Toggle menu
Toggle personal menu
Not logged in
Your IP address will be publicly visible if you make any edits.

Tommy Atkins

From The Great War 1914-1918

Tommy Atkins or simply Tommy is a generic name for, and has become synonymous with, that of a common soldier in the British Army, particularly during the First World War. From the 1925 edition of Soldier and Sailor Word and Phrases by Edward Fraser and John Gibbons, Tommy Atkins is:

The popular generic name for the British private soldier. In its origin the name dates from August 1815 (Waterloo year), when the War Office issued the first "Solider's Account Book," which every solider was provided with. The specimen form sent out with the book to show how details should be filled in, bore at the place where a man's signature was required the hypothetical name "Thomas Atkins" (or, alternatively, for illiterate men "Thomas Atkins X his mark"). "Thomas Atkins" continued to appear in later editions of the Soldier's Account Book until comparatively recent times. It has now disappeared. A more or less current Service slang name from about 1830, the general popularity of the name "Tommy" for a soldier dates from about fifty years ago[1] Mr. Kipling's verses finally familiarized it all over the English-speaking world. [2]

References / notes

  1. At the time the book was compiled this would suggest the name had become popular by 1875.
  2. Edward Fraser and John Gibbons (1925). Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases. Routledge, London p.287.

Glossary of words and phrases

The above term is listed in our glossary of words and phrases of the Armed Forces of Great Britain during the Great War. Included are trench slang, service terms, expressions in everyday use, nicknames, the titles and origins of British and Commonwealth Regiments, and warfare in general. These words and phrases are contemporary to the war, which is reflected in the language used. They have been transcribed from three primary sources (see Contents). Feel free to expand upon and improve this content.
Browse other terms: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.