I'd like to expand on what mbylander said a bit. There are a few other countries which sometimes get an article also. They are countries whose names describe the land they occupy. The two which come to mind are "The Netherlands" which means "the lowlands" and "The Ukraine" which (probably) meant "the borderlands." Although increasingly, English speakers drop the article from these names.
In general, though, if you don't know if a country should use "the," just don't use it. "Czech Republic" without the article sounds a lot less weird than "the Germany."
In English, the only countries that get articles are the ones in plural (The United States) or that have Republic in their name (The Czech Republic). Some people will also talk about "The Lebanon" or "The Sudan" as specific exceptions to the rule, but otherwise they are generally without articles.
Another example is "The Gambia" (the long, thin country embedded in Senegal) named after the river which it hugs. Apparently the Gambia, colonised by gunboat in the 19th. century, had its borders defined by the range of the boat's gun.
British rivers take the definite article when the word river has been dropped from the full name. The [River] Thames becomes The Thames, and so we also have The Severn - and (in Stockport, my home town) The Tame and The Goyt, which unite to form The Mersey... which later flows through Liverpool.
It is true that it could be interpreted as you say, but it wouldn't normally be understood like that. It is more a matter of emphasis; somebody could be incorrectly pointing at France on a map, asking if it was Great Britain, and I could then tell them "No! Great Britain is here!".
Hello bazda5. Thanks for your comment, but I'm afraid it seems that you're wrong. Hello also RobinB. I've lived in various parts of England for all of the last twenty-six years, visited and known people from almost all the other parts, as well as visiting and knowing people from various parts of Wales and Scotland (I have visited Scotland particularly many, many times), including people from all social and educational backgrounds, and I can say I have never heard of the term 'Britain' being used in this way before, or in any way other than as shorthand for 'Great Britain', however one may choose to use that name (or as in 'British') - nor have I heard of anybody ever using any term at all to refer to England and Scotland but excluding Wales (why would such a term be needed? If anything applies to England but not to Wales, it almost certainly doesn't apply to Scotland either, and similarly anything you want to say about Scotland but not Wales would basically never apply to England).
I looked it up anyway, because even such strong anecdotal evidence is of course still only anecdotal evidence, but I'm afraid I found nothing even hinting at this usage ever having been used. Please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminology_of_the_British_Isles#Geographical_distinctions, as well as the rest of that page, and in particular the Euler diagram https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:British_Isles_Euler_diagram_15.svg at the top. Ordnance Survey (the ultimate authority on geography in Great Britain) doesn't mention a 'Great'-less Britain in its discussion https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/blog/2011/08/whats-the-difference-between-uk-britain-and-british-isles/ of the terminology, but on its 'about' describes itself as a mapping agency for Britain, using the definition including England, Scotland and Wales. I also found this extremely legitimate-looking website http://projectbritain.com/britain.html that prefers the Roman usage of 'Britain' without the 'Great', i.e. England and Wales without Scotland... There's also this somewhat-relevant comment thread on the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,,-84806,00.html where several people talk about what the constituent countries of the UK are on their own and together, with nobody hinting at a distinction between Britain and Great Britain. This explanation for American readers https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/whats-difference-between-england-britain-and-uk-180959558/ makes no mention of it either. This page https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/The-UK-Great-Britain-Whats-the-Difference/ mentions the Roman province of Britannia but explicitly states that in modern usage Britain is short for Great Britain. Lastly, one commenter on here http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2012/01/the-difference-between-the-uk-england-and-great-britain/ also says 'Britain' excludes Scotland (did you perhaps mean to write England and Wales rather than England and Scotland?), but is corrected by two other commenters that Britain is only short for Great Britain, while one of the other comments also says, "Britain is an island..."
bazda5 and RobinB, do either of you have a reasonable (or any written) source for Britain referring to England and Scotland but not Wales? It might make the discussion easier.
Hello ADJD4 Ok I hope I can explain this, the 1707 Act of Union was signed by the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, to form The United Kingdoms of Great Britain. The 1800 Act of Union was between The United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
This created the proper Title for the UK of The United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Wales unfortunately was an annex of England so did not sign the Acts of Union. And is not mentioned.
The official title is long winded so is always shortened to the UK. If you ask anyone from the UK where they are from, no-one will use the official UK title.
Since the 1700 Wales is now reconsigned as a country in its own right and now included in the definition of The United Kingdom.
