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Great Britain is an
island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atoll An atoll (), sometimes known as a coral atoll, i ...

island
in the North
Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
off the northwest coast of
continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical region ...

continental Europe
. With an area of , it is the largest of the
British Isles The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...

British Isles
, the largest European island, and the ninth-largest island in the world. The island is dominated by a
maritime climate Maritime may refer to: Geography * Maritime Alps it, Alpi Marittime , photo=Maritime Alps.jpg , photo_caption=Maritime Alps , country_type= Countries , country= , subdivision1_type= Regions, Régions , subdivision1= , parent= Alps , bor ...
with narrow temperature differences between seasons. The 60% smaller island of
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

Ireland
is to the west – and together these islands, along with over 1,000 smaller surrounding islands and named substantial rocks, form the British Isles
archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as ...

archipelago
. Connected to mainland Europe until 8,000 years ago, Great Britain has been inhabited by modern humans for around 30,000 years. In 2011, the island had a population of about people, making it the world's third-most-populous island after
Java Java ( id, Jawa, ; jv, ꦗꦮ; su, ) is one of the Greater Sunda Islands in Indonesia. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Java Sea to the north. With a population of 147.7 million people, Java is the world's List of ...

Java
in Indonesia and
Honshu , historically called , is the largest and most populous main island of Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an in . It is situated in the northwest , and is bordered on the west by the , while extending from the in the n ...
in
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...

Japan
. The term "Great Britain" is often used to refer to
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
,
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
and
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
, including their component adjoining islands. Great Britain and
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
now constitute the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
. The single
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain,"After the political union of England and Scotland in 1707, the nation's official name became 'Great Britain'", ''The American Pageant, Volume 1'', Cengage Learning (2012) was a s ...

Kingdom of Great Britain
resulted from the 1707
Acts of UnionAct of Union may refer to: In Great Britain and Ireland * Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, passed during the reign of King Henry VIII to make Wales a part of the Kingdom of England (These laws are often referred to in the plural as the "Acts of Un ...
between the kingdoms of
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
(which at the time incorporated Wales) and
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...
.


Terminology


Toponymy

The
archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as ...

archipelago
has been referred to by a single name for over 2000 years: the term '
British Isles The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic off the north-western coast of continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...

British Isles
' derives from terms used by classical geographers to describe this island group. By 50 BC Greek geographers were using equivalents of ''Prettanikē'' as a collective name for the British Isles. However, with the
Roman conquest of Britain The Roman conquest of Britain was a process that consisted of the conquest of territory located on the island of Great Britain, Britain by occupying Roman Empire, Roman forces. It began in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, and was largely com ...
the Latin term ''
Britannia Britannia () is the national personification upright=0.9, An early example of National personification in a gospel book dated 990: Germania.html"_;"title="Sclavinia,_Germania">Sclavinia,_Germania,_Sclavinia,_Germania,_Gallia">Germania.ht ...

Britannia
'' was used for the island of Great Britain, and later
Roman-occupied Britain
Roman-occupied Britain
south of
Caledonia Caledonia () was the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the ...

Caledonia
. The earliest known name for Great Britain is ''
Albion Albion is an alternative name for Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the List of European islands ...

Albion
'' ( el, Ἀλβιών) or ''insula Albionum'', from either the Latin ''albus'' meaning "white" (possibly referring to the
white cliffs of Dover The White Cliffs of Dover is the region of English coastline The coast, also known as the coastline or seashore, is defined as the area where land meets the sea or ocean, or as a line that forms the boundary between the land and the ocean ...
, the first view of Britain from the continent) or the "island of the ''Albiones''". The oldest mention of terms related to Great Britain was by
Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτέλης ''Aristotélēs'', ; 384–322 BC) was a Greek philosopher A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questio ...

Aristotle
(384–322 BC), or possibly by
Pseudo-AristotlePseudo-Aristotle is a general cognomen for authors of philosophical or medical treatises who attributed their work to the Greek philosophy, Greek philosopher Aristotle, or whose work was later attributed to him by others. Such falsely attributed wor ...
, in his text ''
On the Universe ''On the Universe'' ( el, Περὶ Κόσμου; la, De mundo) is a theological and scientific treatise included in the Corpus Aristotelicum The Corpus Aristotelicum is the collection of Aristotle Aristotle (; grc-gre, Ἀριστοτ ...
'', Vol. III. To quote his works, "There are two very large islands in it, called the British Isles, Albion and Ierne". The first known written use of the word Britain was an
ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
transliteration Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script Script may refer to: Writing systems * Script, a distinctive writing system, based on a repertoire of specific elements or symbols, or that repertoire * Script (styles of ha ...

transliteration
of the original P-Celtic term in a work on the travels and discoveries of Pytheas that has not survived. The earliest existing records of the word are quotations of the periplus by later authors, such as those within Strabo's ''
Geographica The ''Geographica'' (Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following per ...
'', Pliny's ''
Natural History Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history ...
'' and Diodorus of Sicily's ''
Bibliotheca historica ''Bibliotheca historica'' ( grc, Βιβλιοθήκη Ἱστορική, "Historical Library") is a work of universal history A universal history is a work aiming at the presentation of a history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meani ...
''.
Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder #REDIRECT Pliny the Elder#REDIRECT Pliny the Elder Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a Roman author, a naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, includi ...

