I’m going to start off using high-level terms and get more specific as the post goes on. I’ll also be using the terms island, country, etc. more frequently than usual to make sure this madness makes as much sense as possible.
The image below will make understanding all of this much easier:
The British Isles are a group of ISLANDS off the northwest coast of Europe. It includes the ISLAND of Great Britain, the ISLAND of Ireland, and over six thousand smaller isles including the Isle of Man and Guernsey, etc. The Isle of Man and Gurnsey are two of the U.K.’s Crown dependencies. People in the country of the Republic of Ireland instead refer to this archipelago as the British-Irish Isles.
Great Britain is not a country, it’s an island. It’s the largest island in the British Isles. The countries of England, Scotland, and Wales make up the entirety of the island of Great Britain. These countries make up 3/4ths of the sovereign state known as the United Kingdom (U.K.).
Ireland is an island in the British Isles where the countries of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland reside. Ireland is also sometimes used to refer to the Republic of Ireland. The ISLAND of Ireland is the second largest island in the British Isles.
The U.K. is a sovereign state that consists of four individual countries: Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The U.K.’s full name is the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.’ Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland defer to the U.K parliament in “reserved matters” such as foreign policy and European Union (E.U.) membership but retain their own authority over “devolved matters” such as housing and education. England does not devolve any of its own powers, instead, it is solely legislated by the U.K government.
England is the largest country in the sovereign state of the U.K by population and landmass and is located on the island of Great Britain. Its capital city of London is also the capital of the U.K.
Northern Ireland is the fourth largest country in the U.K. and is located on the island of Ireland, NOT the island of Great Britain. It shares its southern border with the country of the Republic of Ireland. It was created in 1921 when the island of Ireland was partitioned between the northern and southern regions of Ireland by the Government of Ireland Act 1920.
THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
The Republic of Ireland (or just Ireland) is an independent county located on the island of Ireland. It is not part of the U.K., although it once was. It shares its northern border with the country of Northern Ireland.
Britain has referred to different areas over time. It’s now often used interchangeably with Great Britain, although this is not technically correct. The name Britain goes back to Roman Empire era when this area was referred to as Britannia.
- Just when you think things couldn’t get even more confusing, the U.K. voted (nicknamed the Brexit vote) to leave the E.U, which is a political and economic union between European countries. The “Br” in Brexit refers to Britain (or Great Britain) which is technically incorrect because the country of Northern Ireland isn’t on the island of Great Britain, but is in the U.K.
- Big Ben in London doesn’t refer to the clock, it refers to a bell that is located inside the clock tower.
- Britain was also involved in what is considered the shortest war in history. The Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 lasted only 38 minutes.
- London was the first city in the world to have an underground subway system.
- Queen Elizabeth II is the queen of the U.K. and 16 other Commonwealth realms including Canada, Australia, and Brazil.
- BrilliantMaps.com – England vs Great Britain vs United Kingdom Explained
- Historic-UK.com – The UK & Great Britain – What’s the Difference?
- CPGrey.com – The Difference Between The United Kingdom, Great Britain, England And A Whole Lot More