Great Britain (in English Great Britain or more familiarly Britain; in Scottish Gaelic Breatainn Mhór; in Welsh Prydain Fawr; in Cornish Breten Veur; in Italian, anciently, Albion) is a European island in the Atlantic Ocean located north-west of Continental Europe.
It develops for about 900 km in a north-south direction and has a maximum extension of about 460 km in an east-west direction; its minimum distance from the mainland, from which it is separated by the English Channel, is 34 km near the Strait of Dover, which divides the island from France.
With an area of 229,850 km² it is the largest island in Europe and the ninth largest in the world, as well as the largest in the British archipelago which includes, in addition to the island of Ireland, the second largest of the group, also the Isle of Man and other smaller islands and archipelagos. Administratively the island of Great Britain belongs to the United Kingdom and its territory is divided between three of its four constituent nations: Scotland in the north, England in the south-central and Wales, which faces the Irish Sea. in the central-western one.
From a purely geographical point of view, the term Great Britain designates both the main island and those surrounding it (such as the islands of Anglesey and Wight, and the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland islands). From a political point of view, the term is sometimes used (improperly) with reference to the whole United Kingdom (but also formed by Northern Ireland, the north-eastern region of the island of Ireland); and is used especially, in sports, to indicate the representatives and teams of the United Kingdom.
Origins and nomenclature
Over the centuries Great Britain has evolved politically from several independent states (England, Scotland and Wales), passing through two kingdoms with a single monarch (England and Scotland), a single Kingdom of Great Britain, up to the present situation, starting from 1801, in which Great Britain together with Northern Ireland makes up the United Kingdom, which is often mistakenly referred to as "Great Britain" or simply "England".
Two kingdoms for one monarchy
The term Great Britain was initially used widely during the reign of King James VI of Scotland, I of England to describe the island on which two kingdoms ruled by the same monarch coexisted. Although England and Scotland legally remained in existence as two separate states with their respective parliaments, they were collectively referred to as Great Britain.
In 1707, an Act of Union united the two states together. The Act used two different terms to describe the new island state, a "United Kingdom" and the "Kingdom of Great Britain". The former term is generally, though not universally, seen as a description of the union rather than its name. Many textbooks describe the whole island kingdom, which existed between 1707 and 1800 as the Kingdom of Great Britain.
In 1801, under the new Act of Union this kingdom merged with the Kingdom of Ireland, over which the monarch of Great Britain had reigned. The new kingdom was unambiguously called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922, twenty-six of the thirty-two Irish counties separated to form the Irish Free State. The truncated kingdom is now known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which now also includes a number of overseas territories.
Often the terms refer to the whole of the United Kingdom or its predecessors, or to institutions associated with it, and not just Great Britain. For example, the monarchs of the United Kingdom are often called "British monarchs", the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom becomes the "British Prime Minister". Such use is generally believed to be correct. However the English term for British, as in "Queen of England" is clearly wrong; England, in the sense of a sep state