about Gmc. history, began to use Anglo-Saxones to refer to the pre-1066 inhabitants and their descendants. When interest in O.E. writing revived c.1586, the word was extended to the language we now call Old English. It has been used rhetorically for "English" in an ethnological sense from 1832, and revisioned as Angle + Saxon.