The Difference Between Great Britain, England & the United Kingdom (and a whole lot more)

Ready for a geography lesson? If you’ve ever been confused about the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England, this video by Colin Grey (@cgpgrey) will set you straight in an action packed 5 minutes. His fast talking dialog also covers the commonwealth countries, what it means to be ruled by the crown and more. It might take a few viewings, but with a little work you’ll get this complex 1000 year old system down pat.

Click this Venn Diagram by Colin Grey to learn at a slower pace:


There are 33 comments

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  1. Aj

    Erm, maybe the use of a different colour for Ireland would be nice. Orange is perhaps a contentious colour to apply to that particular country.

  2. lynx

    you forgot Cornwall. The Cornish are not English, they just happen to have been conquered and annexed by England. Much the same as the Irish and Welsh. The only difference is Cornwall is smaller.

  3. glab

    i have asked several uk folks online what the difference is between the uk and gb and could never get a straight answer…and they poke fun at american ignorance when the opportunity arises.

  4. Olly Webb

    Great Britain is so named because it was called Britanny by the French, as two places now, one area in France and now the UK they became known as Greater Brittany and Lesser Brittany. Over time the ‘er’ was lost and so Great Britain was born.

    Enjoy your yanky lack of history, i have a castle at the end of my road 😉

  5. catriona

    Thanks for this, I live in Wales and have to convince the majority of Europeans and Americans I meet when I travel that Wales is not in England

  6. Ben

    Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are NOT sovereign. Power has been devolved to their parliaments but the United Kingdom Parliament (Westminster) still has the legal right to reclaim this power if it ever chooses to do so.

  7. Eddie The Aggravator

    Good luck telling the Irish they’re in the British Isles! Lies and slander propogated by the Queen to extend her dominion! Whats next? The Yanks’ll start calling Mexico part of America!?!

  8. eddie

    A first-class explanation; well done. However, “Eddie the Aggravator” mustn’t have been listening: Ireland – all of it – is in the British Isles; the South of Ireland is not in the United Kingdom.

  9. Derek

    Excellent generally accurate summary. There are, of course other areas which are part of the British Commonwealth of Nations but which don’t necessarily recognise the Crown as a part of their government. One of the newest of these is Mozambique which had no connection wit the Commonwealth until a few years ago. Also it should be said that there is no country called England nor one called Wales, the legal entity is England and Wales.

  10. F1shface

    To go into that detail is impressive. One slight tweak, the colours are wrong. England should be White and Wales should be red.
    Northern Ireland could be seen as orange, but half of the people there will hate you for saying so.

    I think you’d need another movie to explain why.

  11. Laura

    As a very proud Irish person I can tell you we are not part of the British Isles( any Irish person would almost keel over and die at this comment) and take massive offence at the way you very flipplantly and quickly throw this out.

  12. ClaraLaraBombara

    Very good video, but the British Isles are starting to be called the Celtic-Anglo Isles (or vice versa). I’m not one to enforce political correctness or anything but i’m Irish and if someone said I lived in the British Isles i would be less than impressed. Alot less.

  13. Mr goose

    @ Olly Webb, i love that poor attempt to seem intelligent but you’re wrong..

    Great Britain has been called “Great” by various people and for various reasons over the years. The two most famous cases of this term being used and when it really stuck was first when Scotland and England had their parliaments merged by King James to boast how much land he ruled over.

    secondly @ Ben, Although it is true that parliament has the right to revoke the devolved parliamentry systems, it is also true that should a nation such as Scotland vote in majority to become independent, it was agreed that they would become an independent country. This is why the present UK government is worried by the rise in popularity of the Scottish National Party and the changing views of the Scottish population in recent times

  14. Alejandro

    You’ve successfully explained everything having to do with the U.K. except Cornwall and the U.S.! What does the Crown think of the U.S., and where would it fit on this Venn Diagram?

  15. Ben

    @Mr goose

    Interesting point, but sovereignty is a very specific term meaning the ultimate source of power. This means who in the end of the day can trump who when using every legal card available to it. While Westminster may have made an agreement with the periphery, or even put this agreement into its constitution, it also has the power to make or unmake any law, including that one, thus removing the ability of nations like Scotland from separating legally, unless it did so by force.

  16. Steve

    Actually, there is a country called Wales and this has had legal status, the entity known as England and Wales does exist for certain judicial and statisical purposes, but the links are weakening.

    However, the presentation made things sound simpler than they really are. For example, the Anglican church is only the state religion in England, not elsewhere, the Orkney and Shetland Islands are entitled to different consideration if Cornwall is (and why not?), citizens of certain Crown Colonies are entitled to live in the UK, others are not (though citizens of French and Dutch colonies have this right)etc, etc etc.

    All might be made a little clearer if the UK had a written constitution, but the term Britsh Isles is still the only one accepted worldwide as a geographic expressio for the archipelago as a whole (though can omit Jersey and Guernsey).

    While speaking of Guernsey, this needs to be broken down further into Guernsey proper, Alderney and Sark (all of which have their own parliamenst and recognise the Queen as Head of State in her role as Duke of Normandy.

  17. John

    Nice video and I have no doubt that lots of people learned a lot they didn’t know (though remembering it is another thing. I’m not sure all Irish people are as bothered by the term “British Isles” as some are suggesting. Doesn’t bother me all that much. I would wonder about the use of “Republic of Ireland”. While it does add clarity, and Ireland is a republic, the official name of the state (in English) is Ireland, but that just confuses things between the island and the state. Ah well, maybe someday it’ll make more sense.

  18. mark

    British isles = islands of Britain. This includes orkney, Hebrides, Jersey etc.

    But it does not include Ireland, which isn’t an island of Britain, and hasnt been since they became a sovereign country many decades ago.

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