Great Britain vs. U.K.: What's the difference? Here's an easy breakdown.

If you're an American who's not so sure what the difference is between Great Britain, the United Kingdom, and England, you're not alone.

During his recent trip to London, President Donald Trump showed he isn't exactly up to speed on the terminology either. In an interview with Piers Morgan, Trump was asked about the incentive for the United States to work out a trade agreement with the United Kingdom, Trump stumbled a bit:

"We would make a great deal with the United Kingdom because they have product that we like. I mean they have a lot of great product. They make phenomenal things, you know, and you have different names — you can say 'England,' you can say 'U.K.,' you can say 'United Kingdom' so many different — you know you have, you have so many different names — Great Britain. I always say: 'Which one do you prefer? Great Britain? You understand what I’m saying?'"

When Morgan stepped in to note that Great Britain and the U.K. weren't exactly the same, Trump said, "Right, yeah. You know I know, but a lot of people don't know that. But you have lots of different names."


A look at the British Isles.

He's probably right about that last part, and to be totally real, it's nothing to be embarrassed about. Should you find yourself in a situation where that kind of knowledge is useful, here's a quick guide.

There's a lot of overlap between the British Isles, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. For instance, England is part of all three groups, and all that overlap can make it a little tricky to remember the distinctions. (Full disclosure: I wasn't personally up to speed on this until just a few years ago so don't feel bad if you're not either.)

The British Isles

The British Isles aren't a country or political alliance. This is just a geographic term used to describe England, Wales, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the small islands spread out along the coasts. There probably aren't too many contexts where you'll need to use this term, but it's good to know.

The British Isles.

The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is a sovereign state made up of four separate countries: England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Until 1922, the Republic of Ireland was also part of the United Kingdom. London is the capital of the United Kingdom. The area's formal name is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Knowing this, it's pretty easy to guess what Great Britain is...

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Each of the four individual countries has its own flag.

From top left, clockwise: Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales.

But together, they're all represented under the Union Jack.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The flag combines elements of the English, Northern Irish, and Scottish flags. It's also known as the Union Jack.

Great Britain

Great Britain is the United Kingdom without Northern Ireland. It's made up of England, Wales, and Scotland. One way to remember the difference between the United Kingdom and Great Britain is that the United Kingdom unites two separate islands, whereas Great Britain is all part of one basic landmass. It's important not to use Great Britain and the United Kingdom interchangeably for a number of political reasons.

Great Britain.

This all probably seems pretty silly, but these are questions that do come up from time to time. Now, odds are that none of us are ever going to find ourselves in the position of being the President of the United States asked in an interview about this, but you never really know when you'll end up in an "Oh man, what's the difference between the United Kingdom and Great Britain?" pickle. For those moments, feel free to bookmark this page.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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