What is the difference between the English and the British?

+17 votes
in The Tree House by
retagged by Ellen Smith
The term "British" relates to someone from the Island of Great Britain, which is made up of Scotland, Wales and England.

Its a bit like a Texan being called American.

The individual states all have their own Historic identities, so people from Scotland are Scots, people from England are English ect.

The main difference is that you can be English and British, but being British does not mean that you are English.

17 Answers

+13 votes
Not a lot. Most of the present English have ancestors from other parts of Britain. Until recently the English didn't make a fuss about it.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (339k points)
Thank you for responding, I have English ancestors but was unsure if they are called Brits like you hear them called.
Not me, though I was brought up to describe myself as British having a Scottish father. Only lately have I taken to calling myself English. Brits is not something I'd answer to.
I am English, born in England although recognised as being British.

Proud to be!
I think the scots welsh and irish might disagree about there not being a lot of difference, they are fiercely protective of their individual countries, a lot more so than the english are or have ever been.
Hear hear Gillian! I'm proud of both my English and Welsh heritage and would always distinguish the two separately!

The only time I may ever refer to myself as a Brit, or as being from the UK is if I was talking to an American.... I kinda think its the same in the US too?? I mean its such a huge country that wouldn't most people, if asked, say the name of the state they're from rather than saying America?
I was born in Oregon, now live in California and have lived in two other states. I have never referred to myself as a "Californian" or an "Oregonian." I am an American.
Whereas, in contrast to J, I was born in Michigan, have always lived in Michigan, and I now know my father's family has been here for 160 years - and I often refer to myself as a Michigander.

Of course, I also refer to myself as American all the time.

Lizzie, how I would answer where I am from depends on who is asking and where we are. In most circumstances, I would say I am from Michigan - but that in no way lessens my sense of being American.

As you noted, the U.S. is a huge country, with a large population. Especially outside of very large cities, coastal states, or southern border states we don't see a lot of people from other countries besides immigrants. Some places don't see a lot of those either. Many of us don't travel to foreign countries very often either, if ever. Other countries are mostly very far away and it is expensive to fly to them. I grew up in a state that borders Canada, and I've only been there three times; and once I went to the Bahamas on a cruise. Most people we speak to are Americans, either by nationality or residence - so it's not useful to tell another American that we're Americans.

However, as I'm sure you know, many of us Americans are obsessively patriotic compared to people from most other countries, so I have a very strong sense of identity as an American, even though in most cases I would tell people I'm from Michigan rather than "I'm an American." I'm proud to be an American, but most people I talk to IRL are also Americans and I assume they can tell where I'm from.

Goodness, I'm wearing red, white, and blue right now...
LOL, Thomas Fuller is so right, it depends who we are talking to and where we are! I have known people who call themselves New Yorker's, but as I said I have never called myself a Californian or Oregonian. Most of my ancestors came here in the early 1600s before it WAS America. Their descendants migrated thru many states (and wilderness, and territories), to finally end up in Oregon and California. I am not proud of California politics and like to point out that I live in Northeast California (which is different), born in Oregon. But I AM American.

My sister travels overseas often, and is not proud to be an American, so she tells people she is Canadian. I don't think she has ever been there.
When I commented on this post/answer, I chuckled to myself thinking 'this is going to go off big time!' I was apparently right as I've not logged on for a few days, I'm in Jersey on holiday at the minute; as in The Channel Islands, as in British? UKish? Definately not English?

Identity is a completely personal and unique thing, how we are brought up and educated has so much impact on how we identify ourselves.

I love the American patriotism, when I visited American primary schools where 5 year olds were pledging alegence to the flag it was really moving.

However I'm not deaf, if someone said to me they were American my response would be 'you don't say? Where abouts?'
The Channel Islands are Crown dependencies, ie "territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible" and have their own legislative assembly, they are not part of England. The Isle of Man is the same.
No, we call ourselves Americans to distinguish ourselves from foreigners.  We move around so much (average, every 5 years) that state residence isn't much of a source of pride.  Southerners might distinguish themselves from the others, and be distinguished, but otherwise, we don't care much about state residence.  Texans might also be a particular exception.

