ENGLISCH/778: Questions to Mrs Gobbledygook (132) - GB, UK or England (SB)


132. What is the difference between Great Britain, England and the United Kingdom?

Dear Mrs Gobbledygook

When I get a letter from England or look up british places in some almanac, I either find the abbreviation UK or GB or England. Are they meant to be synonyms for England and just the same? And what do they originally mean?

Yours sincerely

Daniela Schmitt (from Gelsenkirchen, Germany)


Dear Mrs Schmitt

No, they are not the same, in fact, there is a great difference between GB or "Great Britain" and the UK or "United Kingdom". "Great Britain" means England, Wales and Scotland, which can be distinguished on any british map. The "United Kingdom" is England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. And England is just the biggest southern part of the British Island without Scotland, Wales and Ireland. If you write to a person in London, it does not matter which abbreviation you chose. You can write England or Great Britain or UK. But if you write to someone living in Edinburgh or Glasgow, it has to be GB or Great Britain on your envelope or it might not get there or, if it does, it may insult your penfriend.

Wales, in the west of the British Island, became part of Great Britain after many long wars at the end of the thirteenth century and Scotland, in the north, in 1706 by the "Act of Union". Scotland, which is four times as big as Wales, is part of Great Britain but it has its own laws, education system and church. The Scottish bank also has its own banknotes. Ireland, Wales and Scotland are different in many ways from England. They all have their own languages, dialects, cultures and traditions. So if you go there, please remember one thing: Don't call the people "English"! They are Irish, Welsh and Scottish and they are very proud of it.


Mrs Gobbledygook

21 April 2008