Official Name United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Capital City London (11.2 million)
Languages English, Welsh, and the Scottish form of Gaelic
Official Currency Pound Sterling
Religions Anglican, Catholic, others
Land Area 241,600 sq km (93,282 sq miles)
Geographical definition - With an area of 229,850 km?? (88,745 sq.mi) the island of Great Britain is the largest of the British Isles. Other large islands in the archipelago include Ireland/??ire, the Isle of Man, the Isle of Wight and Anglesey/Ynys M??n. It is the largest island in Europe, and eighth largest in the world. It is the third most populous island after Java and Honshu.
History. The term Great Britain was first widely used during the reign of King James VI of Scotland, I of England to describe the island, on which co-existed two separate kingdoms, both at that time ruled by the same monarch. Though England and Scotland each remained legally in existence as separate countries with their own parliaments, collectively they were sometimes referred to as Great Britain. In 1707, an Act of Union joined both parliaments. That Act used two different terms to describe the new all island nation, a 'United Kingdom' and the 'Kingdom of Great Britain'. However, the former term is regarded by many as having been a description of the union rather than its name at that stage. Most reference books therefore describe the all-island kingdom that existed between 1707 and 1800 as the Kingdom of Great Britain.
In 1801, under a new Act of Union, this kingdom merged with the Kingdom of Ireland, over which the monarch of Great Britain had ruled. The new kingdom was from then onwards unambiguously called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922, 26 of Ireland's 32 counties gained independence to form a separate Irish Free State. The remaining truncated kingdom has therefore since then been known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom now also formally includes a number of Overseas Territories.
Usage of the term Great Britain - Great Britain is also widely, but incorrectly, used as a synonym for the political state properly known as the United Kingdom
This common usage is technically inaccurate as the United Kingdom includes the province of Northern Ireland, in addition to the three countries that make up Great Britain, as shown by its full name "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", and also because the three countries that make up Great Britain itself collectively include over 100 other islands, such as the Isles of Scilly, St. Michael's Mount, the Isle of Wight, Lindisfarne, Lundy, and Steepholm in England; Flatholm and Anglesey in Wales; and the Isle of Arran, Bute and the inner and outer Hebrides of Scotland.
The British themselves occasionally use the abbreviation GB, such as in the Olympic Games where the British team is sometimes informally referred to as 'Team GB'. The UK also uses the international foreign vehicle identification code of GB.
Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy. The constitution exists in no one document but is a centuries-old accumulation of statutes, judicial decisions, usage, and tradition. The hereditary monarch, who must belong to the Church of England according to the Act of Settlement of 1701, is almost entirely limited to exercising ceremonial functions.