      You can blame the British for "Americans."  It must go back to the Revolution, when there was nothing else to call us.  However, some Canadians and many Latin Americans take exception to us calling ourselves "Americans", (like we would consider them from somewhere else).  Some Latins call us all "Yankees", but that gets them into fights in Texas.

Some Latins call us all "Yankees", but that gets them into fights in Texas.


I gave up, years ago, trying to explain to Americans that there was most definitely a difference between "Yankee" and "Yank" and that the latter did not designate an internal line of separation.  I simply stopped saying "Yanks" except with my husband .. and then only when I was ribbing him about something.  

(And Yank itself isn't really very polite if you take it back to its origins, but I didn't learn that until I was in my 40's.) 

I am WISE, i.e., of Welsh, Irish, Scottish and English descent, and am a seventh-generation Aussie (yes, by much conviction).  The interstate-thing is fairly intense here, particularly between specific sporting States.  So, we can be Queenslanders or Australians, although most other States regard Queenslanders as aliens, or diseased, or both.  I am genuinely intigued though by the term, American.  Is American only true of those from the USA, or of anyone from Canada to Argentina?  In other words, is the American term drawn from the two continents of from one nation.
+22 votes
English come from England in the British Isles which is made up of

Scotland, Wales Northern Ireland and England hence the covering word British
by Brian Violett G2G Crew (860 points)
I'm English but living in Scotland.  I would always call myself English just to differentiate between the Scots and the English.
I am English and live in France and always refer myself as Anglais not British
Wow so many upvotes for a completely incorrect answer. "British Isles" is a geographical term referring to the large islands of Britain and Ireland and many smaller islands off their coasts. For historic reasons the island of Britain became known as Great Britain (Britannia Major).

It is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (or UK for short) which comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This sovereign state is known as Britain and its citizens as British.
Britain is the island upon which Scotland, England, and Wales is located.  So British would refer precisely to people from this island.  Many people in what is called Northern Ireland consider themselves citizens of the UK, and probably call themselves "British", even if they really aren't.

     You make a serious mistake when you label the island of Ireland part of the "British Isles" in the Rep. of Ireland.  People in the Republic (the southern 3/4 of the island), want no part of the UK, and will tell you with a scowl:  "There is nothing British about Ireland."

I suggest that one looks at this blog that defines the difference between The British Isles, Great Britain and the UK


+9 votes
Hi.  The term 'Brit' seems to be used by people from other countries to refer to people in Britain.  In Britain people refer to themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh etc.  I have never heard a Brit refer to him(her)self as a 'Brit'.
by Living Cowan G2G6 (9.4k points)
I call myself a Brit more often than I call myself English. We exist, we just seem to be in the minority compared to those who seem to prefer to avoid considering themselves British.
I say Brits all the time and if I’m referring to us as a whole. However, if someone asked my nationality I’d say British, not ‘Brit’. Brits is just a slang term, or shortened term for British.
+7 votes
Brian's answer is incorrect. Northern Ireland is not British. It is part of the UK of GB and NI.

In the simplest terms the English live in England and the British live in Britain (England, Wales and Scotland plus some islands).

That said the Cornish aren't likely top call themselves English!
by anonymous G2G6 Pilot (282k points)
Thanks for all the responses! Must be why I'm so fiery-tempered, having Scottish, English, Welsch, German and Ireland roots.
Northern Ireland is a legal constituent part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Not so. There is no such entity as the UK of GB. See above.
+8 votes

The 2011 census included a question on national identity, where English and British were among the options available (more than one option could be selected). Overall in England and Wales about 60% of people identified just as English, about 20% just as British and about 10% as both, but London shows a very different pattern to the rest of England. You can read a summary of the results for England and Wales in sections 7 and 8 at https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/ethnicity/articles/ethnicityandnationalidentityinenglandandwales/2012-12-11

by Paul Masini G2G6 Pilot (396k points)
Hmmm … I'm showing my ignorance, but never heard of Cornish before, except as a kind of chicken.  What is the name of the country where Cornish people live, please?



The Cornwall under discussion is in the westernmost part of the South West Peninsula of England . . . internationally famous for their Cornish Pasties, and their Duke (aka Charles, Prince of Wales) and Duchess (Camilla).

