As per usual, I have used the Internet, Oxford English Dictionary, etc., but, alas, it was all to no end, as the only thing about which I could read with respect to this issue was the disputes that have been held over this divisive issue, e.g. some people's claiming, typically Britons, that the Irish are X and not Y, etc.

  • Most folks in the US would interpret "British" to refer to all people in the British Isles.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 23:35
  • 1
    @HotLicks I bet you won't find many Americans named O'Flaherty, or Fitzpatrick, who think like that!
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 16, 2020 at 23:57
  • 3
    In ancient historical terms the Irish probably have more entitlement to call themselves Britons, than do the sons and daughters of English counties. And this perhaps gets to the heart of why "Briton" is seldom used to describe British people. The Ancient Britons were a Celtic race, who were the inhabitants of the Isles when Caesar arrived in 54BC.These Celtic Britons, were later pushed westward, by the Saxons, Angles and Vikings into Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, Wales and Cornwall - regions where you can still here the Gaelic language spoken - as you can in Brittany, in France.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 0:05
  • 3
    There's no single word to refer to us all. Brits describe the islands as "the British Isles", but the Irish certainly don't. They prefer "Britain and Ireland" and "The British and the Irish". Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 2:26
  • @WS2 - Speaking as one with McGillicuddies in his tree, I'd bet that most Americans named O'Flaherty don't care a lick about the subject.
    – Jim Mack
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 13:32

1 Answer 1


The answer depends on what you're trying to denote. For example, I usually prefer to write about "citizens of the UK" even though UK law uses the term "British citizen." For something that excludes Ireland (and Northern Ireland), I might use "Great Britain," although I would be careful about the possibility that readers might understand that to refer to the entire UK.

To refer to Great Britain and Ireland collectively, I would probably say just that, or possibly Britain and Ireland. In some contexts, I might refer to the Common Travel Area, but that comprises additional territories (channel islands and Mann) that you may wish to exclude.

In short, the situation is complex, so there is no single term that works everywhere.

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