Why does the United Kingdom have so many names?
The quick answer is, it doesn't. But, I can see why people would think it does.
This non-horse related blog is brought about by questions and comments from people over the years who have asked me what the difference is between England, Britain, UK, and so on. I will attempt to answer them here.
I will start by saying that I am from England. I am also from Britain, and the United Kingdom, and the British Isles. I could go on and add Europe into that mix. It's very easy to see why people are confused.
I will start with the large picture and work backward.
Europe is a continent, not to be confused with the European Union, a political and economic union of 27 members located primarily in Europe. Europe, the continent, covers 3.9 million square miles and is made up of forty-four countries. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and Asia to the east.
The British Isles
The British Isles is the name of a group of islands situated off the northwestern corner of mainland Europe. It is made up of Great Britain (more about that later), Ireland, The Isle of Man, The Isles of Scilly, The Channel Islands (including Guernsey, Jersey, Sark, and Alderney), and over 6,000 other smaller islands.
The United Kingdon, known as the UK for short
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a sovereign state made up of four countries; England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In international law, a sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area.
Great Britain, aka Britain
Great Britain is not a country; it is a landmass. It is known as 'Great' because it is the largest island in the British Isles and houses the countries of England, Scotland, and Wales within its shores.
England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland
England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are countries. Scotland and Wales have their own governments led by their First Ministers'. They also have representation in the English government in Westminster, London, by elected members of Parliament in the House of Commons. Northern Island is also a country, it has its own government called the Norther Island Assembly. It also has representation in the English government.
Ireland is an independent country. It is part of the British Isles but not part of Britain or the United Kingdom.
So there you have it, as clear as mud!