United Kingdom, England, Britain, Great Britain, what's the difference?

This is easily the most ignorant question I’ve ever posted, so go easy on me. Do all of the above terms refer to the same thing? If, which I’m guessing, they don’t, what refers to what, exactly?

“The United Kingdom” is short for “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. It encompasses England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Great Britain” refers to the island of Britain (Scotland, Wales, England) with its associated islands (Orkneys, Shetlands…I believe also the Isle of Mann and the Channel Islands but I’m not 100% on that). It is called that to distinguish itself from what used to be “Less Britain” - ie Brittany, in France.

I don’t know if there’s any real difference between “Britain” and “Great Britain” except that the latter makes the poms feel important :wink:

England is the bit of Britain to the South and East. Never try to tell a Scot or a Welshman that they’re living in England, or you may end up eating your teeth for breakfast.

Next up: ‘America, North America, USA - is there any difference?’:smiley:

I am noted for my complete ignorance, nay, my font of incorrect information about this subject.

I wish you well, my co-ignorant supplicant. It’s easy to forget how many people you can tick off if you get it wrong.

England is just the dominant partner in (Great) Britain. I believe it has equal status to Wales and Scotland. UK is short for The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland so it seems UK = Britain + Northern Ireland. These days, Northern Ireland seems to have an almost shared status between Ireland and the UK. For example, my parents were born in the North but I have an Irish rather than British passport through them. I think Irish citizens can also vote in British elections although there may have been changes made to this. Even this compromise is anathema to the extremes on both sides of the troubles who want no part of compromise at all.

Bare in mind that you are dealing with hundreds of years of history with all its attendant (un)civil wars, oppression, politics, bloodshed and terrorism from all sides. So undoubtedly, there will be more informed posters with more detailed (and correct) explanation, but even then I doubt they will go unchallenged by others with different axes to grind.

Even Australian citizens can vote in British elections (well, this was true 10 years ago). There was some outdated rule about being members of the Commonwealth. I assume Eire (the Republic of Ireland) is a member of the Commonwealth, even tho’ not part of the UK any more.

I see that several others here beat me to the punch, althought I might as well post my link: What is the difference between the United Kingdom and Great Britain?

The question I have wasn’t answered on that page. I was always under the impression that “United Kingdom” also referred to all of the territories (e.g. Hong Kong, India) controlled by the British Empire in their heyday. But I’m probably wrong.

Irish citizens who are resident in the UK can vote in British elections. British citizens who are resident in Ireland can vote in Irish elections. And no, Ireland isn’t part of the Commonwealth.

Even most UK citizens can’t explain this…

As mentioned above UK = 4 parts, Eng, Scot, Wales and NI. However, they are not of equal status, unlike the 50 states.

Go back the best part of 1000 years. England, a kingdom, conquers Wales and absorbs it. Calls it a principality. Wales has some constitutional separation.

Fast forward to early 17th C. The king of Scotland, another kingdom, becomes king of England as well - inherits a 2nd throne. Not that unusual in those days.

Early 18th C. Scots merchants would like access to England’s empire. English pols would prefer Scotland not to be a potential back door for Catholic Euro-rabble invaders. Already sharing same monarch, so what the heck - Act of Union 1707. The United Kingdom comes into being. England and Scotland lose independence.

By this time England had conquered Ireland, so it was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. GB is largely a geographical entity - the biggest of the British Isles, but can also be used to mean UK.

Republic of Ireland separates in 1920 (approx), leaving Northern Ireland in the UK.

The confusing bit … Governance I’ll use US terms like “state” and “federal” here…

Wales and England were ruled from London from the word go. When the 2 parliaments merged, Scotland was also ruled from London. None of them had a “state” government, but the “federal” government implemented different domestic policies where appropriate (eg owing to different legal traditions).

Ireland had a separate “state” government in Dublin looking after domestic affairs. NI had one up to 1972 when its government was “Federalized”

From then on, the whole of the UK was run directly by the London (“Federal”) Govt. Until…

“Devolution” a few years back. Scotland, Wales, NI were each given a “state” level of govt and an assembly. (Needless to say, each has a different level of autonomy - anything to make it impossible to understand.) England however is still run directly by the “Federal” government.

Thus legislators representing districts in Wales, Scotland, NI in the UK Parliament can vote alongside English colleagues on English internal issues like schools, as well as on national “Federal” matters like whether to bomb Saddam.

There is even more weirdness, such a system that allows Scotland a disproportionately large number of members of the national parliament in London, but I’ll spare you.

This is what happens when you don’t sit down and officially start a new country, but just make it up as you go along.

