Currently we have two tags:

  1. (95 Questions tagged)
  2. (15 Questions tagged)

Furthermore, has a usage excerpt and a summary while does not.

As the two tags are essentially for the same purpose, to avoid redundancy, I propose that we should do something about it.

We could take either one of the following approaches:

  1. Nuke (The tag, not the country)
  2. Make a synonym of .

I prefer the second approach personally. Thoughts?

EDIT: It has been two days but a clear consensus on the matter has not presented itself yet. I am not sure If I am the one who gets to break the tie. Let's wait till monday and see if community decides by then. Still nothing visible, closest we have gotten is 1,1,0. I assume a little more wait until one proposal gets at least 3x votes than the closest one ought to do the trick to reflect the community consensus properly. Alternatively, I'd like any of our mods to weigh in on when should we accept the current highest voted proposal.

  • 5
    By the looks of things, we aren't going to get a clear consensus.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 13, 2018 at 18:47
  • 3
    I guess we Brits (whatever/whoever/wherever we really are) owe everyone else an apology for causing so much tag confusion... Jan 14, 2018 at 1:27
  • If only that were the only thing our country had to apologise for...! ;)
    – Ne Mo
    Jan 14, 2018 at 13:52
  • 1
    Are we attempting to make Britain Great again? :-) Jan 15, 2018 at 21:24
  • 3
    IMHO, without a clear consensus we should not be doing anything. Jan 16, 2018 at 13:06
  • 5
    @NSNoob Glad you don't want to nuke Great Britain (the country) ;)
    – TheHonRose
    Jan 17, 2018 at 0:16

5 Answers 5


I've actually been working on a proposal to reogranise the British tags. It's a somewhat complicated topic though, and sure to generate many conflicting opinions. The two main issues as I see them are:

  1. Britain is an ambiguous term that can mean Great Britain the island, or the United Kingdom, or the Kingdom of Great Britain.

  2. Great Britain is ambiguous term that can mean either the island or the kingdom.

The purpose of tags is to sort questions into useful categories.. This means that tags should strike a balance between specificity and generality, and ideally be relatively unambiguous and intuitive to use. While editing the excerpts can help, the reality is that most people don't bother reading them. Case in point, right now contains questions including the Kingdom of Great Britain, the United Kingdom, the British Empire, and the island of Great Britain.

So, my proposal is:

  • create a new tag : This has the great advantage of being an unambiguously geographical and well understood term, unlike which is both an island and a kingdom. The British Isles taken as a whole is also reasonably sized for a general regional tag, since we already have , , , and for more specific questions. If people are adamantly opposed to grouping Ireland together with the UK, an alternative is which exclude Ireland. But in my opinion this is unnecessarily specific.

  • make a "synonym" of : Because Britain is an ambiguous term with conflicting definitions, it is better to avoid it altogether. I believe the redirect is appropriate because Britain is a common abbreviation for the UK, and many1 existing2 questions3 use the tag that way anyway. We can include usage notes in the tag redirecting people to or another appropriate tag.

The second question is what to do with . We could maintain it as a separate tag for the Kingdom of Great Britain, which is, in theory, the existing usage. In practice, it is frequently misused in confusion with - see below for examples. Evidently this tag is non intuitive for our users, and I would further argue that it is unnecessarily fragmentary. Therefore, my proposal is to:

  • 2
    Great proposal, only problem that I can see is with british-isles this is unambiguously geographical and can be used to cover the island of Great Britain., this leaves out Ireland which is a part of the British Isles but isn't a part of Great Britain, geographically speaking not politically.
    – NSNoob
    Jan 11, 2018 at 8:59
  • @NSNoob That's true. I was thinking we could include Ireland in that tag. But alternatively we could also name the geographic tag British Islands, which I believe the technical term for the British Isles - Ireland.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 11, 2018 at 9:03
  • 2
    Wow. Really impressed you're willing to dive on this grenade. Residents of the, er, mostly English-speaking islands off the west coast of Europe, get really exercised over minor nuances of these terminology issues and I'm not entirely convinced they all see eye-to-eye with each other on them.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jan 11, 2018 at 16:35
  • @T.E.D. That's why I never got around to proposing it before xD
    – Semaphore
    Jan 11, 2018 at 16:37
  • @Semaphore I'll give it some thought. I agree that it's a mess at the moment. The language matters to a lot of people (note the history of nationalism in Ireland, Scotland and Wales!). It's begging to be overhauled, but I can't see United Kingdom working as the tag for the kingdom of Great Britain, or Great Britain working as a synonym for British Isles. I think the diagram illustrates the problem though. Jan 11, 2018 at 17:50
  • @sempaiscuba Yeah, from a practical point of view it's essentially the same polity so I don't see the utility of a separate tag, but as you said, people are sensitive to the language... hence my hesitation, and my proposed option to keep great-britain for the Kingdom of Great Britain. Alternatively, we can proactively move questions off that tag and just don't use it. I guess on a geographic level, I rather cast a broad net and cover all the islands than to have, say, the Isle of Mann missing out.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 11, 2018 at 20:16
  • 2
    I have a real problem with british-islands. It may be technically correct, but I cannot recall ever having heard it used - and certainly not in everyday speech/writing.
    – TheHonRose
    Jan 18, 2018 at 0:26
  • 1
    @TheHonRose Yes, my preference is very much to just group everything under british-isles. I'm not a huge fan of hyperspecialised tags in general (also why I don't want a separate great-britain tag). But based on the votes on NSNoob's comment apparently people take offense at lumping Ireland together with Great Britain (the island), so... =/
    – Semaphore
    Jan 18, 2018 at 0:52
  • 2
    @Semaphore I take your point, but really think british-islands would confuse people. It would confuse me, and I'm British - er English er - both! We do like to confuse foreigners ;)
    – TheHonRose
    Jan 18, 2018 at 15:36
  • 1
    @TheHonRose I agree, I've re-edited my proposal again to make clear my preference for one broad regional tag. Unfortunately there's just no way to please everyone :(
    – Semaphore
    Jan 18, 2018 at 16:39
  • 2
    @Semaphore No, we're not going to please everyone. Most Britons use Britain to mean The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (well, it's less of a mouthful!) and some people (I think mainly non-British) still use England to mean the UK. But historically the history of a number of small kingdoms/principality has become inextricably interwoven, so there's not a lot we can do about it!
    – TheHonRose
    Jan 18, 2018 at 17:49
  • Well I believe this is it then? We have waited for two months and your proposal clearly has the lead.
    – NSNoob
    Mar 28, 2018 at 14:56
  • @NSNoob I think we were hoping to get 3:1 before making any changes, but I suppose so. I'll look into implementing in a couple of weeks.
    – Semaphore
    Mar 28, 2018 at 15:03
  • Yeah that's what I was hoping for as well but that one elusive upvote isn't coming I suppose, I have been checking every few days or so, it's stuck at 8 vs 3.
    – NSNoob
    Mar 28, 2018 at 15:05
  • 1
    @inappropriateCode I think it's safe to say a consensus has formed, so I'm going to look into implementing this in a least-disruptive manner.
    – Semaphore
    Oct 9, 2019 at 12:07


As I understand it, the function of tags is to allow questions about particular topics or events to be found quickly. As such, we should probably be careful of removing tags which help to find information. The numbers of questions may be relatively small now, but they will hopefully grow as the site grows.

In this case, the problem is not a straightforward one, and is complicated by history, geography and politics. The language matters to a lot of people (note the history of nationalism in Ireland, Scotland and Wales!) The following diagram will give some illustration of what I mean:


And even that does not capture the full complexity! I hope that I don't tread on too may toes in what follows. If I do, I can only apologise and hope that I have only trodden lightly!

I think there are logically two ways to look at this if we are going to decide what tags are likely to be needed to capture this complexity: top-down or bottom-up.