Pliny the Elder
(AD 23–79) in his ''
Natural History Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history ...
'' records of Great Britain: "Its former name was Albion; but at a later period, all the islands, of which we shall just now briefly make mention, were included under the name of 'Britanniæ.'"Pliny the Elder's ''Naturalis Historia'' Book IV. Chapter XL
Latin text
an
English translation
numbered Book 4, Chapter 30, at the
Perseus Project The Perseus Project is a digital library A digital library, also called an online library, an internet library, a digital repository, or a digital collection is an online databaseAn online database is a database A database is an organized colle ...
.
The name ''Britain'' descends from the Latin name for Britain, ''Britannia'' or ''Brittānia'', the land of the Britons.
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular o ...
''Bretaigne'' (whence also
Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of info ...
''Bretagne'') and
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured sys ...
''Bretayne'', ''Breteyne''. The French form replaced the
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
''Breoton, Breoten, Bryten, Breten'' (also ''Breoton-lond, Breten-lond''). Britannia was used by the Romans from the 1st century BC for the British Isles taken together. It is derived from the travel writings of Pytheas around 320 BC, which described various islands in the North Atlantic as far north as
Thule Thule ( grc-gre, Θούλη, Thoúlē; la, Thūlē) is the farthest north location mentioned in ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into ...
(probably
Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") is an official written standard for the Norwegian language Norwegian (Norwegian: ''norsk'') is a Nort ...

Norway
). The peoples of these islands of ''Prettanike'' were called the Πρεττανοί, ''
Priteni The Cruthin (; mga, Cruithnig or ; ga, label=Irish language, Modern Irish, Cruithne ) were a people of early medieval Ireland. Their heartland was in Ulster and included parts of the present-day Counties of Ireland, counties of County Antrim, Ant ...
'' or ''Pretani''. ''Priteni'' is the source of the
Welsh language Welsh ( or ) is a Brittonic language of the Celtic language family The Celtic languages ( , ) are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic. They form a branch of the Indo-European language family. The term "Celtic" ...
term
Prydain Prydain ( Middle Welsh: ''Prydein'') is the modern Welsh name for Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isle ...
, ''Britain'', which has the same source as the
Goidelic The Goidelic or Gaelic languages ( ga, teangacha Gaelacha; gd, cànanan Goidhealach; gv, çhengaghyn Gaelgagh) form one of the two groups of Insular Celtic languages Insular Celtic languages are the group of Celtic languages The Celt ...
term Cruithne used to refer to the early Brythonic-speaking inhabitants of Ireland. The latter were later called
Picts The Picts were a group of peoples who lived in what is now northern and eastern Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply ...
or
Caledonians The Caledonians (; la, Caledones or '; grc-gre, Καληδῶνες, ''Kalēdōnes'') or the Caledonian Confederacy were a Brittonic-speaking ( Celtic) tribal confederacy in what is now Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba ) is ...
by the
Romans Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, ...
. Greek historians
Diodorus of Sicily Diodorus Siculus (; grc-koi, Διόδωρος Σικελιώτης ''Diodoros Sikeliotes'';  1st century BC) or Diodorus of Sicily was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece a ...
and
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object. The eye that is focused on an object can alternate. The condition may be pre ...

Strabo
preserved variants of ''Prettanike'' from the work of Greek explorer
Pytheas Pytheas of Massalia (; Ancient Greek: Πυθέας ὁ Μασσαλιώτης ''Pythéas ho Massaliōtēs''; Latin: ''Pytheas Massiliensis''; born 350 BC, 320–306 BC) was a Greeks, Greek List of Graeco-Roman geographers, geographer, explore ...
of
Massalia Massalia (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10 ...

Massalia
, who travelled from his home in
Hellenistic The Hellenistic period spans the period of History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31  ...

Hellenistic
southern
Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rat ...

Gaul
to Britain in the 4th century BC. The term used by Pytheas may derive from a Celtic word meaning "the painted ones" or "the tattooed folk" in reference to body decorations. According to Strabo, Pytheas referred to Britain as ''Bretannikē'', which is treated a feminine noun.Strabo's ''Geography'' Book I. Chapter IV. Section
Greek text
an
English translation
at the
Perseus Project The Perseus Project is a digital library A digital library, also called an online library, an internet library, a digital repository, or a digital collection is an online databaseAn online database is a database A database is an organized colle ...
.
Strabo's ''Geography'' Book IV. Chapter II. Section
Greek text
an
English translation
at the
Perseus Project The Perseus Project is a digital library A digital library, also called an online library, an internet library, a digital repository, or a digital collection is an online databaseAn online database is a database A database is an organized colle ...
.
Strabo's ''Geography'' Book IV. Chapter IV. Section
Greek text
an
English translation
at the
Perseus Project The Perseus Project is a digital library A digital library, also called an online library, an internet library, a digital repository, or a digital collection is an online databaseAn online database is a database A database is an organized colle ...
.
Marcian of HeracleaMarcian of Heraclea ( grc-gre, Μαρκιανὸς Ἡρακλεώτης, ''Markianòs Hērakleṓtēs''; la, Marcianus Heracleënsis; fl. century AD) was a minor Greek geographer from Heraclea Pontica__NOTOC__ Heraclea Pontica (; gr, Ἡρά ...
, in his ''Periplus maris exteri'', described the island group as (the Prettanic Isles). Greek text and Latin Translation thereof archived at the
Internet Archive The Internet Archive is an American digital library A digital library, also called an online library, an internet library, a digital repository, or a digital collection is an online databaseAn online database is a database In computing ...
.


Derivation of ''Great''

The
Greco-Egyptian featuring the Lighthouse of Alexandria The Lighthouse of Alexandria, sometimes called the Pharos of Alexandria (; Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ...
scientist
Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemy (; grc-koi, Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαῖος, , ; la, Claudius Ptolemaeus; AD) was a mathematician A mathematician is someone who uses an extensive knowledge of mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes ...
referred to the larger island as ''great Britain'' (μεγάλη Βρεττανία ''megale Brettania'') and to Ireland as ''little Britain'' (μικρὰ Βρεττανία ''mikra Brettania'') in his work ''
Almagest The ''Almagest'' is a 2nd-century Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appr ...
'' (147–148 AD). In his later work, ''
Geography Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and Solar System, planets. The first person t ...
'' (c. 150 AD), he gave the islands the names '''', '' Iwernia'', and ''Mona'' (the
Isle of Man ) , anthem = "O Land of Our Birth The "National Anthem of the Isle of Man" ( gv, Arrane Ashoonagh Vannin) was written and composed by William Henry Gill (1839–1923), with the Manx translation by John J. Kneen (1873–1939). It is often r ...

