The word British has several different uses. See the article on Britain for more details on the development and use of the word Britain.
- In a geographical context, it usually applies to a person or object from, or the people or nation of ("the British") the island of Great Britain—though, confusingly, the term "British Isles" is commonly used to include also the (non-British) island of Ireland. The term "Briton" is increasingly used to describe a British citizen. Sometimes it applies to an area or territory currently or formerly under British rule, for example the British Virgin Islands, the British Indian Ocean Territory or British Columbia, now a province of Canada.
- In a political context, before the Act of Union 1800, it applies to a person or object from, or the people or nation of ("the British") the Kingdom of Great Britain; following that act, it often applies to the United Kingdom (more specifically, until 1927 the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and thereafter the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) or territories under U.K. control. People who term themselves "British" typically also identify themselves with another nation under U.K. control. Peoples generally considering themselves to be British include the English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish (though many in Northern Ireland do not regard themselves as British), Manx, as well as the people in the nations of Jersey, Guernsey, Gibraltar and Bermuda.
- In an historical context, it refers to a territory or person with allegiance to the British Empire. (This usage of the word may be controversial, since many subjects of the empire were included in it by force and did not have any allegiance to it.)
- In a linguistic context, it refers to the various forms of the English language known as British English.
- In an ethnological context, it refers to the Brythonic people who once inhabited much of Great Britain, and a person of British descent either resident in the United Kingdom or abroad.