I'm going to try a bottom-up approach.

In its modern sense, "Britain" is a rather nebulous, often ill-defined term. However, when that term is used the component parts that go to make up the whole will probably be some, or all, of the following:

When James VI and I succeeded to the throne of England on the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, he had three separate and distinct crowns: the crown of England, the crown of Scotland and the crown of Ireland. The term Great Britain was actually first used during the reign of James VI & I as a kind of shorthand to refer to the (then still separate) Kingdoms of England and Scotland.

The Kingdom of Great Britain was created by the union of the crowns of Scotland and England. The name was defined in the first sections of the Union with Scotland Act 1706 and the Union with England Act 1707.

So, for example, the 1706 Act states:

"That the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall upon the First day of May which shall be in the year One thousand seven hundred and seven and for ever after be united into one Kingdom by the name of Great Britain"

Which left two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland.

On a side-note, Wales had been conquered and occupied by Edward I in the 13th century, and was effectively a colony of England until it was formally annexed through the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 & 1542, which made it a part of the Kingdom of England. This is also why there is no "Welsh" component in the union flag:

union flag

and may also explain why we have relatively few questions explicitly about Wales so far, and don't (yet) have a tag for it.

In 1800, the Union with Ireland Act united the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. The act states that:

"the said kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland shall, upon the first day of January which shall be in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and one, and for ever after, be united into one kingdom, by the name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland"

The name was amended to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland when southern Ireland became independent of the UK from 1922.

So, what I suggest is the following:

On the basis of the history set out above, I think it makes sense to retain the to refer explicitly to events involving the Kingdom of Great Britain, and to create a usage excerpt and summary to reflect that. The tag really does not mean the same thing.

The tag should be used to refer to the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (from 1800 - 1922) and/or the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (from 1922 - ). The usage excerpt and summary for the tag should be updated to reflect that.

Which still leaves us with a couple of problems. The first of these may be illustrated by a couple of examples. How should we tag questions that are explicitly about Roman Britain (distinct from the rest of the Roman Empire), or about post-Roman Britain before the emergence of an entity that was recognisably "England"?

It is in situations like this where the less-precise term may be useful. However, it is probably better to use the unambiguous , with an appropriate usage excerpt and summary to make it clear that the function of the tag is a "catch-all". We can then maintain as a synonym for .

A quick glance at the list of questions tagged shows a number that should probably be re-tagged as either , (e.g. Why were British ships not of the same quality as French and Spanish ships until the latter part of the 18th century?) or (e.g. How did the Crimean war change British society?)

The other problem is Ireland. We currently have and . The former states that:

The questions may refer to both the island itself and Ireland as a country.

While the latter currently has only 4 tagged questions.

It may be that we should consider having three tags:

  • : for questions referring to the island of Ireland or the Kingdom of Ireland until 1800
  • : for questions about the Independent republic of Ireland from 1922
  • : (probably with the tag synonym "Ulster") for questions about Northern Ireland after 1922.
  • 3
    I maintain that if we are to have a geographic tag, the unambiguous british-isles is much better than britain.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 13, 2018 at 18:49
  • 2
    @Semaphore That's why I suggested making british-isles a synonym for britain. We could have it the other way round, but I suspect that britain is likely to be more intuitive for most people than british-isles when considering a subset of those islands (e.g. Roman Britain or the Danelaw). Jan 13, 2018 at 20:39

These terms have formal definitions. Britain is distinct from Great Britain. Combining them would be like making "USA" = "Alabama".

