I've always been frustrated that I haven't entirely understood the difference between the terms Britain, Great Britain, British Isles, and United Kingdom. I'm not sure if I was ever taught the difference in school; but even if I was taught, I apparently never really learned it.
I obviously want to make sure my children understand the differences, so I figured I'd better learn it for myself so I can be sure to teach them right. I Googled it (have I ever said how thankful I am for the internet?) and I quickly found a good—and easy— explanation at this UK school website. I'll summarize what I learned:
1. The British Isles is a geographic term which includes the island of Great Britain, the entire island of Ireland, and all the offshore islands.
2. The United Kingdom (the official name is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) refers to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (the areas shown in blue on the map).
3. Great Britain (sometimes just referred to simply as Britain) refers to the single island which consists of Scotland, England, and Wales (shown in purple below).
You can read about where the actual names (Britain, Great Britain, England, etc.) came from here .
1. People born in England are called English or British and can say that they live in England, Britain, and/or the UK. Most people in England will say that are British rather than English.
2. People born in Scotland are called Scottish or British and can say that they live in Scotland, Britain, and/or the UK. Most people in Scotland will say they are Scottish rather than British.
3. People born in Wales are called Welsh or British and can say that they live in Wales, Britain, and/or the UK. Most people in Wales will say they are Welsh rather than British.
Well, I finally feel informed (it's about time)—and it feels great!