Isle of Man
), suggesting these may have been the names of the individual islands not known to him at the time of writing ''Almagest''. The name ''Albion'' appears to have fallen out of use sometime after the
Roman conquest of Britain The Roman conquest of Britain was a process that consisted of the conquest of territory located on the island of Great Britain, Britain by occupying Roman Empire, Roman forces. It began in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius, and was largely com ...
, after which ''Britain'' became the more commonplace name for the island. After the Anglo-Saxon period, ''Britain'' was used as a historical term only.
Geoffrey of Monmouth Geoffrey of Monmouth ( la, Galfridus Monemutensis, Galfridus Arturus, cy, Gruffudd ap Arthur, Sieffre o Fynwy; c. 1095 – c. 1155) was a British cleric and one of the major figures in the development of British historiography and the populari ...
in his
pseudohistorical Pseudohistory is a form of pseudoscholarship that attempts to distort or misrepresent the historical record, often using methods resembling those used in legitimate historical research. The related term cryptohistory is applied to a pseudohistory ...
''
Historia Regum Britanniae ''Historia regum Britanniae'' (''The History of the Kings of Britain''), originally called ''De gestis Britonum'' (''On the Deeds of the Britons''), is a pseudohistorical Pseudohistory is a form of pseudoscholarship that attempts to distort or ...
'' (''c.'' 1136) refers to the island of Great Britain as ''Britannia major'' ("Greater Britain"), to distinguish it from ''Britannia minor'' ("Lesser Britain"), the continental region which approximates to modern Brittany, which had been settled in the fifth and sixth centuries by
Celtic Briton File:Ancient Britons - Description of Great Britain and Ireland (c.1574), f.8v - BL Add MS 28330.jpg, Drawing of two Celtic Britons (c. 1574); one with tattoos, and carrying a spear and shield; the other painted with woad, and carrying a sword and ...
migrants from Great Britain. The term ''Great Britain'' was first used officially in 1474, in the instrument drawing up the proposal for a marriage between Cecily, daughter of
Edward IV of England Edward IV (28 April 1442 – 9 April 1483) was King of England This list of kings and queens of the begins with , who initially ruled , one of the which later made up modern England. Alfred styled himself King of the from about 8 ...
, and
James James is a common English language surname and given name: * James (name), the typically masculine first name James * James (surname), various people with the last name James James or James City may also refer to: People * King James (disambiguati ...

James
, son of
James III of Scotland James III (10 July 1451/May 1452 – 11 June 1488) was King of Scots from 1460 until his Battle of Sauchieburn, death in battle in 1488. James was an unpopular and ineffective monarch owing to an unwillingness to administer justice fairly, a po ...

James III of Scotland
, which described it as "this Nobill Isle, callit Gret Britanee". While promoting a possible royal match in 1548, Lord Protector Somerset said that the English and Scots were, "like as twoo brethren of one Islande of great Britaynes again." In 1604,
James VI and I James VI and I (James Charles Stuart; 19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy, constitutional form of gover ...

James VI and I
styled himself "King of Great Brittaine, France and Ireland".


Modern use of the term ''Great Britain''

''Great Britain'' refers geographically to the island of Great Britain. Politically, it may refer to the whole of
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
,
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
and
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
, including their smaller offshore islands. It is not technically correct to use the term to refer to the whole of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
which includes
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
, though the Oxford English Dictionary states "...the term is also used loosely to refer to the United Kingdom." Similarly, ''
Britain Britain usually refers to: * United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United ...
'' can refer to either all islands in Great Britain, the largest island, or the political grouping of countries. There is no clear distinction, even in government documents: the UK government yearbooks have used both ''Britain'' and ''United Kingdom''. ''GB'' and ''GBR'' are used instead of ''UK'' in some international codes to refer to the United Kingdom, including the
Universal Postal Union The Universal Postal Union (UPU, french: Union postale universelle), established by the Treaty of Bern of 1874, is a specialized agency United Nations Specialized Agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United Nations ...
, international sports teams,
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance A military alliance is a formal agreement betwe ...
, and the
International Organization for Standardization The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm Norm, the Norm or NORM may refer to: In academic discipline ...
country codes
ISO 3166-2 ISO 3166-2 is part of the ISO 3166 ISO 3166 is a standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requirement * Standard (metrolog ...
and
ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 codes are three-letter country codes defined in ISO 3166-1, part of the ISO 3166 standard published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), to represent countries, dependent territories, and special area ...
, whilst the aircraft registration prefix is G. On the Internet,
.uk .uk is the Internet The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a ''internetworking, network of ne ...
is the
country code top-level domain A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is an Internet top-level domain generally used or reserved for a country, sovereign state, or dependent territory identified with a country code. All ASCII ccTLD identifiers are two letters long, and all tw ...
for the United Kingdom. A .gb top-level domain was used to a limited extent, but is now deprecated; although existing registrations still exist (mainly by government organizations and email providers), the domain name registrar will not take new registrations. In the Olympics, ''
Team GB Team GB is the brand name A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in business Business is the activity of m ...

