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What is the Difference between England, Great Britain and United Kingdom

By Mary Smith. Updated: February 22, 2017
What is the Difference between England, Great Britain and United Kingdom

The names Great Britain, the United Kingdom and England are often used interchangeably in some countries to refer to the group of countries consisting of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. But not only this is an error, it also causes further confusion, since each of these terms actually describe different territorial areas. Thus, it's important to clarify things to avoid making a mistake. Are you confused about these three terms? At oneHOWTO we'll explain the difference between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom.

You may also be interested in: What is the Difference between Nation and State

Great Britain

As we explained above, Great Britain, England and the United Kingdom all represent different territories, so it's important not to confuse them. When we talk about Great Britain, we are referring to the largest island in the British Isles archipelago. The other island is Ireland, which comprises the Republic of Ireland and, the much smaller, Northern Ireland.

The island of Great Britain consists of 3 states: England is the most famous of the three with London as its capital. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and Cardiff is the capital of Wales.

What is the Difference between England, Great Britain and United Kingdom - Great Britain
Image: historic-uk.com

United Kingdom

We have now established that Great Britain is the largest of the British Isles and is composed of 3 states. So what is the United Kingdom?

Known officially as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom is a sovereign state that is composed of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and has London as its capital city. It's governed by a parliamentary system headed up by a prime minister. However, the capital cities of each state that make up the United Kingdom have devolved powers and, thus, it is a largely decentralized government. Take a look at the difference between state and nation for more information on the subject.

To sum up, the United Kingdom is a country composed of 4 states: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What is the Difference between England, Great Britain and United Kingdom - United Kingdom

England

After the explanation above, it's clear that when we speak about England we're referring to one of the 4 states of the United Kingdom, whose capital is London. London is also the capital of the United Kingdom, the seat of power and influence. For this reason, England is often talked about more in the media and is therefore the most well-known state of the British Isles.

Now it's much easier to see the difference between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Is it clear now?

What is the Difference between England, Great Britain and United Kingdom - England
Image: go.hrw.com

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What is the Difference between England, Great Britain and United Kingdom
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