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Why are English people called Poms?

Updated on October 28, 2013

Nearly every country in the world has a term attached to it to refer to the country's inhabitants. Although some of these can be taken to have a derogatory meaning, many originally racist slurs have now become a jovial way of referring to a person with a particular national origin.

Some were originally coined by those who disliked a particular race while others were created as a proud reference to their own nationalistic feelings.

Some common terms include Yankees as a reference to Americans, Italians as Wogs, Chinese as Chinks and Australians as Aussies. And of course - people from Britain are often called Poms or Pommys.

The term has been called no longer derogatory after a decision by several television agencies dating back to 2006. However some English people still consider it a racial slur.

So, Why are English called Poms?

There are several origins claimed for this racial reference. Here are some of the more common ones:

  • Short for pomegranate - due to the pale skinned English having their skin turned the color of pomegranates in the Australian sun. It's also said that the word pomegranate could refer to an immigrant although how this is applicable to the English is unclear.
  • Prisoner of Mother England - although this sounds contradictory, it may well have been the origin. Read on to find out more about how this explanation could have come about.

Prisoner of Mother England

Until the mid 1800s, England regularly sent her less savoury criminal types on a one way trip to either America or Australia.

The origin of the term may have been based on an ironic twist of England's use of penal colonies.

Basically, since Australia and America were full of opportunities and growth in later years, fun could be poked at those who were still in the mother country - basically prisoners of it. Convicts in Australia and America were free to settle the land or travel the country as long as they did not return to England. However many English people were stuck in the mother country 'for life.'

Photo thanks to Matti Mattila


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    • profile image

      joe mamma 

      6 years ago

      That's why it is called a "movie" and not a documentary.

    • QuestionMaster profile imageAUTHOR

      Susannah Birch 

      7 years ago from Qld, Australia

      And you're completely correct - as movies such as Les Miserables showed!

    • IzzyM profile image


      7 years ago from UK

      You said England sent her 'less savoury types' to Australia, but a huge number of people hadn't committed any crime to talk of - a starving child who stole an apple from the fruit merchants cart or someone stealing a garment of a washing line to keep warm. A huge number of them died on the boat journey over too, being shackled in chains below decks for most the time. Sorry just had to mention that.


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