Team GB
'' is used by the
British Olympic Association The British Olympic Association (BOA) is the National Olympic Committee A National Olympic Committee (NOC) is a national constituent of the worldwide Olympic movement. Subject to the controls of the International Olympic Committee, NOCs are ...
to represent the British Olympic team. The
Olympic Council of Ireland Team Ireland logo The Olympic Federation of Ireland or OFI ( ga, Cónaidhm Oilimpeach na hÉireann) (called the Irish Olympic Council until 1952 and the Olympic Council of Ireland until 2018) is the National Olympic Committee A National Olym ...
claims to represent the whole
island of Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish ...

island of Ireland
, and Northern Irish sportspeople may choose to compete for either team, most choosing to represent Ireland.


Political definition

Politically, ''Great Britain'' refers to the whole of
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
,
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
and
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
in combination, but not
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
; it includes islands, such as the
Isle of Wight The Isle of Wight () is a Counties of England, county and the List of islands of England, largest and second-most populous island of England. It is in the English Channel, between two and five miles off the coast of Hampshire, from which it is ...

Isle of Wight
,
Anglesey Anglesey (; cy, Ynys Môn ), an island off the north-west coast of Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individua ...
, the
Isles of Scilly The Isles of Scilly (; kw, Syllan or ') is an archipelago off the southwestern tip of Cornwall, England. One of the islands, St Agnes, Isles of Scilly, St Agnes, is the most southerly point in Great Britain, Britain, being over further south ...
, the
Hebrides The Hebrides (; gd, Innse Gall, ; non, Suðreyjar, "southern isles") are a Scottish Scottish usually refers to something of, from, or related to Scotland, including: *Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic Goidelic language of the Indo-European language ...
and the island groups of
Orkney Orkney (; sco, Orkney; on, Orkneyjar; nrn, Orknøjar), also known as the Orkney Islands, is an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island A ...

Orkney
and
Shetland Shetland ( on, Hjaltland; sco, Shetland; nrn, Hjetland), also called the Shetland Islands and formerly Zetland, is a subarctic archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or co ...

Shetland
, that are part of England, Wales, or Scotland. It does not include the
Isle of Man ) , anthem = "O Land of Our Birth The "National Anthem of the Isle of Man" ( gv, Arrane Ashoonagh Vannin) was written and composed by William Henry Gill (1839–1923), with the Manx translation by John J. Kneen (1873–1939). It is often r ...

Isle of Man
and the
Channel Islands The Channel Islands ( nrf, Îles d'la Manche; french: îles Anglo-Normandes or ''îles de la Manche'') are an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island ...

Channel Islands
. The political union that joined the kingdoms of
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
and
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...
happened in 1707 when the
Acts of UnionAct of Union may refer to: In Great Britain and Ireland * Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, passed during the reign of King Henry VIII to make Wales a part of the Kingdom of England (These laws are often referred to in the plural as the "Acts of Un ...
ratified the 1706
Treaty of Union A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered into by sovereign states and international organizations, but can sometimes include individuals, business entities, and other L ...

Treaty of Union
and merged the parliaments of the two nations, forming the
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called Great Britain,"After the political union of England and Scotland in 1707, the nation's official name became 'Great Britain'", ''The American Pageant, Volume 1'', Cengage Learning (2012) was a s ...

Kingdom of Great Britain
, which covered the entire island. Before this, a personal union had existed between these two countries since the 1603
Union of the Crowns The Union of the Crowns ( gd, Aonadh nan Crùintean; sco, Union o the Crouns) was the accession Accession refers to the general idea of joining or adding to. It may also refer to: *Accession (property law) * Accession, the act of joining a t ...
under
James VI of Scotland and I of England James is a common English language surname and given name: *James (name) James is an of Hebrew origin, most commonly used for males. Etymol ...
.


History


Prehistoric period

Great Britain was probably first inhabited by those who crossed on the land bridge from the European mainland. Human footprints have been found from over 800,000 years ago in
Norfolk Norfolk () is a rural and non-metropolitan county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary The ''Chambers Dictionary'' (''TCD'') was first published by William Chambe ...

Norfolk
and traces of
early humans ''Homo'' () is the genus that emerged in the (otherwise extinct) genus '' Australopithecus'' that encompasses the extant species ''Homo sapiens Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characte ...
have been found (at
Boxgrove Quarry Eartham Pit is an internationally important archaeological Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural anthropology ...
, Sussex) from some 500,000 years ago and
modern humans Early modern human (EMH) or anatomically modern human (AMH) are terms used to distinguish ''Homo sapiens Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread of , characterized by and large, complex brains. This has enabled ...
from about 30,000 years ago. Until about 14,000 years ago, it was connected to
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

Ireland
, and as recently as 8,000 years ago it retained a land connection to the continent, with joining it to what are now
Denmark Denmark ( da, Danmark, ) is a Nordic country The Nordic countries, or the Nordics, are a geographical and cultural region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), hu ...

Denmark
and the
Netherlands ) , national_anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = EU-Netherlands.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = BES islands location map.svg , map_caption2 = , image_map3 ...

Netherlands
.Edwards, Robin & al.
The Island of Ireland: Drowning the Myth of an Irish Land-bridge?
Accessed 15 February 2013.
In
Cheddar Gorge Cheddar Gorge is a limestone gorge A canyon (; archaic British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of ...

Cheddar Gorge
, near
Bristol Bristol () is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routle ...

