I've seen from sources claim that the word "British" can be used to refer to different things. Some say Great Britian, some the UK, and some even the UK including her overseas territories. Which of these is correct? If it refers to people from the whole of the UK (and her territories), then why? It seems natural to assume that only people from Great Britain are British, and I was under the impression that the Britons inhabited what is now known as Great Britain. Here are some examples:

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/British?q=British: "British: relating to Great Britain or the United Kingdom, or to its people or language."

(a poor source, I know, but I've seen it used this way in person)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_people: "British people, also referred to as Britons, informally as Brits, or archaically as Britishers, are nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies; and their descendants."

  • 1
    Basically, anyone who thinks that Monty Python is hilarious. You're welcome.
    – Mr_Spock
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 12:50
  • If you think defining British is hard, try Chinese.
    – choster
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 14:16
  • @choster Hah, true. But my main problem is not being able to refer exclusively to people from Great Britain. I would think that word would be British, but then what to call people from the UK?
    – Dodgie
    Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 22:37

1 Answer 1


According to the UK Border Agency, there are several forms of "British" person, including British citizen, British overseas citizen, British overseas territories citizen, British national (overseas), British protected person and British subject.

When referring to a person, "British" by itself would usually refer to a British Citizen - someone who was born in the United Kingdom.

In other contexts, "British" would normally mean something in or from the United Kingdom, but not necessarily Great Britain.

UK Border Agency - What is British citizenship?

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    "a British Citizen - someone who was born in the United Kingdom." A British citizen does not necessarily have to be born in the UK, and someone born in the UK is not necessarily a British citizen.
    – user102008
    Commented Dec 3, 2013 at 3:27
  • True. The rules changed in 1983, and the UKBA web site gives a more accurate definition of "British Citizen".
    – Simon B
    Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 15:33

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