WHERE AM I? England, Great Britain, the United Kingdom…what does it all mean?


So where are you? You might be sitting in your house in your country or you might be at work, taking a quick break to check out the EC Covent Garden blog or you might be here at EC Covent Garden, London, learning English. If you are here with us…do you where you are exactly?

Are you in England? Are you in Britain? Are you in Great Britain? What about the United Kingdom or the UK? And what are Wales, Scotland and Ireland? What is the difference between  Ireland and Northern Ireland? And are you in Europe?

All the result of a complicated history – but here is your simple geographical guide!


Come and study on an English language course for adults in the UK


What is Great Britain?

Great Britain is an island – it is surrounded by the sea.

Inside Great Britain are the two ‘kingdoms’ of England and Scotland, and the ‘principality’ of Wales.

Great Britain is made up of:

England – The capital city is London.

Scotland – The capital city is Edinburgh .

Wales – The capital city is Cardiff.

HISTORY: The Union in 1707 joined Scotland and England and Wales to create Great Britain.



Is Great Britain the same as the United Kingdom?

No, Great Britain and the United Kingdom (UK) refer to different areas.

Great Britain is an island, which is only part of the UK. The UK is a state. The full name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Or to say it another way, the UK includes Great Britain AND Northern Ireland).

London is the capital city of the UK (as well as the capital city of England).

The United Kingdom is a member of the European Union, or EU, and so officially is part of Europe.


Is Great Britain the same as Britain?

Great Britain and Britain do not mean the same thing.

Great Britain = Scotland, England and Wales, but Britain is just England and Wales. The name Britain goes back to Roman times when they called England and Wales “Britannia”, or “Britannia Major” ( “Britannia Minor” was the area now known as Brittany in France). The Roman province of Britannia only covered the areas of modern England and Wales. The Romans never defeated the Scottish people in Scotland.


LANGUAGE  – Origins of the names

 Britain was the name made popular by the Romans when they came to these islands. They first arrived in 43 AD.

Great Britain

The term Great Britain was first used during the time of King James I of England (James VI of Scotland) in 1603, meaning the separate kingdoms of England and Scotland, that were suddenly ruled over by the same King. They had one King, but both kept their own parliaments.



 England used to be known as Engla land, meaning the land of the ‘Angles’, people from what is now Germany, who began to invade Britain in the late 5th century, along with the Saxons. The result – ‘Anglo-Saxons’.

United Kingdom

The Act of Union of 1801 joined Ireland to ‘Great Britain’ and the name “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” was first used. Since 1921 only Northern Ireland has been part of the United Kingdom and so the name changed.

So to answer you’re the question, ‘where am I?’.

If you are in London, then you are in all of these:




Great Britain

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (or the United Kingdom, or the UK)



If you’re not in London, England, Great Britain or the United Kingdom, and are considering an English course for adults, please check out our website for more details.