Bristol
, the remains of animal species native to mainland Europe such as
antelope The term antelope is used to refer to many species of even-toed ruminant Ruminants (suborder In biological classification, the order ( la, wikt:ordo#Latin, ordo) is # a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms and recognized by ...

antelope
s,
brown bear The brown bear (''Ursus arctos'') is a large species found across and . In North America, the populations of brown bears are called s, while the subspecies that inhabits the of Alaska is known as the . It is one of the largest living terrest ...

brown bear
s, and
wild horse The wild horse (''Equus ferus'') is a species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular ...

wild horse
s have been found alongside a human skeleton, '
Cheddar Man Cheddar Man is a human male fossil found in Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset Somerset (; Archaism, archaically Somersetshire) is a Ceremonial counties of England, county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Brist ...
', dated to about 7150 BC. Great Britain became an island at the end of the last glacial period when sea levels rose due to the combination of melting
glacier A glacier (; ) is a persistent body of dense ice Ice is into a state. Depending on the presence of such as particles of soil or bubbles of air, it can appear transparent or a more or less bluish-white color. In the , ice is abunda ...

glacier
s and the subsequent
isostatic reboundThe term isostatic may refer to: * Isostatic depression in geodynamics * Isostatic powder compaction in metallurgy and ceramic engineering * Isostatic press in manufacturing See also

*Isostasy in geology: gravitational equilibrium between th ...

isostatic rebound
of the crust. Great Britain's
Iron Age The Iron Age is the final epoch of the three-age division of the prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, or world history, is the narrative of Human, humanity's pa ...
inhabitants are known as
Britons The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed ...
; they spoke
Celtic languages The Celtic languages ( , ) are a group of related languages descended from Proto-Celtic The Proto-Celtic language, also called Common Celtic, is the ancestral proto-language In the tree model In historical linguistics Historica ...
.


Roman and medieval period

The Romans conquered most of the island (up to
Hadrian's Wall Hadrian's Wall ( la, Vallum Aelium), also known as the Roman Wall, Picts' Wall, or ''Vallum Hadriani'' in Latin, is a former defensive fortification of the Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provincia ...

Hadrian's Wall
in northern England) and this became the
Ancient Roman In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom (753 BC ...
province of ''
Britannia Britannia () is the national personification upright=0.9, An early example of National personification in a gospel book dated 990: Germania.html"_;"title="Sclavinia,_Germania">Sclavinia,_Germania,_Sclavinia,_Germania,_Gallia">Germania.ht ...

Britannia
''. In the course of the 500 years after the Roman Empire fell, the Britons of the south and east of the island were assimilated or displaced by invading
Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples and tribes * Germanic languages :* Proto-Germanic language, a reconstructed proto-language of ...

Germanic
tribes (
Angles The Angles ( ang, Ængle, ; la, Angli; german: Angeln) were one of the main Germanic peoples The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe and Scandinavia. Since the 19th century, they have traditional ...

Angles
,
Saxons The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic langua ...

Saxons
, and
Jutes The Jutes (), Iuti, or Iutæ ( da, Jyde, non, Jótar, ang, Ēotas) were one of the Nordic Nordic most commonly refers to: * Nordic countries, written in plural as Nordics, the northwestern European countries, including Scandinavia, Fennoscan ...
, often referred to collectively as
Anglo-Saxons The Anglo-Saxons were a cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression ...
). At about the same time,
Gaelic Gaelic is an adjective that means "pertaining to the Gaels". As a noun it refers to the group of languages spoken by the Gaels, or to any one of the languages individually. Gaelic languages are spoken in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. Whe ...
tribes from Ireland invaded the north-west, absorbing both the
Picts The Picts were a group of peoples who lived in what is now northern and eastern Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply ...
and
Britons The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed ...
of northern Britain, eventually forming the Kingdom of Scotland in the 9th century. The south-east of Scotland was colonised by the Angles and formed, until 1018, a part of the
Kingdom of Northumbria Northumbria (; ang, Norþanhymbra Rīċe; la, Regnum Northanhymbrorum) was an early medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom in what is now Northern England and Lothian, south-east Scotland. The name derives from the Old English meaning "the people o ...

Kingdom of Northumbria
. Ultimately, the population of south-east Britain came to be referred to as the
English people The English people are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as rea ...
, so-named after the Angles. Germanic speakers referred to Britons as ''Welsh''. This term came to be applied exclusively to the inhabitants of what is now Wales, but it also survives in names such as Wallace and in the second syllable of
Cornwall Cornwall (; kw, Kernow ) is a historic county and ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial counties, are ar ...

Cornwall
. ''
Cymry The Welsh ( cy, Cymry) are a Celtic The words Celt and Celtic (also Keltic) may refer to: Ethno-linguistics *Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second ...
'', a name the Britons used to describe themselves, is similarly restricted in modern Welsh to people from Wales, but also survives in English in the place name of
Cumbria Cumbria ( ) is a ceremonial A ceremony (, ) is a unified ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a ...

Cumbria
. The Britons living in the areas now known as Wales, Cumbria and Cornwall were not assimilated by the Germanic tribes, a fact reflected in the survival of Celtic languages in these areas into more recent times. At the time of the Germanic invasion of Southern Britain, many Britons emigrated to the area now known as
Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while being connected to ...
, where
Breton Breton most often refers to: *anything associated with Brittany Brittany (; french: link=no, Bretagne ; br, Breizh, or ; Gallo language, Gallo: ''Bertaèyn'' ) is a peninsula and cultural region in the west of France, covering the western part ...
, a Celtic language closely related to Welsh and
Cornish Cornish is the adjective and demonym associated with Cornwall, the most southwesterly part of the United Kingdom. It may refer to: * Cornish language, a Brittonic Southwestern Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, spoken in Cornwall ...
and descended from the language of the emigrants, is still spoken. In the 9th century, a series of Danish assaults on northern English kingdoms led to them coming under Danish control (an area known as the
Danelaw The Danelaw (, also known as the Danelagh; ang, Dena lagu; da, Danelagen) was the part of England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west a ...
). In the 10th century, however, all the English kingdoms were unified under one ruler as the kingdom of England when the last constituent kingdom, Northumbria, submitted to
Edgar Edgar is a commonly used English given name English names are names used in, or originating in, England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England an ...
in 959. In 1066, England was Norman Conquest, conquered by the Normans, who introduced a Norman language, Norman-speaking administration that was eventually assimilated. Wales came under Anglo-Norman control in 1282, and was officially annexed to England in the 16th century.


