Is the term British Isles still acceptable, or is it considered offensive to Irish people who may not consider their island legitimately connected to Great Britain?

  • There's nothing wrong with the term. It's just a geographical one.
    – Tristan r
    Jun 23, 2014 at 21:54
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    Is North America offensive to Canadians? Jun 23, 2014 at 22:21
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    I find the term "Trade Winds" offensive. They never trade anything with me.
    – Oldcat
    Jun 24, 2014 at 0:03
  • @TimLymington if America had once invaded Canada, and renamed it to North America, and then Canada subsequently got most of it back (leaving, say, Ontario under US control) then it might be a sensitive term. Jun 30, 2016 at 8:04
  • @Max: You are mistaking feelings for language. If Canada sponsored a terrorist campaign in those border states that do not want to leave the US, and then renamed itself 'North America' without consulting other North Americans, that would probably cause ill-feeling. It would not, however, change the geographical status of the term North America. Jul 1, 2016 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


Geographers don't generally dispute it, but it can be sensitive terminology in Ireland. The Wikipedia article on the British Isles naming dispute lists the following as alternative terms that have been suggested by various people and groups: "Britain and Ireland", "Atlantic Archipelago", "Anglo-Celtic Isles", the "British-Irish Isles", and the "Islands of the North Atlantic". However, none of these alternatives are in wide circulation, so if clarity is important, it's best to stick with British Isles in most contexts at the present.

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    BTW, I love your avatar: The fusion of Che Guevara with Alfred E. Neuman. Too bad Che was not as fun-loving as Al. Jun 23, 2014 at 22:25
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    Nearly all those alternatives are also less precise and no more politically correct. Britain and Ireland excludes Man, Wight, Aran, etc.; Atlantic Archipelago might as well be the Canaries; Anglo-Celtic Isles would also include Breton isles off the coast of France; Islands of the North Atlantic also includes the Faeroes and Iceland. Only British-Irish Isles really works. Jun 23, 2014 at 23:45
  • I've always considered the Faeroes to be part of the British Isles, geographically speaking. (Though of course they're a self-governing part of Denmark politically.) If you take a look at photos of the Faeroes, Shetlands, and Orkneys they look strikingly similar in terms of their geology, fauna, and even people.
    – tobyink
    Jun 24, 2014 at 2:12
  • If you want to avoid risking offence, say "the UK and Ireland". Jun 30, 2016 at 8:05
  • @Max : That won't avoid offence, since the UK (a political entity) includes part of Ireland (a geographical entity). It is leaves uncertain the status of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Jul 1, 2016 at 17:21

For a delightful and insightful video on the subject, see CGP Grey's video "The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained":


Helped me out on this. A lot.

Mr. Grey is a UK-resident Yank.

Edited to add: this isn't actually an Answer, it's a reference to a good resource. @phenry's answer is an Answer, and I agree with him.

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