THANX, Paul.  That makes a lot more sense.

Herbert, it's not nice to make jokes that go right over the head of someone as geographically challenged as I am.  You're lucky that I don't dump a proof of a 2nd order differential equation on you in return!

Melanie, is that also where Cornish Game Hens originated?
Ordinary or partial?  Linear or nonlinear?  Bring it, cuz!
Aww, you're too eager Herbert, besides it would bore most of WikiTree.  Instead, I'll tell you a story that has (admittedly remote) genealogy relevance:

Once upon a time there was an Indian tribe that named all the full moons of the year, based on their relevant events.  The only time marriages were performed was during the marriage moon.  One year, three couples were married at the same time.  Not surprisingly, soon all three squaws were pregnant and the three braves went hunting to furnish the teepees so their squaws didn't have to sleep on bare ground.

One brave shot a deer, so his squaw slept on a beautiful soft deerskin.  Another brave shot a buffalo and his squaw slept on a luxurious buffalo hide.  The third brave shot a hippopotamus and his squaw slept on that skin.

In due time, the three squaws gave birth.  The one who slept on the deerskin had a beautiful baby boy and so did the one who slept on the buffalo hide.  The one who slept on the hippopotamus hide had twin boys.

The moral of the story is the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides.

LOL that was awesomely random.  yes

Melanie, is that also where Cornish Game Hens originated?


According to Wikipedia: The Cornish or Indian Game is a breed of chicken from the county of Cornwall in England.

 I believe there are others using the name that are bred in the US, but don't quote me on that. cheeky

I think a reason Cornish people traditionally did not consider themselves English was because they had their own Cornish language, spoken as a first language in Cornwall until the mid 18th century. It is a Celtic language but from the Brythonic group of languages, different from the Gaelic group (Irish, Scottish & Manx) but like Welsh and Breton (spoken in Brittany, Northern France).  The Cornish language was used within some families into the 20th century, as far as I remember the last person for whom it was a first language died in the 1930s.  Since then there has been a revival. In 2002 the government recognised Cornish as a British minority language. Cornish can be seen on some signs in Cornwall, together with English.
The Cornish are Brythonic Celts, more closely related to The Welsh and the Bretons than the English
And don't forget they had their own parliament.
+5 votes
The English are the inhabitants of England.  The British are the inhabitants of the entire British Isles (now generally used to mean the United Kingdom), which includes (but is not limited to) the English.
by J-M Mustchin-Gibson-Mooney G2G6 Mach 1 (10.6k points)
It is true that that's what the British Isles at least used to mean, but when Northern Irish people call themselves British they generally mean 'not Irish'. And including Ireland in 'the British Isles' became controversial in Ireland for obvious political reasons - the people certainly do not accept being called British themselves.
Yeah, that's why I said "now generally used to mean the United Kingdom".  Irish wouldn't stand it.
+14 votes
My Scottish husband would tell you! The English are from England, the British are all of the peoples of Scotland, England, Wales and the islands. Usually used (lately) when one doesn't know which actual country they're talking about, or, correctly, when they're talking about the people of British Isles.

As an aside, recent US news reports said that Trump left Britain and arrived in Scotland. (smh!)
by Bobbie Hall G2G6 Pilot (352k points)
Don’t forget the Northern Irish. They are British too!
How do you work that out Stella? Bobbie's point (and mine below) is precisely that NI is not part of Britain. It is part of the UK.

We must hope they'll get the message one day


Northern Ireland is a constituent part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
Not so. NI is a constituent part of the UK of GB and NI.
Many people in Northern Ireland are descended from Scottish and English colonists and regard themselves as British by descent and culture (notably Protestantism), rather than Irish.
Of course, but that doesn't alter the political status of NI. NI is not and cannot be part of Britain.
It's not part of Great Britain, it is part of the British Isles and the UK. Whether it's part of 'Britain' depends on which of those you're using that as shorthand for. There is no 'UKian' adjective, we say 'British' for that.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a legal entity and a fact. Whether you like it or not. The population are called British.
UK is the adjective for UK.  To make it sound more adjectival, pronounce it yucky.  You could write it in lower case, like the french.
Like any other nouns UK can be used as a noun adjunct, as e.g. in 'UK passport' or 'UK citizen', but it's not an adjective. 'I am UK' would be wrong.
^^^ This (above) is why I refuse to discuss politics and geography with my husband. LOL!!
Language evolves.  If something "wrong" is convenient, people use it, then it becomes right.  You wouldn't say a France passport or Italy government policy.  So UK is used as an adjective where a noun would be wrong.