Early modern period

On 20 October 1604 James VI and I, King James, who had succeeded separately to the two thrones of England and Scotland, proclaimed himself "King of Great Brittaine, France, and Ireland". When James died in 1625 and the Privy Council of England was drafting the proclamation of the new king, Charles I, a Scottish peer, Thomas Erskine, 1st Earl of Kellie, succeeded in insisting that it use the phrase "King of Great Britain", which James had preferred, rather than King of Scotland and England (or vice versa). While that title was also used by some of James's successors, England and Scotland each remained legally separate countries, each with its own parliament, until 1707, when each parliament passed an Act of Union 1707, Act of Union to ratify the
Treaty of Union A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered into by sovereign states and international organizations, but can sometimes include individuals, business entities, and other L ...

Treaty of Union
that had been agreed the previous year. This created a single kingdom with one parliament with effect from 1 May 1707. The Treaty of Union specified the name of the new all-island state as "Great Britain", while describing it as "One Kingdom" and "the United Kingdom". To most historians, therefore, the all-island state that existed between 1707 and 1800 is either "Great Britain" or the "Kingdom of Great Britain".


Geography

Great Britain lies on the European continental shelf, part of the Eurasian Plate and off the north-west coast of
continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical region ...

continental Europe
, separated from this European mainland by the North Sea and by the English Channel, which narrows to at the Straits of Dover. It stretches over about ten degrees of latitude on its longer, north–south axis and covers , excluding the much smaller surrounding islands.United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Island Directory Tables "Islands By Land Area". Retrieved from http://islands.unep.ch/Tiarea.htm on 13 August 2009 The North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, Irish Sea, St George's Channel and Celtic Sea separate the island from the island of
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

Ireland
to its west. The island is since 1993 joined, via one structure, with continental Europe: the Channel Tunnel, the longest undersea rail tunnel in the world. The island is marked by low, rolling countryside in the east and south, while hills and mountains predominate in the western and northern regions. It is surrounded by over 1,000 smaller islands and islets. The greatest distance between two points is (between Land's End,
Cornwall Cornwall (; kw, Kernow ) is a historic county and ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial counties, are ar ...

Cornwall
and John o' Groats, Caithness), by road. The English Channel is thought to have been created between 450,000 and 180,000 years ago by two catastrophic glacial lake outburst floods caused by the breaching of the Weald-Artois Anticline, a ridge that held back a large proglacial lake, now submerged under the North Sea. Around 10,000 years ago, during the Last glacial period#Named local glaciations, Devensian glaciation with its lower sea level, Great Britain was not an island, but an upland region of continental northwestern Europe, lying partially underneath the Eurasian ice sheet. The sea level was about lower than today, and the bed of the North Sea was dry and acted as a land bridge, now known as Doggerland, to the Continent. It is generally thought that as sea levels gradually rose after the end of the last glacial period of the current ice age, Doggerland reflooded cutting off what was the British peninsula from the European mainland by around 6500 BC.


Geology

Great Britain has been subject to a variety of plate tectonic processes over a very extended period of time. Changing latitude and sea levels have been important factors in the nature of sedimentary sequences, whilst successive continental collisions have affected Geological structure of Great Britain, its geological structure with major faulting and folding being a legacy of each orogeny (mountain-building period), often associated with volcanism, volcanic activity and the metamorphism of existing rock sequences. As a result of this eventful geological history, the island shows a rich variety of landscapes. The oldest rocks in Great Britain are the Lewisian gneisses, metamorphic rocks found in the far north west of the island and in the
Hebrides The Hebrides (; gd, Innse Gall, ; non, Suðreyjar, "southern isles") are a Scottish Scottish usually refers to something of, from, or related to Scotland, including: *Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic Goidelic language of the Indo-European language ...
(with a few small outcrops elsewhere), which date from at least 2,700  ago. South of the gneisses are a complex mixture of rocks forming the North West Scottish Highlands, Highlands and Grampian Highlands in Scotland. These are essentially the remains of folded sedimentary rocks that were deposited between 1,000 My and 670 My ago over the gneiss on what was then the floor of the Iapetus Ocean. In the current era the north of the island is rising glacial rebound, as a result of the weight of Devensian ice being lifted. Counterbalanced, the south and east is sinking, generally estimated at 1 mm ( inch) per year, with the London area sinking at double this partly due to the continuing Compaction (geology), compaction of the recent clay deposits.


Fauna

Animal Biodiversity, diversity is modest, as a result of factors including the island's small land area, the relatively recent age of the habitats developed since the last glacial period and the island's physical separation from
continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical region ...

continental Europe
, and the effects of seasonal variability. Great Britain also experienced early industrialisation and is subject to continuing urbanisation, which have contributed towards the overall loss of species. Retrieved on 1 February 2009. A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) study from 2006 suggested that 100 species have become extinct in the UK during the 20th century, about 100 times the background extinction rate. However, some species, such as the brown rat, red fox, and introduced eastern gray squirrel, grey squirrel, are well adapted to urban areas. Rodents make up 40% of the List of mammals of Great Britain, mammal species. These include squirrels, mice, voles, rats and the recently reintroduced European beaver. There is also an abundance of European rabbit, European hare, shrews, European mole and several species of bat. Carnivorous mammals include the red fox, Eurasian badger, Eurasian otter, weasel, stoat and elusive Scottish wildcat.Else, ''Great Britain'', 85. Various species of pinniped, seal, whale and dolphin are found on or around British shores and coastlines. The largest land-based wild animals today are deer. The red deer is the largest species, with roe deer and fallow deer also prominent; the latter was introduced by the Normans. Sika deer and two more species of smaller deer, muntjac and Chinese water deer, have been introduced, muntjac becoming widespread in England and parts of Wales while Chinese water deer are restricted mainly to East Anglia. Habitat loss has affected many species. List of extinct animals of Britain, Extinct large mammals include the
brown bear The brown bear (''Ursus arctos'') is a large species found across and . In North America, the populations of brown bears are called s, while the subspecies that inhabits the of Alaska is known as the . It is one of the largest living terrest ...