With regards to Great Britain the title is mainly used in official or sporting events where the UK enters as one nation rather than individual countries. An example would be football /Rugby for individual countries and the Olympics with team GB representing all of the UK.
The difference is more along official and historical lines rather than day to day use, in which case you are right. (Sorry for the history lesson).
As I said, I am actually from the UK - so I already knew that - but thank you anyway. You do seem to have a pretty good understanding of the situation and history.
A couple of minor corrections:
After the Acts of Union 1707, the new state was simply called the 'Kingdom of Great Britain' - the 'United' wasn't added until after the 1800 union, even though the 1707-1800 state was of course also a 'united' kingdom.
The Acts of Union 1800 involved the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland, i.e. the whole of Ireland, so the state they formed was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland didn't separate until 1922 (after which the former was initially known as the Irish Free State); after Ireland's independence was when the UK became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as it is now.
Note 'Kingdom' singular, not plural, in both 'Kingdom of Great Britain', 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland' as well as the current full name.
Great Britain is the actual name of the island that most of England, Scotland and Wales are on, i.e. the largest island in the British Isles, and as you can see in some of the links in my previous comment, even when it's not being used (somewhat inaccurately) to refer to the UK, it is usually used to refer to the whole countries of England, Scotland and Wales together, or equivalently the UK minus NI (including for example in the name of the UK, as in 2.); therefore it's not really true that "the title [Great Britain] is mainly used in official or sporting events..."
I'm not sure there actually are any major sports where the name Great Britain is officially used: as you say, at the Olympics, Team GB represents the UK, not 'Great Britain', despite the abbreviation, and in Football, Rugby etc. outside of the Olympics, the four countries of the UK usually enter individually or else NI is represented by a joint team with Ireland and the other three countries enter individually.
Don't be sorry for a history lesson! :) I mean, maybe be sorry for the inaccuracies, but that's alright.
You're right that Wales was already considered an integral part of the Kingdom of England before the union with Scotland, which is why I was surprised by your comment about 'England and Scotland excluding Wales'. In fact, you haven't addressed in that last comment your original claim about the distinction between Britain and Great Britain.
Yes I condensed and simplified 300 years of history into a few lines. This is a language course not a history one :)
Do you not agree that the inclusion of Wales makes Britain 'Great'. Maybe your not Welsh. (Joking)
Is not Team GB an abbreviation of Team Great Britain?? Its not called team UK.
I think we will disagree with each other on this topic. Which is good. Now for the next topic.
Well, GB is an abbreviation of Great Britain, so in that sense Team GB is an abbreviation of 'Team Great Britain', but I don't think commentators often/officially say anything like, "this is Great Britain's first gold medal in this event since..." - they'd say UK or just Britain, referring to the UK. Because of course Northern Irish athletes are represented in the same team. Maybe I'm wrong about what commentators say, I don't watch the whole Olympics. Having quickly looked it up just now, it seems Team GB does indeed represent the whole UK including NI and even the dependencies.
I don't disagree with you (I only said "it seems that you're wrong"), I just want to find out more from either you or Robin B - namely, where did you get the 'Britain=Eng+Scot' thing from? Was that also a joke?
A note about Team GB is that it can consist of athletes from UK overseas territories as well as mainland UK, so it should be referred as team GB .
Yes I am joking about Britain consisting of England and Scotland, and Great Britain being England, Scotland and Wales.
If you interpret Great to mean bigger a Bigger Britain could be said to include Wales. Just a thought!
Hi ADJD4 and bazda5,
First let me state (for the nth. time) that I'm here to learn Polish, neither English nor English history) 8-/ (ani...ani)
Between you, you've covered all the ground I'd want to cover, and my views can only be expressed once I've read up all your links and wikipedia'd a few others. That's not going to happen soon, as I'm in hospital with 'Burnout' (as the Germans say), and I couldn't even rescue my 265-day streak. Ah, well...
Thanks, bazda5 - please accept this lingot from a native of Great Britain!
I'm 25% Welsh and 75% English, as my grandfather was 100% Welsh (though he didn't speak the language), so my father was 50% Welsh.
My brother, who has traced our geneological tree back to the Huguenots in the Bretagne, and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of Parisian Huguenots, believes that we are more than 25% Welsh, as our grandmother probably had some partially Welsh ancestors.