<Aspidistra googles quickly>

Why, so you aren’t. My mistake.

And it looks like about half the world (who are resident in the UK)can still vote in UK elections.

I think this may be reciprocal. My folks, who were only recently naturalised, have had to vote ever since they enrolled. I’m not sure if they had to enrol as Australian citizens do, but they did anyway.

I remember reading that England does not exist constitutionally. It is the part of the United Kingdom that lacks it’s own government and is directly under the British government. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, and the more distant territories of the UK (Gilbratar, Flaklands, etc.) all have their own government to some extent in addition to the British government, whereas there is no “English Government” under the British government. There are county, metropolitan, and municipal level governments of course.

This sounds strange, but is it true? Is England is a historical entity…not a unit of goverment.

They seem to be laxer in the UK than Oz. I know plenty of people (Poms, kiwis, and so on) who are living and working here in Oz but can’t vote. Whereas in the UK I could vote (living on a student visa) but precious little else.

I think it’s just the last vestiges of The Empire On Which The Sun Never Sets. You know, letting us colonials have a say in the government of the Mother Country…:stuck_out_tongue:

That’s about it. Around the time of devolution, their was some talk of ‘Regional Assemblies’, but no English government.

The EU seems to have decided that the UK’s made up of regions - I posted this link in another thread: Map of the UK, as seen by the EU.

England’s a weird place. We don’t celebrate our Saint’s day (but have celebrations for other Countries national days), our Home Secretary warned against English Nationalism, saying that “The English have a propensity for violence”. (I recommend you type that phrase into Google). It’s about the only place in the world where being patriotic is a bad thing.

The short answer is that England, Scotland and Wales make up Great Britain, and Great Britain and Northern Ireland make up the United Kingdom. “Britain” is often used as a shorthand for the United Kingdom, which can make for confusion, and “British” is the adjective used to describe something pertaining to the United Kingdom – the British army, the British government.

The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not part of England, Great Britain or the United Kingdom, but they have a constitutional dependence on the United Kingdom.

Hemlock’s brief history is, I think, accurate as regards Britain but not as regards Ireland. Ireland became a dependency of England in name in about 1170, and in practice from the late Sixteenth Century. When England and Scotland joined to for the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 Ireland did not become part of the United Kingdom, but became a dependency of it. Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain were joined to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801. There continued to be a separate administration for Ireland, but (as before) it was appointed and controlled by the UK government in London.

In 1922 what is now the Republic of Ireland left the United Kingdom, which then (or shortly afterwards) was renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. At the same Northern Ireland was given its own subsidiary governmental institutions, which lasted until 1972 and were then abolished. In the 1990s new subsidiary governmental institutions were established in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

It is now true that, below the level of the UK governmental authorities, there are subsidiary authorities for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but none for England. This is because England is larger in terms of population, wealth and resources than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put together, and English people and English interests have always dominated the UK government and administration to such an extent that separate institutions for England as such have not until now been found necessary.

Wow, I knew there was a lot of history and politics in that corner of the world but, wow.

I feel a lot more justified in (previously) not knowing the difference. Thanks for clearing it all up…sorta. :wink:

And don’t forget… The British Isles is simply the geographical description of the bits mentioned above including Eire,(but not the Channel Islands).


Just don’t tell the Irish this.

So now we have situation of MP’s from other UK countries being able to vote on matters that just affect England, whilst the reverse isn’t true.

I’m sorry for being so dense but I still cannot understand how, when devolution took place, England didn’t get a parliament.

BTW, ignore the typo in my previous post - I do know the difference between ‘their’ and ‘there’ really. :slight_smile:

Boy, and I thought it was weird to have a single city (NYC) which is made up of five distinct counties, or a city (Baltimore) which is not in a county at all… You Brits really have it messed up, :slight_smile: I’m glad we separated while there was still the opportunity… I mean, two separate countries ruled by the same king, and they didn’t merge? Weird…

Anyway, can someone help this 'merkin out on some lingo here? I am very sure that “Oz” refers to all of Australia, and I thought a “kiwi” was a New Zealand resident, though the context makes me suspect that it’s really an Australian. But I never heard of a “pom” before - Whuzzat?

::: recommends that if Keeve is weirded out by the county status of NYC and Baltimore, he never look at a political map of Virginia :::

I was told some years ago that the Channel Islands are the remnant of the Duchy of Normandy (as in William the Conqueror’s pre-1066 domain) and still have an official status – and that Elizabeth II is officially Duke (not Duchess) of Normandy in consequence of this. I smell a faint scent of U.L. in the story, though. Anybody got any light to shed on this?