"Ulster-Scots" is a term mainly used in Ireland and Britain ("Scotch-Irish" or "Scots-Irish" is commonly used in North America) to describe Scottish Presbyterians, descendants from mainly from the Scottish Lowlands, who migrated to Ulster (the northern province of Ireland), largely across the 17th century.
Considerable numbers later settled in the North American colonies through the 18th century. Disdaining the heavily English regions on the Atlantic coast because of past hostilities, the Ulster-Scots settlers crossed into the western mountains, where their descendants would populate the southern Appalachian regions and the Ohio Valley, before spreading west across the entire nation.
Today, over an estimated 20 million Americans can trace the roots of at least one family member to these settlers with at least one-third of the President of the United States having had ancestral links.
The term "Scotch-Irish" is a North American generic description used since settlement and still actively used there today to describe descendents of Scottish Presbyterians who first migrated to Ulster and later settled in North America through the 18th century. Other names, including "Northern Irish" and "Irish Presbyterians", were also originally used to describe these people.
It is believed that these already century-settled immigrants, now well established in American society, increasingly referred to themselves as "Scotch-Irish" in order to distinguish themselves as having Scottish origins against the later indigenous Irish arrivals of mainly Catholic origin that arrived in more substantial numbers in America after the Irish potato famine of the 1840's. The term "Scotch" at that time in history was the favored adjective as a designation - it literally means "...of Scotland".
As people from Scotland nowadays insist on referring to themselves as only "Scots" or "Scottish", the old term of "Scotch" is considered to be a slur as it refers only to whisky. Consequently, the new term of "Scots-Irish" has recently become more frequently used today in North America, as proven in the popular American historical book "Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America".
Confusingly, the term "Scotch-Irish" or "Scots-Irish" does not represent a genetic combination of Scottish and Irish people and is therefore considered to be less accurate or more confusing than the term "Ulster-Scots". Even though the term "Scotch-Irish" has been in use for several centuries in that context, it is uncommon in the United Kingdom, where people may not understand.
The linguist R. J. Gregg also used the term "Scotch-Irish" to refer to the contact variety of the Scots language spoken in Ulster.
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