"When people say England, they sometimes mean Great Britain, sometimes the United Kingdom, sometimes the British Isles - but never England." 'How to be an Alien' by George Mikes

Why is the UK called Britain?

There are many terms used to describe these great isles - England, UK, Britain, Great Britain, the British Isles - it can get a little confusing! Let us here make it a bit more simple for you.

Britain is made up of England and Wales. This is because the Romans called England and Wales 'Brittania' and this only included England and Wales as Scotland was never conquered by the Romans.

Great Britain is made up of England, Wales and Scotland. This term was first used by King James I in 1603 to refer to the separate kingdoms over which he ruled. 

The United Kingdom is made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as these are the four countries that unite together.

The British Isles is made up of England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as well as a number of smaller islands such as the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. This is because these are the countries that come together to form these Isles, regardless of their affiliation with each other.

The History of the United Kingdom

  • 1536 - Act of Union joins England and Wales
  • 1707 - Act of Union joins England, Scotland and Wales to form Great Britain
  • 1801 - The Irish Parliament vote to join the Union, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
  • 1922 - The Union becomes United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland after most of Southern Ireland choose independence.