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On the island Great Britain lives the English, the Scots and the Welsh - they are all called British.

What are the corresponding words for citizens of countries Eire, Northern Ireland and the island Ireland?

Edit: has this changed during the course of history?

closed as off-topic by Mari-Lou A, BillJ, TrevorD, Xanne, JJJ Mar 25 at 21:44

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    Irish. The people living in the Republic of Ireland are called Irish. The people living in N.Ireland are British. I think this information is readily available on Wikipedia, let me know if it isn't :) – Mari-Lou A Mar 21 at 7:46
  • Most of these were the Protestant descendants of colonists from Great Britain. However, a significant minority, mostly Catholics, were nationalists who wanted a united Ireland independent of British rule. Today, the former generally see themselves as British and the latter generally see themselves as Irish, while a distinct Northern Irish or Ulster identity is claimed both by a large minority of Catholics and Protestants and by many of those who are non-aligned. Wikipedia – Mari-Lou A Mar 21 at 7:52
  • @Mari-LouA So there is no distinction between the island inhabitants and the citizens of the Republic of Ireland. Wikipedia's article about the island doesn't say anything about a common name for the inhabitants of the island. – d-b Mar 21 at 7:55
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    Your question lacked the minimum basic research. Please edit, and add your previous comment IN the question. – Mari-Lou A Mar 21 at 8:30
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because no research done by OP. – BillJ Mar 21 at 14:03
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Logical categories and the politics of national identity aren't a good combination. There's no single answer to satisfy everyone.

The people of Eire can simply be called Irish. This is also probably the best single word to describe the people of the island of Ireland.

Many of those in the North would also choose to be called Irish (and the right to that identity is important and enshrined in the peace process). Others in the North would be opposed to this - vehemently in some cases - choosing to be called British instead. Note that "British" refers to inhabitants of the United Kingdom, not just of Great Britain*; there is no term like "UK-ish". "Northern Irish" is another way of referring to the inhabitants of NI; this is broadly accepted, though some hardliners - quite possibly on both sides - would disagree with that too.

To illustrate how fundamental this can be, I have even known one or two people who ended up having to select "mixed race" as neither "Irish" nor "White British" alone (the closest available options) captured more than half their identity, and we're not taking about people with militant leanings.


* Though "British" also refers to only those of us in GB (which makes historic and etmylogical sense.

  • Note that ‘British’ also (and historically speaking, primarily) refers to the island of (Great) Britain, rather than the whole of the UK. It, like so many other geographic/national/ethnic terms, is vague and ambiguous. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 21 at 8:43
  • @Janus you're right, of course. The was what I meant by "not just" but that's not the natural way to read it - I've added a footnote rather than restructure. There are whole stories of national (? or tribal) identity bound up in the use of "British" to describe people born and bred on the Island of Ireland. – Chris H Mar 21 at 9:14
  • Note that this attempts to capture as much of the nuance as an English person reasonably can in a short-ish post. I'm sure I've missed issues, both linguistic and political. – Chris H Mar 21 at 9:17
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You make an incorrect assumption that the people of Britain are British, regardless of ethnicity. Many Welsh, Scottish/Scots/Scotch and English people do NOT identify as British. You also missed the Cornish, and the Manx but they are on a totally different island from either. British technically refers to someone or something from the island of Britain, but is has also come to be a euphemism for England which people that are not English resent. The English can resent the term for perceived political correctness or due to national and ethnic pride.

Anyways, things from the island of Ireland can be called Irish, or Gaelic, which is the ethnic subgroup the Irish are in, or Goedilic (which is the same thing but more academic). If they identify with Britain or British heritage (and another name for Northern Irish is Ulster-Scots, because there were a large number of Protestant Scots transplanted to Ulster, northern Ireland) they could also be called British, although less technically accurately.

There is a pretty long list that you can call any one of these groups, everyone but the English are Celtic. The Welsh and Cornish are Brythonic. The English also get called Anglo-Saxons or Saxons (or Sassanach, which is Scottish for Saxon and a swear) or WASPs (white-Anglo-Saxon Protestant, basically means super white).

As for changes over history yes. The acceptable terms have changed with British political de-evolution (as it is called) as Ireland acquired it’s independence, Scotland and Wales acquired home rule and local Parliaments. In the 18th century, around the time of Union, there was a move to re-lable Scottish people “Northern English” (which is a bit different from Northerners from the North of England). English was used interchangeably with British to refer to anyone from Ireland or Britain (or the other associated islands). In the medieval period English writers often refer to Gaelic people as being Irish, even if they were Scottish. Shakespeare does this in MacBeth, so even well after the medieval period. There is also a complicated history of Viking and French immigrants in parts of Ireland and Britain, as well as Normano-Anglo (French people that were largely aristocratic) in Ireland. Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, was from Ireland, but his family and culture was English and can be traced back to the Normans, who restricted the use of English in England for 250 years.

  • Gaelic/Goidelic and Brythonic are not ethnic subgroups; they are linguistic subgroups. That’s not to say some won’t identify very strongly with them, but there is no ethnicity behind them. There’s no ethnicity behind English, Scottish, Welsh and the others either, for that matter, but those are at least nationalities (regardless of ethnicity). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 21 at 8:41
  • You seem yo be mistaking the distinction between ethnicity and nationality, as well as race. All are seperate. Nationality is the country to which you have citizenship, although in Britain Scottish can replace British. That is somewhat unique to Britain. Race is a largely made up way of identifying skin colouration and some facial features. Ethnicity refers to the cultural and linguistic group you come from. The Welsh, Irish and Scots are all Celtic ethnicallly, but they belong to different groups. The English are ethnically Germanic. They are also linguistic groups as well. – LoganRoku Mar 21 at 8:49
  • England, Scotland and Wales are all separate countries, and their demonyms are indeed all nationalities. Race does not really play into things. The Gaels would be an ethnic group, but Goidelic is not; it is uniquely a linguistic group. You are mistaken in saying that Gaelic and Goidelic are the same thing; they are not. Gaelic is sometimes used to mean Goidelic, and in such cases it is not an ethnicity. You might at a stretch call Brythonic a split ethnicity, but there is very little pan-Brythonic identity left. It’s more a historic ethnicity. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 21 at 9:05
  • Also, the people of Britain (if we take that to mean either citizens of the UK or citizens of one of the countries situated on the island of Great Britain) are indeed British regardless of their ethnicity. An ethnicity does not do away with a nationality. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 21 at 9:07
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    Yes, and some Brits choose to identify as Martians. That does not change the fact that they are British (by nationality) if they are citizens of the UK. Their self-identification cannot change that. That has nothing to do with cultural identity. Your answer is severely conflating nationality, ethnicity and language, and since you do not seem inclined to edit it to reduce this conflation, I’ve downvoted it accordingly. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 21 at 9:45

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