Difference Between English and British

English vs British

It is very common to get confused between languages and nationalities. Often certain nationalities are so intertwined with the languages they use that it is almost impossible to remember that there are other words that are used for those nationalities. English and British are two such words that are often confused with one another.


English can either be an ethnicity or language, depending on the context in which it is spoken. English refers to the nation or an ethnic group that is native to England whose identity dates back to the early medieval origin. Back then they were known as Angelcynn in old English. English people in England are British citizens as England is one of the countries that form the United Kingdom.

The English population is said to have derived from the earlier Britons (or Brythons), the Germanic tribes such as Anglo-Saxons as well as Danes, Normans and other groups. The English people are also the source of the English language. Not only that, they are the birth place of the Common Law system, the Westminster system and a myriad of major sports in the world today.


British refers to the nationality of the people who were born in the United Kingdom, Crown Dependencies, British Overseas Territories, and their descendants as British nationality law governs that modern British nationality can be acquired from a descent from British nationals, as well. Although the notion of being British existed during the late Middle Ages, it was during the Napoleonic wars between the first French empire and Britain that a greater sense of British nationality was triggered. It further developed during the Victorian era. However, the notion of being “British” became somewhat superimposed on certain much older identities such as the Scots, English and Welsh cultures.

British people are descended from a large mix of people who settled in Great Britain before the eleventh century. Celtic, Prehistoric, Anglo-Saxon, Roman and Norse influences are brought in along with Normans while cultural and linguistic exchange between people from Wales, England and Scotland too contributed towards this. Today, the British identity consists of a multi-national, multi-cultural society due to immigration, interblending of cultures that had taken place over the years.

What is the difference between English and British?

There is no doubt that English and British are interrelated. However, one cannot use these two words interchangeably due to the simple fact that they indeed, stand for completely different identities in many aspects.

• English refers to people of England. British refers to the natives of the United Kingdom, Crown Dependencies, British Overseas Territories, and their descendants.

• English is also a language. British is not a language.

• All English people are British citizens. All British people are not English.

• The identity of English dates back to the early medieval times. The British identity is of more recent origin dating back to the late middle ages.

• The English feels that the British identity is superimposed upon the English whose distinctness even today struggles against the more homogenized British identity.

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