The Difference Between the UK, Great Britain and England

Updated February 11, 2017 | Infoplease Staff


The Difference Between the UK, Great Britain, England and the British Isles
Copyright: pavalena / 123RF Stock Photo
By Liz Olson

There are key differences between Great Britain, the United Kingdom, and England—names often used interchangeably.

Great Britain

Great Britain is an island that consists of three somewhat autonomous regions that include England, Scotland and Wales. It is located east of Ireland and northwest of France in the Atlantic Ocean. The term Great Britain is often used as a synonym of the United Kingdom, though the two are different.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (commonly abbreviated UK) is a country that includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its official name is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. While England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are called countries, there exist regulations and policies in those states that are determined by the UK. The capital city of the United Kingdom is London.


England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. England is the largest and most populous nation in the UK. It is bounded by Wales and the Irish Sea to the west and Scotland to the north. The English Channel, the Strait of Dover, and the North Sea separate it from Europe to the east. The Isle of Wight, off the southern mainland in the English Channel, and the Scilly Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean off the southwestern tip of the mainland, are considered part of England.

The Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 52 states or countries that were formerly British colonies or territories. Members of the Commonwealth of Nations recognize the United Kingdom's Monarch as their own king or queen, but remain politically independent. The Commonwealth has no constitution. The Singapore Declaration of Commonwealth Principles, however, states that the Commonwealth is "a voluntary association of independent sovereign states each responsible for its own policies, consulting and co-operating in the common interests of their peoples and in the promotion of international understanding and world peace."

Members of the Commonwealth of Nations

Antigua and BarbudaAustraliaBahamas
NigeriaPapua New GuineaSaint Kitts and Nevis
Saint LuciaSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoa
SeychellesSierra LeoneSingapore
Solomon IslandsSouth AfricaSri Lanka
Trinidad and TobagoTuvaluUganda
United KingdomNauruNew Zealand


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*This page was updated in September 2017. A previous version of this article referred to The British Isles. Direct all feedback to editors[at]