Terms that annoy Irish people:

"mainland" = reference to the island of Britain from one in Ireland, suggesting that Ireland is subservient and inferior, and acknowledging Britain's dominance.

"British Isles" = this is still an official geographic term, coined when the two islands were under British rule. Nowadays it is a misnomer, not least since Britain never had any cause or reason to own its smaller neighbour.

Derogatory term historically used by Irish people to describe an Irish person with British sympathies (usually an Irish person); it is quite uncommon to hear it nowadays:

"West Brit"

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Irish, English, British, Welsh and Scottish - what do we understand by these terms and labels - what are the differences? If more people took the trouble to understand, we might not have so much historical misunderstanding and assumptions. This article is not intended to highlight racial stereotypes but achieve the opposite! Neither is this a comprehensive history about these races; plenty is already available. However, some definitions are required to frame this article.


The two islands comprise two independent countries;

  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ("UK")
  • Republic of Ireland ("Eire")

To refer to "Southern Ireland" is incorrect, since the northernmost county in Ireland is Donegal and belongs to the Republic! Confusion also reigns about the province of Ulster, consisting of the six counties of Northern Ireland listed below plus Counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan which belong to the Republic. The Irish provinces no longer have political or administrative significance.

The UK consists of three nations: England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland consists of six counties in Ireland, namely , Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Derry (or sometimes Londonderry) and Tyrone and is governed jointly from London and its own parliament at Stormont, Co. Down.

"British" people come from England, Scotland or Wales. Britain is governed from parliament in Westminster, London; Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own assemblies or parliaments for local government.

"Irish" people originate from the Island of Ireland, the most westerly landmass in Europe. Irish people live in the Republic of Ireland or the North of Ireland. If the latter, and depending upon religious and cultural persuasion, some in Northern Ireland consider themselves closer to Britain since their ancestors were imported ("planted") into Ireland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries from Britain, frequently at the expense of Irish native landowners who were evicted or expelled. Further draconian laws by the British resulted in more misery for the Irish; see Wikipedia's article on the "Penal Laws" to understand the issues (and why resentment against the English is still felt in Ireland).

Otherwise "Irish" people live north and south of the border. It is a misunderstanding to categorise somebody as Irish simply by their catholic religion (more below); many Protestants have served the cause of Irish republicanism, not least Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmett, Arthur Griffiths, W.B. Yeats, Erskine Childers and many more.


It is in the evening time that differences between Irish and British people become particularly apparent.

Irish people tend to socialise and go to sleep later than British people. For example, it is generally acceptable in Ireland to call to somebody's house unannounced in the evening time and be invited in for some hospitality (drink, cup of tea or perhaps some food). In England, most people would expect you to make an arrangement to visit, and would only accept an unexpected visit if it was an emergency or crisis. Likewise, English people do not tend to phone each other after 9pm or 9.30pm, whereas in Ireland most people will not get too excited if you call them up to 11pm.

Friendships are different also - the vast majority of Irish people have a wide range of casual friends, many of whom they know through other friends, or simply meeting them during the course of their day or night! In England, friendships tend to be carefully developed by introduction, typically by someone they might already know.

Finally, when Irish people meet a new friend, they might swap surnames and discover where they each live. The chances are strong, given the relatively small number of people and strong family ties, that they already know someone in the other person's circle of family or friends, or might know the town or city from where the person comes. Since the UK has a far larger population, British people are generally denied the opportunity to see if their new friends have any people they already know!

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