The United Kingdom's full name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Thus, technically, referring to the UK as "Great Britain" excludes Northern Ireland.

  • 10
    Great Britain is so much easier, and it caught on, really. – Shahar Jan 12 '14 at 20:53
  • 1
    At the time of the Declaration of Independence, the country in question was the Kingdom of Great Britain. Although it became the UK only 25 years later, maybe the Americans preferred to stick with the old name. – Steve Melnikoff Jan 12 '14 at 21:10
  • @SteveMelnikoff - we did stick with the bloody Imperial measurments, after all. AFTER the Empire went off them. – user4012 Jan 13 '14 at 17:11
  • 4
    Also, I can not believe nobody linked to canonical CGPGrey on the issue – user4012 Jan 13 '14 at 17:13
  • 1
    One could ask "Why do Britons (and North Koreans) refer to all Americans as 'Yanks'?" Which excludes Southerners. – James K Sep 10 '17 at 15:34

Great Britain is used to formally refer to the UK (including Northern Ireland) in a number of international associations. For example:

The term might not be technically correct, but its use to refer to the UK is certainly not limited to US politicians.

  • Also, AFAIK, the adjective for a citizen of the U.K. is still "British". – ohwilleke Jun 9 '17 at 23:15
  • @ohwilleke indeed, the official legal term in UK law for citizens of the UK is "British citizen." That's what it says in their passports. – phoog Jun 10 '17 at 0:24

People use Great Britain, at least in my encounters, to talk about England proper (i.e. the part with London). The problem with calling it the United Kingdom is that the UK contains: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Great Britain. I tend to find that people typical aren't referring to all of these entities, and they specify which one by using these names. What perplexes me is why the name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The name leaves out many nations that are in the UK.

  • 8
    No, Great Britain does not mean England. It means England, Scotland and Wales - the former kingdom before Ireland was added (subsequently, most of Ireland gained independence). – Robin Green Feb 17 '14 at 10:57
  • 2
    user3127778: Robin is absolutely right; see for example here and here - and DVK's link above to CGPGrey's wonderful video. – Steve Melnikoff Feb 17 '14 at 23:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .