Word of the Day

St George

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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


the patron saint of England

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The name George came into English from Greek via Latin, while the noun saint, often shortened to St when it precedes someone’s name, is from the Latin ‘sanctus’ meaning ‘holy’.


Today is St George’s Day, the feast of the patron saint of England and several other places including Catalonia, Ethiopia and Georgia. Often shown slaying a dragon, St George was according to legend a Roman soldier in the service of the Emperor Diocletian who was marytred for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. He was said to be of Greek origin from Cappadocia in what is now Turkey, although this may be due to confusion with another early Christian George who was a bishop, with the martyred soldier saint actually coming from Palestine. In either case, he almost certainly never set foot in England. While the first accounts of St George‘s life date from the 5th and 6th centuries, many years after his death at the start of the 4th century, the association with a dragon is more recent, dating from the 11th century. The story is that George rescued the daughter of the king of Silene from being eaten by a dragon that was terrorizing the city and its inhabitants, killing the beast and being rewarded by the grateful king. He was adopted as the patron saint of England in medieval times and his emblem of a red cross on a white background is both the national flag of England and forms part of the UK’s Union flag.


Saint George, that swing’d the dragon, and e’er since
Sits on’s horse back at mine hostess’ door.”
(Shakespeare, King John)

Related words

St Andrew, St David, St Patrick

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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