brown bear
, grey wolf and wild boar; the latter has had a limited reintroduction in recent times. There is a wealth of List of birds of Great Britain, birdlife, with 619 species recorded, of which 258 breed on the island or remain during winter. Because of its mild winters for its latitude, Great Britain hosts important numbers of many wintering species, particularly waders, ducks, goose, geese and swans. Other well known bird species include the golden eagle, grey heron, common kingfisher, common wood pigeon, house sparrow, European robin, grey partridge, and various species of crow, finch, gull, auk, grouse, owl and falcon. Retrieved on 16 February 2009. There are six species of List of reptiles of Great Britain, reptile on the island; three snakes and three lizards including the legless slowworm. One snake, the Vipera berus, adder, is venomous but rarely deadly. List of amphibians of Great Britain, Amphibians present are common frog, frogs, common toad, toads and Smooth newt, newts. There are also several introduced species of reptile and amphibian.


Flora

In a similar sense to fauna, and for similar reasons, the flora consists of fewer species compared to much larger continental Europe. Retrieved on 23 February 2009. The flora comprises 3,354 vascular plant species, of which 2,297 are native and 1,057 have been introduced.Frodin, ''Guide to Standard Floras of the World'', 599. The island has a wide variety of trees of Britain and Ireland, trees, including native species of birch, beech, fraxinus, ash, Crataegus, hawthorn, elm, oak, Common yew, yew, pine, cherry tree, cherry and apple tree, apple. Retrieved on 2 March 2009. Other trees have been naturalised, introduced especially from other parts of Europe (particularly Norway) and North America. Introduced trees include several varieties of pine, Sweet chestnut, chestnut, Acer platanoides, maple, Norway spruce, spruce, Acer pseudoplatanus, sycamore and fir, as well as Prunus cerasifera, cherry plum and European Pear, pear trees. The tallest species are the Douglas firs; two specimens have been recorded measuring 65 metres or 212 feet. The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire is the oldest tree in Europe. There are at least 1,500 different species of wildflower. Retrieved on 23 February 2009. Some 107 species are particularly rare or vulnerable and are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is illegal to uproot any wildflowers without the landowner's permission. A vote in 2002 nominated various wildflowers to represent specific counties. These include Common poppy, red poppies, Common bluebell, bluebells, Bellis perennis, daisies, Narcissus (genus), daffodils, Bog rosemary, rosemary, gorse, iris (plant), iris, ivy, Mentha, mint, orchids, brambles, thistles, buttercups, primula vulgaris, primrose, thyme, tulips, viola (plant), violets, Primula veris, cowslip, Calluna vulgaris, heather and many more. Retrieved on 23 February 2009.
There are also many species of algae and mosses across the island.


Fungi

There are many species of fungi including lichen-forming species, and the mycobiota is less poorly known than in many other parts of the world. The most recent checklist of Basidiomycota (bracket fungi, jelly fungi, mushrooms and toadstools, puffballs, rusts and smuts), published in 2005, accepts over 3600 species.Legon & Henrici, ''Checklist of the British & Irish Basidiomycota'' The most recent checklist of Ascomycota (cup fungi and their allies, including most lichen-forming fungi), published in 1985, accepts another 5100 species.Cannon, Hawksworth & Sherwood-Pike, ''The British Ascomycotina. An Annotated Checklist'' These two lists did not include conidium, conidial fungi (fungi mostly with affinities in the Ascomycota but known only in their asexual state) or any of the other main fungal groups (Chytridiomycota, Glomeromycota and Zygomycota). The number of fungal species known very probably exceeds 10,000. There is widespread agreement among mycologists that many others are yet to be discovered.


Demographics


Settlements

London is the capital of
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
and the whole of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
, and is the seat of the Government of the United Kingdom, United Kingdom's government. Edinburgh and Cardiff are the capitals of
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
and
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
, respectively, and house their devolved governments. ;Largest urban areas


Language

In the Late Bronze Age, Britain was part of a culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age, held together by maritime trading, which also included Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. In contrast to the generally accepted view that Celtic languages, Celtic originated in the context of the Hallstatt culture, since 2009, John T. Koch and others have proposed that the origins of the Celtic languages are to be sought in Bronze Age Western Europe, especially the Iberian Peninsula. Koch et al.'s proposal has failed to find wide acceptance among experts on the Celtic languages. All the modern Brythonic languages (Breton, Cornish, Welsh) are generally considered to derive from a common ancestral language termed ''Brittonic'', ''British'', ''Common Brythonic'', ''Old Brythonic'' or ''Proto-Brythonic'', which is thought to have developed from Proto-Celtic or early Insular Celtic by the 6th century AD. Brythonic languages were probably spoken before the Roman invasion at least in the majority of Great Britain south of the rivers River Forth, Forth and River Clyde, Clyde, though the
Isle of Man ) , anthem = "O Land of Our Birth The "National Anthem of the Isle of Man" ( gv, Arrane Ashoonagh Vannin) was written and composed by William Henry Gill (1839–1923), with the Manx translation by John J. Kneen (1873–1939). It is often r ...

