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masc. proper name, 1066, from Old Breton Alan, name of a popular Welsh and Breton saint; brought to England by the large contingent of Bretons who fought alongside William the Conqueror.
an ancient nomadic pastoral people that occupied the steppe region northeast of the Black Sea. The Alani were first mentioned in Roman literature in the 1st century AD and were described later as a warlike people that specialized in horse breeding. They frequently raided the Parthian empire and the Caucasian provinces of the Roman Empire. About AD 370, however, they were overwhelmed by the Huns, and many fled westward, crossing into Gaul with the Vandals and Suebi (406). Although some of the Alani settled near Orleans and Valence, most went to North Africa with the Vandals, causing the official title of the Vandal kings in Africa to be "kings of the Vandals and the Alani." The Alani who remained under the rule of the Huns are said to be ancestors of the modern Ossetes of the Caucasus.