Northern Ireland = British?

Pedro y La Torre

Senior Member
English (Ireland)
The term 'British Isles' is over 2000 years old, and pre-dates the existence of either Ireland or Britain as states by many centuries. Ptolemy's Geographia refers to the Bretanikai nēsoi,where 'nesoi' is Greek for 'Islands', and similar expressions - sometimes with an initial P- instead of B- - are found in earlier works.

The earliest known use of the expression 'Great Britain' to refer to the largest of the British Isles comes from the 12th century, where it was written in Latin as Britannia major, or in Norman French as grant Bretaigne. The term was indeed used to distinguish Great Britain from Brittany in France, rather than from Ireland. Britanny was referred to as Britannia minor, Bretagne menur or meindre Bretaigne in the same 12th-century sources. However, 'Great Britain' remained a fairly obscure term until 1604, when King James VI/I chose to describe himself as "King of Great Britain" rather than "King of England and Scotland".

Ireland has never been referred to as 'Little Britain'. For a time in the 18th century when it was fashionable to call Scotland 'North Britain', a few people jokingly called Ireland 'West Britain'; but that never caught on.
West Britain might not have caught on, but West Brits abound. :)
 
  • Schmizzkazz

    Senior Member
    German - Southern German
    I don't know how many people would agree with you! It also raises the question of why they are called the British Isles; is it purely geographical, meaning the group of islands of which Great Britain is the largest, or is it political, meaning the group of islands over which Great Britain claimed sovereignty?!
    Some people always confuse two things:


    a) how things should be
    b) and how things are
     

    L'irlandais

    Senior Member
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    The United Kingdom is a (unitary) sovereign state. Great Britain is an Island.

    So for my money, sovereignty relates to the United Kingdom and not to Great Britain.
    I hope this doesn't just add to the confusion.
     

    Stoggler

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Great Britain (sometimes just referred to as ‘Britain’)
    Technically, if you lose the ‘Great,’ Britain only refers to England and Wales.
    Source : ordnance survey blog
    I've seen that webpage before and, frankly, I don't believe that little paragraph about Britain being just England and Wales. I've never seen that assertion anywhere else and I have never heard anyone use Britain in that way.

    Unfortunately the writer of that webpage doesn't give any explanation why Britain could mean just England and Wales.

    The rest of the page is fine though.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (US Northeast)
    I learnt that Great Britain is a direct Latin translation of Britannia Maior (larger Britain) which contasts it from Britannia Minor (smaller Britain) which was northen France, as seen in the name Brittany today.
     

    Doraemon-

    Senior Member
    "Spanish - Spain" "Catalan - Valencia"
    I learnt that Great Britain is a direct Latin translation of Britannia Maior (larger Britain) which contasts it from Britannia Minor (smaller Britain) which was northen France, as seen in the name Brittany today.
    Not exactly.
    For the Romans Britannia was only Great Britain (both the island ant the southern part they conquered), and not northern France at all (Gallia).
    At the time of the anglosaxon/germanic invasion of Great Britain some invaded celtic britons moved to/invaded current Britanny (Bretagne, Breizh), taking this name (Britannia Minor) because they came from Britannia, such as later "New England".
    But not northern France, in general.
     
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