Nowadays US is often used adjectivally as a synonym for American - much more common than USA.
+5 votes
I’m English. Because I was born in England. I identify first, as English. British secondly......However, a lot identify as ‘British’ first.

England is one of the four countries that make up the U.K., along with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The four countries combined, the people are classed as ‘British’.

Most of us have English, Scots, Welsh, Irish Ancestry, So there’s no other difference, other than we were either born in one of the four countries.

I have a Welsh Grandmother x2 and an Irish Great Grandmother x4 and Scots Ancestry going way back.
by D A G2G5 (5.6k points)
edited by D A
If you look above no part of Ireland is classed as British they have always been Irish.

I always say I am English and live in Wales as all of my ancestry that I have traced is in England. DNA has currently shown some other places in the mix but in very small percentage and is likely to change as more people test and is not an absolute.
My Great-great Grandmother was born in Scotland, but her parents were both born in Ireland, so I feel like I'm cheating a bit by counting the Scottish as part of my heritage. But I still proudly do!

Sorry Hilary, but the United Kingdom includes Northern Ireland and many of them in Northern Ireland class themselves as British.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, simply called the United Kingdom or UK, is a sovereign state in Northern Europe. It is a constitutional monarchy that is made up of four separate countries

From Wikipedia.

But same here, the majority of my ancestry is in England, resigned solely to Durham, Yorkshire, Staffs and Derbyshire. My Irish ‘Kelly’ great x Grandmother was born in Stockton, Durham, while the Welsh one, born in Staffs, but ended up in Durham. The Scots Ancestry goes back centuries. I have no recent Scots Ancestry.......But my daughter does, because her dad was Scottish, lol. So I guess I reintroduced it.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, simply called the United Kingdom or UK, is a sovereign state in Northern Europe. It is a constitutional monarchy that is made up of four separate countries

Correct. That is what several of us have been saying. Which clearly means that they are not British, whatever they may choose to call themselves, The latter is a political decision and far from universal.

We could also say the same about English, Scots and Welsh too and that infact none of us are British and due to a political decision.

I don’t care how anyone identifies to be honest. I merely answered a question, someone had asked.
+5 votes
Just to confuse the issue (maybe). British people are those in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Britain and United Kingdom are geographical terms for the islands and exclude Eire.
by Ian Trott G2G3 (3.1k points)
Wrong again. I accept that there is a difference between the usage of the terms British and English and the places on the ground. But the political structure of the UK of GB and NI, GB and England are not matters for debate. They are fact.

The confusing part if the term British Isles, which does include Ireland (the whole of). This is best avoided.
+6 votes

There are some very narrow definitions of  what it is to be British which is odd considering the amount of publicity at the moment concerning ' the Windrush generation.' 


 My husband is British, was born British, holds a full British passport.  He had a full career in the RAF .  Yet his grandfather left England for South Africa in 1902,  his father was born in Basutoland in 1910, and he himself was born in Kenya; albeit on a British Army  base

 ( he actually has 3 birth certs, British, Kenyan and South African )

Citizens of British overseas  territories;  places like the Falklands, Gibralter,  and St Helena and Bermuda are  also full British Citizens


by Helen Ford G2G6 Pilot (477k points)
+6 votes
Guess we just don't like being called Brits. Wonder what the French call the British?
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (339k points)
In my experience, my neigbours in ' La France profonde' almost always used 'les anglais'.
'Britannique' is commonly used by those in the know.
Just like I dislike the term, 'Mericans, or 'Merica. For example, "I'm from good ol' 'Merica", possibly said while holding a can of beer.
+3 votes
England typically English,Britain or Great Britain,England,Wales Scotland

Ireland,Although all now speak English.
by Wayne Morgan G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
My ancestors were born in England, yet their headstone inscriptions say, "two of the earliest British settlers of New Plymouth"

My Grandmother was born in Ireland (not Northern) to English parents and she never considered herself as anything other than English (with the biggest "plum in the mouth" you have ever heard), right to her dying day (and that was after 69 years of living in Australia and only around 20-ish years in England).