  • The Wiki page for Great Britain starts with "Great Britain, also known as Britain" though. Let's say if we were to write a tag excerpt for Great Britain to specify when it should be used instead of Britain, what would you propose?
    – NSNoob
    Jan 11, 2018 at 8:35
  • 3
    The Analogy for USA=Alabama would be more applicable if I were suggesting to make Great Britain a synonym for England, just saying.
    – NSNoob
    Jan 11, 2018 at 8:39
  • 1
    Colloquially Britain is certainly equivalent to Great Britain.
    – Edlothiad
    Jan 11, 2018 at 8:40
  • 5
    @NSNoob Let's just say that the situation is more than a little complicated! Jan 11, 2018 at 17:53
  • 1
    @MarkCWallace I think the situation is more akin to using america as a synonym for usa. Normal in common parlance, but wrong.
    – TheHonRose
    Jan 16, 2018 at 5:23

I think that the following tags would be appropiate:

British Isles (geography)

British Islands (geography)

Ireland (island)

Ireland (republic)

Ireland (Kingdom or KIngdom of Ireland)

Irish kingdoms/medieval Ireland

Great Britain (Island)

Great Britain (kingdom 1707-1800)

England (Kingdom 927-1707)



Scotland (Kingdom 843-1707)

United Kingdom (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland/Northern Ireland 1801-present)


Welsh kingdoms/medieval Wale

I think that they would be almost all the needed tags.


I'm mildly against this.

Technically at least they could be two different things. Britain is an island, Great Britain is a polity.

Although it excludes Northern Ireland, Great Britain comprises somewhat more than the island of Britain. It includes the Isle of Wight, the Hebrides, Orkneys, Shetlands, Anglesey, and so on.

While negligible in size, the culture of these places is very strong, and diverse both with regard to other and to Britain (England, Scotland and Wales are obviously hetrogenous too, but that's another story).

So, a question could be about Great Britain, but not Britain. Moreover, any question can't be about Great Britain if it deals with events before the 18th century; the Romans, Saxons, Normans etc settled Britain, and Great Britain didn't exist yet.

Division should be:

  • British Isles: the whole shebang. British and Irish Isles should be a synonym.

  • united-kingdom for the currently existing country, 1801 onwards. This implies Northern Ireland, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, and others which aren't counted e.g. in GB-only general election results. If before 1922, this means Ireland too.

  • great-britain for questions about British history 1707 onward. People should specify Northern Ireland or Ireland if their question relates to that too, because that's not included in the tag.

  • britain is the island. This should be reserved for ancient history questions, or where it's intended as a geographical term.

  • Fair point, I'll amend that part
    – Ne Mo
    Jan 12, 2018 at 12:53
  • 1
    Note that Britain is not the island. The island is actually called Great Britain. I agree with creating british-isles, which I proposed as well, but I'm not convinced we should maintain a separate tag for the island of Great Britain, and even if we do, I don't think britain is the right name for the tag.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 13, 2018 at 18:40
  • I suppose that's true, but is there any chance of people confusing the island of Britain it with 'petty Britain' (Brittany)? We should take account of common usage as well as dictionary definitions
    – Ne Mo
    Jan 14, 2018 at 0:54
  • My point was that Britain isn't an island, it's an abbreviation of various things including the polity of the United Kingdom. It's pretty common usage to call the UK Britain after all.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 14, 2018 at 1:55
  • Yeah, I get it. I just think Britain would be the best name for the island, as Great Britain politically means more than the island. I suppose it depends if you agree that the island needs its own tag. If not, we'd have to make the tag 'great-britain', as that is both country and island's actual name, right?
    – Ne Mo
    Jan 14, 2018 at 10:13
  • One other note; it wasn't until after the Romans that the island got called great. When Celts moved to Armorica it was necessary to distinguish Britannia Major from Britannia Minor. So when the Romans invaded, they were invading Britain, not Great Britain. I can live with people using the great-Britain tag for the Roman and pre-Roman island, but if anything it's more incorrect than just Britain for post-Roman times.
    – Ne Mo
    Jan 14, 2018 at 10:21
  • Not necessarily great-britain; I offered british-islands as an option for this reason. It's unambiguously geographical. As for ancient history, we could make a new ancient-britain tag a la ancient-rome/china/greece/egypt/etc, or ancient-history + british-isles/british-islands.
    – Semaphore
    Jan 14, 2018 at 11:05

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