What is the difference between Great Britain, England and the United Kingdom?

The three terms are often considered interchangeable in everyday language.

This confusion greatly annoys the English, attached to their own country. The British Isles include all the islands located in the north-west of France on the other side of the Channel, of which the two main ones are Great Britain and Ireland. But they also have many smaller islands, such as the Isle of Man, the Shetlands, the Isle of Wight, the Hebrides archipelago or the Aran Islands.

England, often referred to as the land of all English people, is just one of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom. The latter is made up of four countries, each with its parliament or regional assembly, with certain political independence:

  • England, with London as its capital;
  • Scotland, with Edinburgh as its capital;
  • Wales, with Cardiff as its capital;
  • Northern Ireland, with Belfast as its capital.

The other islands are each attached to one of these countries, with some exceptions (the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are connected to the British Crown but are not formally part of the United Kingdom).

The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. © LaraFields, Adobe Stock

England, the UK’s largest constituent nation

England is the most populous territory globally, with 56.3 million inhabitants in 2019, or 84% of the total population. Great Britain refers to the largest island in the United Kingdom, including England, Wales and Scotland.

Of all these entities, only the United Kingdom has legally considered a unitary state, with its currency (the pound sterling), a capital (London), ahead of state (the Queen of England) and ahead of government. (Prime Minister).

Under the United Kingdom’s sovereignty are 14 overseas territories located outside the British Isles, such as Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar or Saint Helena. These territories are not part of the United Kingdom proper; they have territorial autonomy and currency.

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