I have never considered myself as having "British" ancestry.  I have English and Scottish ancestry.  (If I have Welsh that is yet to be discovered.)

I was willing, years ago, to contemplate possible Irish heritage, but my Mother was adamant that her forebears were all Scottish (despite that where they were from was within "spitting distance", so to speak, of Ireland).

For myself, I am not a hyphenated Aussie, the way Americans so often style themselves, I'm an Australian of x heritage . . 5th or 6th generation on the maternal side and 5th generation on the paternal . . but overall I'm an Australian. 

+3 votes

the Scottish and the Welsh......

      As to the Northern Irish, I'm not sure how they feel.

      But never refer to Ireland as part of the "British Isles" in the Republic.  One elderly lady, upon hearing this, got her feathers ruffled:  "There is nothing British about it!", was her reply.

     Great Britain is an island......not an archipelago

by Dan Sparkman G2G6 Mach 2 (25.9k points)
edited by Dan Sparkman
You are correct in that Great Britain is an Island, however the "archipelago" is named the British Isle

This is a purely geographical term and has no bearing on the political realities in Ireland.
Named by WHOM?????  You obviously missed the point.  The name does have a bearing on the politics of Ireland,  When you think about the name, Ireland is not British in any fashion.  

      If the Irish suddenly decided to name the entire archipelago "the Celtic Isles" they would have far more right to do so than what is currently the name.  There is nothing British about Ireland as an island.  The name "British Isles" was forced upon the Irish without their consent by foreign British colonists, and implies some kind of foreign ownership to the citizens of the Republic who eschewed themselves of any connection with that other island nearly 100 years ago.    Be honest, there is no geographically valid connection in this  "British" name at all.

Hi Dan

The term "Celtic isles" is not that far from the meaning of the "British Isles" as the term British has its origins in the Greek and Roman words for the archipelago far in the depths of time and actually refers to the "Celtic" tribes the Bryttas inhabiting the islands.  This was later adapted in the Roman province of Brittannia,which to be fair only covered England and Wales

Claudius Ptolomy referred to Great Britain as megale Bretannia and Ireland as mikra Brettania in 148AD

These tribes were some of the ancestors of the Modern Irish, Bretons and Cornish or Brythonic Celts.

This was long before the Anglo Saxons even ventured to the shores of what would become England.

The modern Britain which I can understand is not overly popular in the Republic, for reasons I am quite happy to discuss with you at some point, did not come into place until the Act of Union in 1707.  The name was adopted by the Stuart administration to try and create a single state comprising Scotland and England (Wales wasn't even considered at first).

I am very aware of the issues with Ireland being part of the British Isles, far more than most English.  My paternal family survived oppression, the great hunger, the Black and Tans and many other Issues with English and later British occupation.

I have been looking at the naming issues of the "British Isles" and seemingly when the British and Irish governments discuss issues, these Islands is used instead.

Also Anglo-Celtic isles, the Atlantic Archipelago and the the "British-Irish Isles are sometimes used instead.

Personally is see this a Semanic issue as I fully accept that the republic is Independent and not subject to the British Crown, I get the impression that you feel this is more political.

+4 votes
The term "British" relates to someone from the Island of Great Britain, which is made up of Scotland, Wales and England.

Its a bit like a Texan being called American.

The individual states all have their own Historic identities, so people from Scotland are Scots, people from England are English ect.

The main difference is that you can be English and British, but being British does not mean that you are English.
by Peter Mulligan G2G6 Mach 1 (12.7k points)

This is a fascinating thread!. I'm late to the party, but I'll pipe in relative to points in several posts above. When people ask where I'm from, I say San Diego. It's a large enough city that most have heard of it -even Europeans; I've lived in SoCal my whole life because I went to university in L.A. but I don't much care for L.A. so I identify my city. Unlike someone said above, I am proud to be from California. I don't always agree with the politics, but I'm proud of what my state has done to keep our ocean and environment safe and healthy.

