22 Brits on an Island

I’m hoping some of our British friends can help us sort this out:

The Brits Are Coming!

The UK to me means the “United Kingdom” – however, the legal name of their space in the world is the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” The UK itself is not a country, but rather is made up of (4) separate countries including England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The challenge: 22 authors think their country is Great Britain whereas 1,619 authors know they live in the United Kingdom.

Ok, which is it? Isn’t Great Britain and the UK the same?

We’re ok with leaving these 22 authors to state that they live in Great Britain, but it seems that “Great Britain” itself is not a country, but rather a political designation for the (3) countries that include England, Scotland and Wales.

Confused yet? Seems that Great Britain also includes the outlying islands of Isles of Scilly, the Hebrides and the Island group of Orkney and Shetland. The island of Great Britain does not include Northern Ireland.

My research on this issue shows that Great Britain is widely used incorrectly as a synonym for the political state of the United Kingdom. Even more confusing is that some Brits use GB (Great Britain) for their sports designations yet their license plates say the UK.

Do we just allow authors to continue to list “Great Britain” as their country even though it is not a country itself?


Gaz writes:


It is actually quite simple. Great Britain does not include Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom does.

So if you are living in England, Scotland, Wales or one of the offshore islands (eg Scillies or hebrides) then you are part of both Great Britain and the United Kingdom and can use either correctly.

If you live in Northern Ireland you are part of the UK but no Great Britain. Easy!

The thing that annoys me is that in just about every site where you have to enter a country it says United Kingdom. Never our individual countries. If you ask just about anyone living on these Isles what country are you from they will say England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland NOT UK or Britain. It tends to be Americans who use UK as a coverall. Is it too complicated for you guys?

It is the equivalent to us saying all the Americas are one country!!

Hope this helps


Comment provided February 16, 2006 at 9:21 AM


Chris Knight writes:

Thanks Gaz!

What would be real helpful is if the UK could become the “United States of Great Britain” with England, Scotland and Wales becoming States instead of countries.

How soon do you think you could get that done?

Ok, I’m just kidding.

What you’ve really told me is that we have done a dis-service to those from England, Scotland and Wales by not recognizing them as countries. We’ll go add them today and then invite the 1600 authors from the UK to update their profile to change to their real country.

Comment provided February 16, 2006 at 11:13 AM


Phil Hord writes:

In England they call us “the states”. Here in the US, we call them “the UK”. I think they even object to the extra article in there, preferring “UK” instead, or “Jolly Old England” otherwise.

But I’m not really an anglophile. I offer this only to counter the indignant attitude.

And — btw, here in the US, we do generally call our country “America”, in spite of the other North American countries which have us surrounded. Thankfully, most of the rest of the world agrees.

Comment provided February 16, 2006 at 12:48 PM


Dina Giolitto writes:

Gaz Said,

“It is the equivalent to us saying all the Americas are one country!!”

That just about clears it up for me. Thanks for drawing the parallel, Gaz. :)

On a more fanciful note, how cool would it be if I could just blink right now and find myself in an ancient castle tucked away amidst the rolling hills of Ireland (my first choice in UK vacation spots)? Thanks for *taking me there.*


Comment provided February 16, 2006 at 1:32 PM


Scott Holland writes:

I had noticed that you listed GB as well as UK, but being English was much too polite to mention it!

What irks me is when a US-based web site asks me to fill out a form (actually, we fill forms ‘in’ not ‘out’) and insists that I should fill in the ‘state’ field, when what they really want is my ‘county’ (we don’t have states here, and counties are not anywhere close to being the administrative equivalent of US states).

Best stick to UK, I think – that’s become the de facto standard on the net – although I will always consider myself English, not UKish.

Comment provided February 16, 2006 at 3:34 PM


Joel Walsh writes:

You’ve stepped into a minefield!

When I was in London at the end of the last millenium, there were English flags, Scottish flags, Welsh flags, Irish flags (both kinds), some EU flags–but very few Union Jacks. There are a lot of little nationalisms in there. The regional nationalism is not nearly as bad as Spain, but there’s still a real bit of acrimony in there.

Best to avoid it :) Just have the GB or whatever other UK alternative quietly forward into the UK pile.

FYI, the reason the outside world uses “UK” so much is because as foreigners that’s what we generally have to deal with (customs, business practices, etc.); not the English or Scottish government, but the UK government.

Comment provided February 16, 2006 at 4:00 PM


AndyE Barnes writes:

Personally, I prefer to call myself British. Even more, I prefer ‘Cornish’. Let me confuse you further! The comment re: counties being very different from ‘states’ is well made, but not all admin. areas in GB/UK are counties. Cornwall was in the distant past a reluctant conquest of the Anglo-Saxons, and we are often unhappy to be lumped in with the ‘counties’. We are a ‘duchy’. Then you have the drop down lists on some sites that try to be clever and once you have entered your coountry as UK, it offers a different drop-down for ‘state’ calling England, Scotland etc ‘states’ – Oh dear, Oh dear.

Dina wrote – ‘rolling hills of Ireland (my first choice in UK vacation spots)?’ – Oh my! Careful Dina. Ireland is a seperate country and definitely not part ‘UK’.

Comment provided February 17, 2006 at 4:39 AM


Dina writes:

Hi Andy,

Fancy seeing you here. :)

I took the liberty of writing that line because of Gaz’s remark here:

“If you live in Northern Ireland you are part of the UK but no Great Britain. Easy!”

Sorry to offend… perhaps my fantasy Irish vacation is in the parts that are NOT part of Northern Ireland anyway. So you may be right. :)


Comment provided February 17, 2006 at 7:17 AM


Dave Thomas writes:

As is stated on our passports, the United Kingdom is officially defined as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Many of the people here are rather patriotic, mainly due to our history (refer to Wikipedia for details), and prefer to identify themselves as English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish than British. This is perhaps especially the case when it comes to rugby! :-)

Personally, when the most recent census came round, I found it quicker to tick the box that said I was British than to write the five letters that would signify my country of birth. I am possibly in a minority there! :-)


Comment provided February 18, 2006 at 4:45 PM


Robin Piggott writes:

Very interesting debate indeed. The more usual description for those of us discussing the locality that used to be known as Hibernia is now “the Island of Ireland”.

This is a bit of a mouthful but seems to keep protagonists from both sides of “the Border” from getting hot and heavy.

As a “Brit”, with an “honorary Irishman” tag (by virtue of having spent my whole life in Eire!) it is always amusing when people ask me how am I enjoying my Holiday!

Must be something to do with the way wot I speke!

Any way one thing is for certain… this wonderful outpost of the old empire(horror) is still very Green, very Friendly, and Very,Very,Wet! which ever hemisphere you happen to find yourself in.

Comment provided February 22, 2006 at 9:24 PM


Paul writes:

Well I’m from Northern Ireland and would regard myself as being both Northern Irish and British …Geographically Great Britain is England , Scotland , Wales…But the United Kingdom is these 3 along with Northern Ireland ..in British Passports under nationality it says we UK citizens are called “BRITISH CITIZEN” Not :”UK CITIZEN” the only name for a person born in the UK is “British” be they British and Scottish ,Welsh, English , Or like me Northern Irish we are all Britons !!!!!!…

Comment provided March 7, 2006 at 12:37 PM


Carla Laidler writes:

After this week, there might not be any more United Kingdon OR Great Britain. Apparently something like 70% of Scottish people want to break Scotland away from the UK and over 56% of English people agree! AND to cap that off, it is being considered as an option. I just dont get it.

Comment provided November 28, 2006 at 2:35 AM


RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Please read our comment policy before commenting.