Britain vs England: What are the differences?

Britain vs England: What are the differences?

by Laura Jones

Updated November 7, 2022

Wondering what the difference is between Britain vs. England? Perhaps you want to know if Britain and the UK are the same. If you’re confused by the different terms–Britain, England, the UK–you’re not alone. The first thing to know is Britain and England are definitely not the same. Britain is the landmass where England, Scotland and Wales are located. England is one country within the United Kingdom. Confused? Let’s find out more about Britain.

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Is England a country?

We’ll start with England. England is a country that is part of Britain and the United Kingdom. It’s not a fully independent country, but it does have some autonomy over its laws. England is the largest country in Great Britain and it is where the UK parliament is based. The population of England is around 56,550,000 people, which is about 84% of the UK population. The capital of England is London, and London is also the capital of the UK. London is a huge, diverse city with a population of just over nine million. There are over 300 languages spoken in the city too! 

How is Great Britain different to England?

As we said, Great Britain is a landmass and not actually a country. England, Scotland, Wales and their islands, over 6,000 of them, are all part of Britain while Northern Ireland is not part of Britain. So, is there a difference between Great Britain and Britain? No! Britain is just the shorter version. Britain is the largest island in Europe.

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What is the United Kingdom?

If someone is a UK citizen, you’ll see the words ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ on their passport–not England, Scotland or Wales. The UK is a fully independent sovereign state and it consists of the countries of Great Britain and Northern Ireland–simple! The flag of the United Kingdom is a combination of the flags of the four countries within it, and it’s called the Union Jack or the Union Flag. You might have realized by now that the term ‘Brexit’ wasn’t quite correct, as Northern Ireland also left the EU. But UKexit doesn’t have quite the same ring! 

The United Kingdom formed slowly over time and it has lost some parts over the years too. The Republic of Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom as it left the Union in 1922 (it’s very important to remember this!). There are a few islands, namely the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, that are not part of the UK. They are called  ‘Crown Dependencies’. 

What about Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland?

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are all countries in the UK. They each have their own national identity, a capital city, and their own parliament. They can even make some of their own laws. For example, the drink driving limit is lower in Scotland than it is in England and Wales, so you might want to think twice before having a pint in Berwick-upon-Tweed and then driving over the border into Scotland. 

In addition, while English is spoken all over the United Kingdom, each country has its own languages too. Scotland has Scots and Scottish Gaelic, Welsh is spoken in Wales, and Northern Ireland has Irish and Ulster Scots. You will also hear people describe themselves as ‘English’ or ‘Scottish’, for example, but they could also call themselves ‘British’ if they wanted to. 

Do you know the difference between Great Britain vs England?

It’s easy to think of the different places from small to large. England is a semi-autonomous country, Britain is a landmass that contains England, Scotland and Wales, while the UK, the largest body, is Britain plus Northern Ireland. Learn the differences before you visit the UK, as each country’s national identity is very important to them.  

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Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.

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