I was raised differently from the rest of the kids where I grew up with, due to my mother's beliefs about education. I started traveling internationally when I was eight years old, and have been to Europe many times. I've come to realize that most Americans who haven't traveled are down right insular and ignorant about a lot of things. It's hard to truly understand history without experiencing some of it first hand. When you walk on cobblestones that were laid down more than 2000 years ago, your perspective changes. Mine did, immensely and when I started teaching ancient history to middle schoolers, I was able to add things that many others couldn't. 

Although I never knew any of my grandparents, I was taught about them, how my maternal great grandparents' line homesteaded in Canada from England and Wales. I've learned so much doing genealogy though, I find my answers differ somewhat now. I found  the first Sisty (my mother's maiden name) was transported  in the 1720s and indentured for stealing a silver watch in Middlesex -a part of Greater London. Eventually, he was one of the first post riders working for Benjamin Franklin riding between Philadelphia and Annapolis. 

My father's family, "Phelps" was harder to track, but they've been here since the 1600's. After having my DNA tested, I found that I was more than 50% British (English and Welsh) with a 16% helping of Irish and the rest the "Germanic" area of North west. Europe. I don't really like the way Ancestry changed the locale names, as it's not logical to include Ireland in that area, and doesn't differentiate many of the Scandinavian countries. My Danish family, Flansburg are considered Dutch because of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Northeast from the early 1600s, and German because the area the came from (Flensburg), is now part of Germany. If someone asks or the conversation turns in that direction, I'll say I grew up in San Diego, but genetically. I'm more than half British.

Maybe that's why I've always been a bit of an Anglophile! wink

I like your answer Peter and Lisa! Lisa, you are so right about Americans who haven't traveled being insular and ignorant, but I must point out that even the ones that have traveled can be down right rude! For example, I will never forget being in the Navy in Hawaii and a bunch of ships from a bunch of countries were doing what they called, "War Games" at sea. On land at the local eatery, the South Koreans that were eating there were extremely polite and respectful, but a few of my shipmates were being boarish to them and treating them very disrespectfully, I did not like that at all. It was rather embarrassing. Off topic but the best behaved children that I ever seen out in public were the Amish.
As this thread has opened up again, I'll add my comments.  I find it insulting that anyone would generalize to the extent of saying that "Americans" who haven't traveled are insular and ignorant.  I have rarely traveled and lived in California nearly all my life, and don't consider myself either ignorant or insular.  And I've met plenty of people who have traveled widely who are still ignorant!
Sorry Julie, I did say most and perhaps that is too much of a generalization. C. Bake makes a good point about people being boorish as well, and goodness knows, I've seen many so called "ugly Americans" behaving badly in other countries. In my mind, it all comes down to education. Whether it's institutional or not, if people take the time to learn, it makes a difference.
You did say "most."  I think another commenter did not include that qualification.  I can't disagree at all that there exist "ugly Americans."
+3 votes
English is a language. British is a nationality.

English is the language spoken by British people?
by Lesley Scott G2G6 Mach 4 (43.4k points)

English is a language. British is a nationality.

English is the language spoken by British people?

answered ago by Lesley Scott

You're English if you're from England and you speak English with an "English" accent (depending on where in England you're from, it may or may not sound like the English with which everyone is familiar).  There is no such thing as a "British accent".

I'm not British, or English, or Scots, or Welsh, but English is my native tongue.

English being the language spoken by "British" people might be argued by all the Celts / Gaelic speakers who are resident in the British Isles.  There are many Britons who speak their "native tongue" and it's not necessarily English.

Just my interpretation of “English” as opposed to “British”.

English is a language spoken around the world.

British is relating to the British Isles/United Kingdom.

Just my interpretation . . .

commented 9 minutes ago by Lesley Scott


Understood.  Just offering my thoughts in return.  I personally don't regard "British" as a nationality, as there are 3 countries, each their own "nationality" on the island .. then you could add those of Northern Ireland.

