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A Briton is a member of the indigenous race of Great Britain. Little is known of the first ancestors of the British but human habitation in Britain goes back more than 10,000 years. These first Britons were hunter-gatherers and crossed to Britain by the land bridge from mainland Europe during the end of the last Ice age. There are conflicting accounts as to the physical appearance of these first Britons and their influence in modern British culture is questionable, although river names such as Thames, Tamar, Severn, Tyne, etc., are attributed to the culture of these earliest ancestors of the British. One modern view is that the Britons of today accurately reflect the physical appearances of the Britons of the past in the areas in which they reside, such as tall and blonde in the south of England, tall and dark in Northumbria and southern Scotland, and short and dark in north Wales.

Modern Genetic evidence indicates the Welsh are most similar to the earliest inhabitants of Britain and have a genetic connection to the Basque. 3000 years ago, Britain was invaded by Celts who brought with them superior fighting skills and whose culture dominated the indigenous people. Ancient Kings of the Britons written by Nennius, Gildas, and Geoffrey of Monmouth helped make rich histories of these people. Over time, they became Celtic in culture, and it is in this time that the Picts became noted as a separate culture and ethnic entity in the north and east of what is now Scotland. Britain was later dominated by other stronger cultures, such as the Romans, the Irish Scots, the Teuton tribes of Angles, Saxons and Jutes and finally the Normans, each of which, aside from the Normans, brought a definite cultural change in Great Britain that was markedly different from before. The commonly held view of the earlier 20th century that the Anglo-Saxons wiped out the Britons of England and forced the remainder out to Wales and Cornwall has been refuted by modern genetic analysis. The modern indigenous British have a definite link to their earliest ancestors. About 90% of the population of the United Kingdom today, or about 54 million people are matrilineally descended from women that were part of the original population of Britain 3000 years ago. Even in England, in which Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and later invaders played the most important role, about 50% of all men in that region claim patrilineal descent from the inhabitants of the British Isles 3000 years ago.

About 150 million people world-wide refer to their ethnic heritage as British or as having a strong British influence. The largest concentration of ethnic Britons living outside of the United Kingdom is in the United States where approximately 40 million people claim British heritage (less than 20% of the 2000 US population and down from 60% in 1900). There are also large concentrations of Britons in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

A Briton is also a commonly accepted word to represent a citizen of the United Kingdom, which includes both the indigenous majority and non-indigenous groups, for example, Africans, who are often referred to as Black Britons — see British, Alternate words for British.

The use of the word Briton is historically quite a recent development. Although the British have always formed a fairly homogenous ethnic identity, cultural differences, especially from the time of the Roman occupation, have meant that they viewed themselves as very distinct people. Since the Act of Union in 1707, when England and Scotland became united under one parliament, the use of the word Briton has emerged as an accurate name for a citizen of the United Kingdom, and only in the 20th century with changes in social attitudes and new studies in British history and the British people has Briton come to reflect an ethnic identity of the indigenous majority of Great Britain.