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What is Great Britain

Great Britain

Great Britain is the official name given to the two kingdoms of England and Scotland, and the principality of Wales. It is an island lying off the western coast of Europe, comprising the main territory of the United Kingdom. copyright of

Great Britain is made up of:

  • England - The capital is London.
  • Scotland - The capital is Edinburgh .
  • Wales - The capital is Cardiff.

Great Britain is divided into small regions called counties.

UK England Wales England Scotland

Is Great Britain the same as the UK?

No, Great Britain and the United Kingdom refer to different areas.

Great Britain is very often, but incorrectly, used as a synonym for the sovereign state properly known as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' (UK).

The UK includes Great Britain AND Northern Ireland)

Great Britain
Great Britain
United Kingdom

Great Britain is a political term which describes the combination of England, Scotland, and Wales, the three nations which together include all the land on the island. It is also a geographical term referring to the island on which the greater parts of England, Wales and Scotland are situated. copyright of


Great Britain has an area of 229,850 km² (88,745 sq. mi.) and is the largest island of the British Isles.

Is Great Britain the same as Britain?

Great Britain and Britain do not mean the same thing.

Great Britain is made up of Scotland, England and Wales, where as Britain is just England and Wales. The name Britain goes back to Roman times when they called England and Wales "Britannia" (or "Britannia Major", to distinguished from "Britannia Minor", ie Brittany in France). The Roman province of Britannia only covered the areas of modern England and Wales. The area of modern Scotland was never finally conquered.

However, it is important to note here that Britain has not existed in the true sense since the Roman times. Wales became a separate country in its own right, and then became a principality of England, which it still is today. The Union in 1707 joined Scotland and England and Wales to create Great Britain.

With thanks to J. Stanhope from Campaign for an English Parliament for much of the above information.

Origins of the names


Britain was the name made popular by the Romans when they came to the British islands.

Great Britain

The term Great Britain was first used during the reign of King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) in 1603, to refer to the separate kingdoms of England and Scotland on the same landmass, that were ruled over by the same monarch. Despite having the same monarch, both kingdoms kept their own parliaments. copyright of


England used to be known as Engla land, meaning the land of the Angles, people from continental Germany, who began to invade Britain in the late 5th century, along with the Saxons and Jute. copyright of

United Kingdom (The uniting of kingdoms)

The 'United Kingdom of Great Britain' was formed in 1707 by the Act of Union that created a single kingdom with a single Parliament. (Scotland has always retained its own legal system) copyright of pro

A hundred years later the Act of Union of 1801 joined Ireland to 'Great Britain' and the name "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" was first used. (Since 1921 only Northern Ireland has been part of the United Kingdom and so the name changed).

Find out more by visiting our Union Flag pages .

Other pages on the same theme

Click here to find out more about Great Britain.

Find out about the UK Go to UK page

Questions about the United Kingdom

Where is the UK?
What countries make up the UK?
What is the official title (name) of the UK?
Why is the whole of Ireland not part of the UK?
How and why was the UK formed?

Questions about the British Isles

What is the British Isles?

Questions about England

Why does England dominate the UK?

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Events and special days in the UK
British Life
Pooh down the River Thames

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© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.