My ancestors weren't necessarily Britons, even if they were born in England, or Scotland, but they were English and Scottish.  (I can't claim Welsh that I know of, but my children can.)  Does them being of Scottish, or English, nationality make them British?  Yes, but not (as *I* see it) as a nationality; more of a collective. 

The English are English and speak English with regional dialectal differences.

The Scottish are Scottish and speak English with regional variations, and also (those who wish/know how) speak Gaelic.

The Welsh are Welsh and speak English sometimes, depending on where it is they are from.  Often forgotten as ever having been separately ruled ever since they were absorbed by Edward I so long ago.  If I remember correctly, the Welsh language was forcibly repressed and we are fortunate it wasn't completely eradicated by the English invader/conquerors/oppressors/insert your own term here.  (There was a recorded decrease in Welsh speakers 2001-2011, but reports since indicate there may now be a slight increase.)

So, although I am not natively English, or Scottish, I hold rather strong views on what is or isn't "English".  cheeky  (Cain't blame a gal for being opinionated!  (and that is MEANT to be cain't, not can't.))

I have to admit that it totally bugs me that almost every American I have met in person (and many I have not met, but merely heard on the radio) says "British accent" when they mean "English accent", because they differentiate the Scottish accent as Scottish, even though Scotland is part of Britain.  I managed to convince my late husband to STOP doing that; and even had him to where he agreed there was no such thing as a single "English accent" any more than there is a single "American accent", or a single "Australian accent".  (The latter he knew, because of my family .. I have one accent, my sister-in-law has a different accent, my daughter-in-law another different accent, my BFF a different accent again; but we're all Australians speaking Australian English.)  smiley

My nationality is British.  I speak English.
I agree Lesley .My  husband is a retired British officer, neither  he nor  his parents were born in Britain. He was born British, he speaks English. ( and unconciously adopts the regional twang of the person hes talking with).

I was born in England but I am also British. (I can't really comment on my accent; probably a mix of 'estuary English' and received pronunciation, not reflective of my Northamptonshire  birthplace)
Thank you Helen ;-)

and unconsciously adopts the regional twang of the person he's talking with


Don't we all?

+2 votes
What a can of worms you opened with this question!

I would add that many of us dislike the abbreviation "Brit".  

And no-one has mentioned the correct way of determining a citizen of the United Kingdom's nationality. You ask who they support in international Soccer or Rugby matches. This is the real answer.   By this method you would find that I'm English!  Cricket doesn't work the same way because only England plays at the highest level.
by Madelaine Kirke G2G6 Mach 2 (28.9k points)
+3 votes

This is a Genealogy Forum, so there are three different answers to your question,

  1. Covered very fully already, but not entirely agreed:  Today England, Scotland and Wales are all part of Great Britain, and inhabitants can and do call themselves British, but may prefer to call themselves Scots, Welsh or English depending on where they live, or if they prefer, their principal ancestry.  People from the Scillies, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are sometimes referred to by themselves or others as British even though they are from other British Isles not Great Britain.  People from Northern Ireland can become violent over whether they are British, Irish, both or neither.
  2. From about 1400 to about 1840 all people from Ireland were British, even those who were fiercely anti-English.  They were also all Irish, even those who were fiercely pro-English: this is part of the reason why almost all pre 1920 Irish immigrants to the USA insist they are Irish and celebrate St Patricks Day even though their ancestors may be protestants from the North.
  3. From about 700 to about 1300 the inhabitants of the British Isles plus Britanny in modern France were either Danes, Anglo-Saxons or British, The Danes inhabited most of Northern England and the Pale around Dublin in Ireland.
    The AngloSaxons inhabited south and southwest England and the lowlands of Scotland,  They were gradually becoming indistinguishable from the Danes.  The British were the inhabitants of Brittany in modern France, Cornwall at the southwest tip of England, Wales, Cumbria (the mountain area of modern England linking Wales to Scotland,) Scotland itself, gradually including the Lowlands, and Ireland, gradually including the Pale.  All of these areas included mostly people who spoke some version of Gaelic rather than English or Norman-French.

The last two points are only significant to people dealing with ancestors born before 1850 or even before 1300.

by David Horsley G2G6 Mach 1 (10.7k points)

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