Shouldn't '英' mean Britain rather than England?

As a Scotsman I’ll admit it grates me a little whenever (usually) American media uses the terms England, UK and Britain in the same sentence to mean the same thing. Like when they say “Queen of England”. Other countries are obviously guilty of this too.

Google translate tells me 英 means Britain. Should WK update their definition?


There is a difference between the vocab 英 えい referring to the UK + English, and the kanji that has the meaning of England and English (among other things). :slight_smile:

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Depends how it’s being used. In 英国 it’s definitely short for イギリス, i.e. the whole UK (though, remember this kanji was adopted for use hundreds of years ago, not recently, for what it’s worth).

In 英語, we’d usually say “English,” as the 語 of 英, so that does make it feel like 英 means England there. There’s no Welsh words, for instance, to be learned in studying 英語.

But as with most kanji definitions, there can be gray areas.

I would recommend checking something other than Google Translate though.


Looking at, it has "United Kingdom; Britain"​ for 英 as a word, and “England, English, hero, outstanding, calyx” for 英 as a kanji.

Note the “abbreviation” markers – they’re telling you that 英 on its own isn’t a word[*], but you can see it standalone as an abbreviation for 英語 or 英国/イギリス. In those cases the meaning is just the same as for the words it’s abbreviating, so “English” in the one case and “UK” in the other.

For the kanji meaning, especially at the beginner level most of the words you will see using it will be related to English the language, so “English” is probably a reasonable one-word gloss.

[*] well, you can apparently use it as an alternate way to write 花房 (はなぶさ), but that’s not relevant here…

(Side note: イギリス is originally from the Portugese inglez, inglês, which in turn derives from “English”, but in modern Japanese it means the UK, and イングランド is used for England the country.)


The whole idea of the four nations is quite unique to the U.K., so many people, even in European countries, are confused by it or just unaware of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true for most Japanese people as well. It is a bit like most people seem to be convinced that the Pope lives in Italy or that Vatican City is in Italy.

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It’s not directly related to the topic of discussion, but :eyes: do people really believe that??

It is only anecdotical and based on my personal experience, but here in the U.K. I had to explain to various people that the Pope does not reside in Italy and that Vatican City is not part of Italy.

To be fair… is it not reasonable to say that Vatican City is “in” Italy, even if you are aware it is not part of the same political entity? I mean, if someone is just speaking off the cuff, it doesn’t seem like a strange description.

Unless we just want people to always be careful and say “surrounded by” or whatever.


From a UK perspective, yeah I know the Vatican is technically its own country, but there are a lot of contexts where it doesn’t seem particularly important to specify at that level of detail…


Absolutely, and the same applies to Scotland, England etc: many people know that technically ‘England’ is one of the four nations, but in most situations it can and is used interchangeably with U.K. (as well as Great Britain, although it has a yet another slightly different meaning).


I am not sure. I mean it borders with Italy alone, but having a single border doesn’t seem to be enough reason to say that a country is another. Or do you also generally say that Denmark is in Germany?

You can get to Denmark without passing through Germany, so no, it doesn’t really feel the same to me.

Saying it “is” Italy is wrong no matter how you look at it. But to me it’s like saying a building is in a park even if it’s not part of the park. We understand that to mean it is surrounded by land that comprises the park.

I guess the problem is just that “in” is vague, and therefore people could take what you said to mean you think it’s the same political entity, so maybe people should avoid it. But I wouldn’t jump on anyone who used that phrasing.


In terms of location, sure. I was just wondering if people think it is part of Italy. Which would be weird to me, since it was something I’ve learnt in school. That’s why I was taken aback by the idea of other people thinking the Pope lives in Italy… but I guess a lot of people have different levels of knowledge for sure!

:eyes: Anyway, it’s unrelated to the topic so I shall remove myself from the conversation again. Just found the idea curious.

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I’d say ‘Britain’ is the rarer of the two main possibilities (as far as countries are involved), and basically only applies if 英 is being used as a kanji abbreviation for a country (e.g. in a phrase like ‘Britain-Japan ties’, or in the word 英国). Otherwise, 英 usually means ‘English’ or ‘England’.

I agree that it’s not particularly fair to the other nations that make up the UK, but イギリス is the name that stuck (probably for historical reasons and usage trends), and the official name (グレート-ブリテン及び北アイルランド連合王国=United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is long enough and rare enough that it doesn’t get used instead. You might ask why ブリテン or something similar isn’t just used instead and to that… I have no answer. I’m guessing that it’s just the name that stuck, seeing as…

i.e. it’s probably just the name learnt through first contact. I believe the Portuguese and the Spanish were the first people from Europe to have relatively frequent contact with Japan. (Maybe I’m wrong.)

For what it’s worth, maybe it’s not all bad – all the French-British ribbing in France still usually involves “les Anglais” (‘the English’) and no one else, but I certainly say and see “le Royaume-Uni” (‘the United Kingdom’) a lot more for the country as a whole. Once again, probably historical reasons – the French had beef with the English historically, but I guess not so much the rest of what’s now the UK. (To be clear, I’m not French, so my remarks might be historically incorrect since I didn’t have to learn European history in school – in which case I apologise – but I’ve been living here for a while and that’s my observation from being around my French friends.) It’s the names people are used to that stick, albeit some of us are aware that there’s a difference. (And hopefully more people will realise that too!)


I think it’s just something you have to live with - to many non-english speaking countries, great britain, the uk (and in some cases, even ireland) are all just “england” :man_shrugging:


Even in (English-speaking) Canada. Like, I tend to say I’m of English descent, even though one of my great-grandmothers was Scottish, and that my first trip outside of North America was to England, even though I flew in and out of Glasgow, and stayed a few nights there.


That’s absolutely true, the distinction between the United Kingdom and its various constituents is significant to English-speaking people who are most likely aware of the history and cultural/linguistic differences between them, but when you’re on the other side of the world speaking a completely different language it doesn’t feel all that significant.

Think about India for instance, the many peoples, languages and cultures that exist there, with a complex history. For most “westerners” that’s just one blob though. We don’t usually distinguish Keralite from Punjabi from Bengali, for instance, nor do we understand how significant that distinction would even be. They’re all Indians, aren’t they?


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