[UK flag]UK glossary

The United Kingdom, Britain, England, Great Britain... why does that country have so many different names? That question is something many people will have asked themselves at one time or another - and that includes citizens of the UK itself. Consequently, the different names are used where it is incorrect or inappropriate. This glossary aims to explain the meanings of some of the most common terms, and help prevent such confusion.

An alternative name for Great Britain. Sometimes also used to refer to the whole of the United Kingdom, although this can be a bit confusing.
Adjective referring to Britain, or its inhabitants or citizens. Taken to mean 'of the United Kingdom', rather than 'of Great Britain'.
British Empire
The territories around the world colonised by Britain from the seventeenth century. Most are now independent sovereign states. The Commonwealth consists of much of the former British Empire.
British Isles
A group of islands off the north-west coast of continental Europe, consisting of Great Britain (and the smaller islands surrounding it), Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.
A citizen of the United Kingdom.
Channel Islands
A group of islands in the English Channel, off the North-West coast of France (the largest being Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark). They are British dependencies, but they are not part of the UK and have their own assemblies.
Informal association of the countries that once formed the British Empire.
An alternative name for the Republic of Ireland (Gaelic).
A constituent country of the United Kingdom.
Great Britain
An island situated north-west of continental Europe, the eighth largest island in the world. It forms the main part of England, Scotland and Wales. Various adjacent islands (e.g. Anglesey, Shetland, Western Isles) are counted as part of Great Britain, but not Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.
An island situated north-west of continental Europe, the 20th largest island in the world. It is divided into the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK). The whole of Ireland was united with Great Britain in 1801. In 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty resulted in the creation of the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland.
Irish Free State
Former name for the Republic of Ireland, before it left the Commonwealth in 1949.
Isle of Man
An island in the Irish sea. It is a dependency of the British crown, but is not part of the UK. British laws apply to the Isle of Man only where specified.
Northern Ireland
A province of the United Kingdom, situated in the north of the island of Ireland. Created in 1921 from six of the counties of Ulster, the remainder of Ireland forming the Republic of Ireland.
Republic of Ireland
The country constituting the southern part of the island of Ireland.
A constituent country of the United Kingdom. The Scottish and English crowns were united in 1603, when James VI of Scotland became James I of England. The Act of Union of the parliaments was in 1707.
Southern Ireland
A name sometimes used for the Republic of Ireland.
Province in the north of the island of Ireland. Now divided between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Some people prefer to use the term 'Ulster' rather than 'Northern Ireland', as the latter could be seen to imply a united Ireland.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Usually abbreviated to United Kingdom or UK. Official name for the country consisting of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but not including the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
A principality of the United Kingdom. First conquered by Edward I in 1284. United with England in the sixteenth century under Henry VIII, when English law and the English language were introduced in Wales.

[Map showing the location of the UK within Europe]