What Is The Difference Between United Kingdom, Great Britain, And England?

England, Scotland, and Wales are located on the island of Great Britain. When combined with Northern Ireland they make up the country of the United Kingdom.
England, Scotland, and Wales are located on the island of Great Britain. When combined with Northern Ireland they make up the country of the United Kingdom.

The three terms of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and England have often confused many people. Most people use the terms interchangeably although they are not truly interchangeable. The majority of people around the world became confused during the “Brexit” referendum with so many people not knowing who was leaving the European Union leading to several misconceptions about how to refer to the political players in the referendum. Understanding the geopolitical complexity of the three may not be easy, but it is appropriate that that one knows how to differentiate the three.

Understanding The Geography

The British Isles consists of the island of Great Britain, the island of Ireland, and several other smaller isles. The British Isles covers an area of 121,684 square miles with the Isles having a total population of 67 million people. The island of Great Britain is located between the North Sea and the English Channel. 

Is Great Britain A Country?

Great Britain is the largest island of the British Isles. Great Britain is also a political entity consisting of three autonomous countries including England, Wales, and Scotland. It is mostly used interchangeably with the United Kingdom. However, this should not be the case as Northern Ireland, on the island of Ireland, is not part of Great Britain. Some islands that are part of the countries forming Great Britain like Isle of Wight and Isle of Skye are not part of Great Britain geographically but are included as part of Great Britain politically. Therefore, Great Britain can be summarized as Wales, England, and Scotland.

So, Is “Great Britain” Same As “Britain?”

The terms “Great Britain” and “Britain” are sometimes thought to be the same, but that is not the case. Britain is a political entity that does not exist anymore. British is a term used to refer to the Roman territory of Britannia Major, an area that was conquered by the Romans. The Romans never conquered Scotland. So Britain refers to Wales and England while Great Britain refers to Wales, England, and Scotland.

What Is England?

England is the largest country of the three Great Britain countries covering an area of 50,301 square miles. It is also the largest country in the UK and the British Isles with London as its capital city. The country is bordered by Wales to the east and Scotland to the north. However, it is not actually a sovereign country and is in fact just an administrative level 1 in international comparison that happens to be called countries. This means that it is just one of the largest subnational administrative units of a country which in this case is the United Kingdom. Very similar to how US states are admin1's of the United States or provinces and territories in Canada. They just are called countries in the United Kingdom. 

So, What is “The United Kingdom?”

The United Kingdom, commonly shortened as the UK, is a country of countries. It is a sovereign state that is consisting of four individual countries including Wales, England, and Scotland, situated on the island of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland. The official name for the UK is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” It has one government headquartered in London and one currency (Sterling pound).


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