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British is the adjectival form of Britain. In terms of etymology, it is derived from Pretannic, a term once used as collective description for the inhabitants of both Great Britain and Ireland. For full detail of its use see British Isles (terminology).

The term can be seen in the following contexts:

  • In a geographical context, it usually applies to someone or something from the island of Great Britain, or to someone or something from the United Kingdom or the Crown Dependencies.
  • In a political context it can be applied to a person or object from, or the people or nation of:
    • 1707 to 1801 – Kingdom of Great Britain
    • 1801 to 1922 – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
    • 1922 to date – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
    • The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (the Crown Dependencies).
    • The British Empire, notably British North America and British India
    • Additionally the prefix British was often applied to an area or territory governed by or a dependent territory of the United Kingdom, for example the British Virgin Islands, the British Indian Ocean Territory, or British Columbia.
  • In the phrase the 'British Isles'
  • In an historical context it can refer to territory of the British Empire, or a dependent territory of the United Kingdom, or territory under occupation of British forces.
  • As a term used by linguists for British English dialects collectively, or of the extinct British language (Celtic), now called "British" or, more correctly, Brythonic. ("British language" is never used when "English language" is meant; historically most English writers from the Tudor period up to the 19th century referred to the Welsh language as "British" or "the British tongue", and to the Welsh as "Britons".)
  • In an ethnological context it refers to a person of British nationality and/or descent whether resident in the United Kingdom or abroad.
  • Anthropologists sometimes apply it to the Brythonic-speaking people who once inhabited the island now known as Britain south of the Firth of Forth or the earlier Pretani, who incorporated people throughout the British Isles.
  • In a competition or sporting context it can refer to a competitor or a number of competitors representing the United Kingdom (or in the case of the Olympics, Great Britain) in a sporting event, but who does not otherwise possess a strong affiliation with the United Kingdom.

The similarities between British and American English

This is one of a series of articles about the differences between American English and British English, which, for the purposes of these articles, are defined as follows: American English (AmE) is the form of English used in the United States, and British English (BrE) is the form of English used in the United Kingdom and the rest of the British Isles. It includes all English dialects used within the British Isles.

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