Isle of Man
later had a Goidelic language, Manx language, Manx. Northern Scotland mainly spoke Pritennic, which became Pictish, which may have been a Brythonic language. During the period of the Roman occupation of Southern Britain (AD 43 to c. 410), Common Brythonic borrowed a large stock of Latin words. Approximately 800 of these Latin loan-words have survived in the three modern Brythonic languages. ''Romano-British'' is the name for the Latinised form of the language used by Roman authors. British English is spoken in the present day across the island, and developed from the
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language ...
brought to the island by Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, Anglo-Saxon settlers from the mid 5th century. Some 1.5 million people speak Scots language, Scots—which was indigenous language of Scotland and has become closer to English over centuries.Scotland's Census 2011 – Language, All people aged 3 and over. Out of the 60,815,385 residents of the UK over the age of three, 1,541,693 (2.5%) can speak Scots.A.J. Aitken in ''The Oxford Companion to the English Language'', Oxford University Press 1992. p.894 An estimated 700,000 people speak Welsh language, Welsh,Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg, A statistical overview of the Welsh language
by Hywel M Jones, page 115, 13.5.1.6, England. Published February 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
an official language in
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
. In parts of north west Scotland, Scottish Gaelic remains widely spoken. There are various regional dialects of English, and numerous languages spoken by some immigrant populations.


Religion

Christianity has been the largest religion by number of adherents since the Early Middle Ages: it was introduced under the ancient Romans, developing as Celtic Christianity. According to tradition, Christianity arrived in the Christianity in the 1st century, 1st or Christianity in the 2nd century, 2nd century. The most popular form is Anglicanism (known as Scottish Episcopal Church, Episcopalism in Scotland). Dating from the 16th-century English Reformation, Reformation, it regards itself as both Catholic and Reformed church, Reformed. The Head of the Church is the monarch of the United Kingdom, as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Supreme Governor. It has the status of established church in England. There are just over 26 million adherents to Anglicanism in Britain today, although only around one million regularly attend services. The second largest Christian practice is the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, which traces its history to the 6th century with Augustine of Canterbury, Augustine's mission and was the main religion for around a thousand years. There are over 5 million adherents today, 4.5 million in Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, England and Wales and 750,000 in Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Scotland, although fewer than a million Catholics regularly attend Mass (liturgy), mass. The Church of Scotland, a form of Protestantism with a Presbyterian system of ecclesiastical polity, is the third most numerous on the island with around 2.1 million members. Introduced in Scotland by clergyman John Knox, it has the status of national church in Scotland. The monarch of the United Kingdom is represented by a Lord High Commissioner. Methodist Church of Great Britain, Methodism is the fourth largest and grew out of Anglicanism through John Wesley. It gained popularity in the old mill towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire, also amongst tin miners in
Cornwall Cornwall (; kw, Kernow ) is a historic county and ceremonial county The counties and areas for the purposes of the lieutenancies, also referred to as the lieutenancy areas of England and informally known as ceremonial counties, are ar ...

Cornwall
. The Presbyterian Church of Wales, which follows Calvinistic Methodism, is the largest denomination in
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
. There are other Nonconformist (Protestantism), non-conformist minorities, such as Baptists, Quakers, the United Reformed Church (a union of Congregational church, Congregationalists and English Presbyterianism, English Presbyterians), Unitarianism, Unitarians. The first patron saint of Great Britain was Saint Alban. He was the first Christian martyr dating from the Romano-British period, condemned to death for his faith and sacrificed to the Roman mythology, pagan gods. In more recent times, some have suggested the adoption of Aidan of Lindisfarne, St Aidan as another patron saint of Britain. Retrieved on 1 February 2009. From Ireland, he worked at Iona amongst the Dál Riata and then Lindisfarne where he restored Christianity to Northumbria. The three constituent countries of the United Kingdom have patron saints: Saint George and Saint Andrew are represented in the flags of Flag of England, England and Flag of Scotland, Scotland respectively. Retrieved on 1 February 2009. These two flags combined to form the basis of the Great Britain royal flag of 1604. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales. There are many other British saints. Some of the best known are Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Cuthbert, Saint Columba, Columba, Saint Patrick, Patrick, Saint Margaret of Scotland, Margaret, Edward the Confessor, Saint Mungo, Mungo, Thomas More, Saint Petroc, Petroc, Bede, and Thomas Becket. Retrieved on 1 February 2009. Numerous other religions are practised. The 2011 census recorded that Islam had around 2.7 million adherents (excluding Scotland with about 76,000). More than 1.4 million people (excluding Scotland's about 38,000) believe in Hinduism, Sikhism, or Buddhism—religions that developed in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Judaism figured slightly more than Buddhism at the 2011 census, having 263,000 adherents (excluding Scotland's about 6000). Jews have inhabited Britain since 1070. However those resident and open about their religion were Edict of Expulsion, expelled from England in 1290, replicated in some other Catholic countries of the era. Jews were permitted to re-establish settlement as of 1656, in the interregnum which was a peak of anti-Catholicism. Retrieved on 1 February 2009. History of the Jews in Scotland, Most Jews in Great Britain have ancestors who refugee, fled for their lives, particularly from 19th century Lithuania and the territories occupied by Nazi Germany. Retrieved on 1 February 2009.


See also

* List of islands of England * List of islands of Scotland * List of islands of Wales


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


External links


Coast
– the BBC explores the coast of Great Britain
The British Isles

200 Major Towns and Cities in the British Isles

CIA Factbook United Kingdom


Video links


Pathe travelogue, 1960, ''Journey through Britain''

Pathe newsreel, 1960, ''Know the British''

Pathe newsreel, 1950, Festival of Britain
{{Authority control Great Britain, British Isles Metropolitan or continental parts of states