Definition of Britain noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



BrE BrE//ˈbrɪtn//
; NAmE NAmE//ˈbrɪtn//
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the island containing England, Scotland and Wales see also Great Britain, United Kingdom Word OriginOld English Breoton, from Latin Brittones ‘Britons’, superseded in Middle English by forms from Old French Bretaigne (from Latin Brit(t)annia). It became a largely historical term until revived in the mid 16th cent., as the possible union of England and Scotland became a subject of political concern. CultureGreat BritainGreat Britain is, strictly, a geographical area consisting of the large island which is divided into England, Wales and Scotland. It is often called Britain. The name Great Britain was first used in a political sense after the Act of Union of Scotland with England and Wales in 1707.The British Isles describes the geographical area of Great Britain, all of Ireland (including the independent Republic of Ireland), and all the many smaller offshore islands, including the Orkney Islands and the Scilly Isles. It has a total area of 121 544 square miles/314 798 square kilometres.The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, called for short the United Kingdom or the UK, refers to the political state that includes the countries of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It does not include the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, which are Crown dependencies. The United Kingdom was formed in 1801 when the Irish parliament was joined with the parliament for England, Wales and Scotland in London, and the whole of the British Isles became a single state. However, in 1922 the south of Ireland became the Irish Free State and, in 1949, a completely independent republic.The names Great Britain and United Kingdom are now often used informally to mean the same thing. There are older names for parts of the United Kingdom, but these are found mostly in literature. Britannia is the name the Romans gave to their province which covered most of England, Caledonia was their name for Scotland, Cambria for Wales and Hibernia for Ireland.The people of the United Kingdom are British and have British nationality. As a group they are usually referred to as the British, rather than as Britons, though this name is used in the media. Ancient Britons were the people who lived in Britain before the Romans came. Only people who come from England can be called English. People from Ireland are Irish, people from Wales Welsh, and people from Scotland Scots or Scottish, and they do not like being called English. The term the Brits is only used informally, often humorously. Many people from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have stronger feelings of loyalty towards their own country than they do to the United Kingdom. British people who have come originally from Asia, Africa or the West Indies may also feel two sets of loyalties.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: Britain