Great Britain United Kingdom EnglandAfter the surprising popularity of a post I did last year, stating the differences between Ethnicity vs. Nationality vs. Race vs. Heritage vs. Culture, I have decided to do another in the same vein. I did that previous post because I needed to understand more about what each word meant, so I researched the topic and then wrote a post about it. Likewise, I feel like clarifying (both to myself and for anyone who is eager to learn) these various words/terms, though I write this as no expert.

The differences between each get more confusing before it gets easier. I assume that when I say the term “country,” you might think I am speaking of a sovereign state. However, a country is simply a separate entity, geographically or otherwise; a country may be completely sovereign, or it may be a constituent of another sovereign state. For example, Curaçao is a country in the Caribbean; its official name is even the Country of Curaçao. But this Caribbean island-country is really a constituent country of a fully-sovereign nation a world away – the Netherlands. The leader of Curaçao is the monarch of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. So keep this in mind as you continue with this article.


England is a country (remember: constituent country), a part of the Kingdom of Great Britain (hold on, we’ll get there). London is the capital city of England, and England used to be a sovereign nation, the Kingdom of England (which had already annexed Wales), until 1707, when it united with the Kingdom of Scotland to form Great Britain.

Britain / Great Britain

First of all, Britain = Great Britain. Same thing, just one’s shorter, like United States = United States of America. Now that we got this out of the way, what is Great Britain? Well, Great Britain is essentially defined as two things:

  1. Geographically, Great Britain is an island, the largest island in Europe, the third most-populous in the world (over 62 m people), and the ninth largest island in the world. However, perhaps you should forget this version of Great Britain, and instead go with the next definition.
  2. Politically, Great Britain is actually the combination of three countries (remember: constituent countries, not sovereign): England, Scotland, and Wales. This is what “Britain” or “Great Britain” will conjure up to most people, and most would usually append the extra description of “the island” when referring to the geographic version. When used in this political sense, Britain’s full name is the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Sooooo….. Britain is actually made up of three (constituent) countries: England, Scotland, and Wales. However, Britain itself is not sovereign, either; rather, it makes up a large portion of the modern-day United Kingdom, which you can read about next.

Next Page: Contined »


  1. Just to add to the mix – The classical writer, Ptolemy, referred to the larger island as great Britain (megale Britannia) and to Ireland as little Britain (mikra Brettania)


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