Great Britain, Britain, or the United Kingdom?

The page on A Bit About Britain entitled What does ‘Britain’ mean has been getting quite a few views lately.  Whether that’s because there are people who foolishly want to try and understand our muddled foreign policy, or Britain’s relationships with our friends and allies; I couldn’t possibly say.  I’m hoping it’s mostly because people want to try and understand the geographical and political differences between the British Isles, Great Britain, Britain and the United Kingdom, because that’s what the page was set up to do.

And I know we don’t always make things easy. Sorry. Anyway, I’ve been toying with the idea of showing this as a simple Venn diagram and finally figured out a relatively easy way to do it using Creately. Here is the result.

Venn diagram showing the geographical and political relationships between the British Isles (including Ireland) United Kingdom, Great Britain and Crown Dependencies.

For the full explanation, including why you shouldn’t call everyone in Britain ‘English’, you need to find out what Britain means.

22 thoughts on “Great Britain, Britain, or the United Kingdom?

  1. Martin

    To my (german) opinion, britain is more often used as synonym for the UK.
    As the english Wiki says:
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain
    Maybe the author is german too, since we german use the incorrect synonym Great Britain for the UK. But to my opinion it would be much better if we would say Britannien as short form of the nearly unspeakable Vereingtes Königreich.

  2. Ellen Hawley

    One of the questions that frequently lead people to my blog is why Britain is called Great Britain. A fair number of people seem to hear it as a value judgement rather than a way to say “large.”

  3. Denise at Forest Manor

    Hi Mike, This is a really good post for clarification. I thought Great Britain included Northern Ireland, so I’ll have to remember this. I usually refer to England in my posts because that is the specific country we visited in 1999 ( as well as Northern Ireland which I refer to separately). I’ve still never been to Scotland or Wales. Thanks for sharing this and have a great weekend!

    Denise XX

  4. marmeladegypsy

    This is a terrific chart. And a good reminder. I had forgotten about the Channel Islands, etc. — the crown dependencies. In fact, while I knew they were part of Britain (once I remembered them) I never heard the term “crown dependencies” before. That makes a lot of sense.

    Also, because you are a no-reply blogger and I can’t email blog comments, I just wanted to thank you for the very kind comments you put on The Marmelade Gypsy about my art and such. I enjoy your visits and thank you!

    1. Mike@bitaboutbritain Post author

      I didn’t used to be a ‘no-reply blogger’ – the one thing I found tricky when switching from Blogspot was being able to comment on Blogspot blogs – Google is a very jealous company!

  5. Lesley

    I should know, but where does Gibraltar fit in? They vote with the IOW dont they ? But recent events make me wonder if Gib. is in the EU with us and the other bits.
    BTW I always say that I am English and address post to England/Angleterre from France. La Poste here does understand U.K. but sent something to R.U. (Royaume- Uni ) off to Roumania.

    1. Mike@bitaboutbritain Post author

      Hi Lesley – Gibraltar is a British overseas territory (like Bermuda and the Falkland Islands). I’m just concentrating on Britain, as a place; a man’s gotta know his limitations 🙂

  6. mekslibrarian

    Jenny Woolf says it all!
    A friend of mine, originally from Liverpool, has a translating and copywriting agency here in Germany. He often comes across (German) customers who say “England” and actually mean the UK as a whole, or even something entirely different, and then he has to find out what they really mean to say. He has blogged about this, so I am going to give him the link to your post.

Hi - please feel free to comment - direct questions will be answered eventually!

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