Made in Great Britain, Made in the UK or Made in the British Isles?

Made in Great Britain and Made in UK are often used interchangeably. We’ve done it here at Make it British, but there is a difference between the phrases. You may not know what that difference is, so here’s an explanation of the terminology of the British Isles to clear up any confusion.

Made in Britain or Made in UK: Terminology of the British Islespx
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Made in Great Britain, made in the UK or made in the British Isles? Which do you think should be the right term to use for labelling a British-made product? At Make it British we are now erring towards using ‘made in UK’ a lot more.


I remember, not long after I started Make it British, a very nice man got in touch with me from Northern Ireland. He pointed out to me, that by using the term ‘made in Britain’, I was excluding anything that was made in Northern Ireland. So, I try not to make that mistake anymore by using made in UK.


I was horrified at the time when I discovered that I’d made such a schoolgirl error by using ‘made in Britain’ and ‘made in UK’ interchangeably. I remember rushing off to research it online.  So that you haven’t got to do that, here’s an explanation of the difference between the terms.

Made in Great Britain

Great Britain

Firstly, let’s look at Great Britain which geographically refers to the Island that contains England, Scotland and Wales. But politically, it also refers to the island of England, Scotland and Wales together with the surrounding islands that are offshore from the mainland


Britain, the name on its own, originally referred to England, Scotland and Wales, and a small part of Northern France many, many years ago. When that part of Northern France split off and became known as Brittany, Britain became Great Britain, adding the word ‘Great’ to differentiate it from the French territory.


Made in the United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Secondly, there is the United Kingdom. This is actually a shortening of term ‘the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.


It refers to the sovereign state of the island of Great Britain and the north eastern part of Ireland and many smaller islands around the edge.  When you say made in UK you are referring to England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the islands around the edge that are part of the sovereign state.


Made in the British Isles

British Isles

There is also the British Isles. This is where it sometimes gets confusing because the British Isles is actually a geographical term that refers to the United Kingdom, all of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. 


Made in Ireland


Finally you’ve got the island of Ireland on its own. This refers to the Republic of Ireland, in the south, and Northern Ireland, to the north east.


Up until the early 20th century, the whole of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. When Ireland became its own Republic, Northern Ireland remained part of the UK. Hence the rather long-winded name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


So, that’s the difference between Great Britain, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, The British Isles and Ireland. And why there’s a difference between saying ‘made in UK’ and ‘made in Britain’.


If you say ‘made in Britain’, you’re excluding Northern Ireland. At Make it British we certainly don’t want to leave anyone out. That’s one of the reasons why we’re using ‘made in UK’ a lot more than we are ‘made in Britain’.


Google searches for Made in UK vs. Made in Britain

It’s also worth noting, certainly if you sell online, that ‘made in UK’ is used in significantly more internet searches by people than ‘made in Britain’. Google trends show that over the last 12 months there were more than double the number of searches containing the phrase ‘made in UK’ compared to ‘made in Britain’. That difference was 11 times more when looking at the shopping category.

Made in Great Britain V Made in UK Google Trends

The difference was greater again for searches from outside of the UK. People searching for products made here from abroad more likely to use ‘made in UK’ or ‘made in the UK’ than ‘made in Britain’. (Note: Google considers made in UK’ and ‘made in the UK’ the same.  


If you’re selling products online, it’s worth taking this into consideration when you select the search terms that you want to be found for. For example, if you’re making childrenswear in the UK, using the search term ‘childrenswear made in UK’ is much more likely to be searched for than ‘childrenswear made in Britain’.

Want to listen to a podcast on this topic? Check out episode 154 of the Make it British Podcast ‘Made in UK vs Made in Britain’

23 thoughts on “Made in Great Britain, Made in the UK or Made in the British Isles?”

  1. The official name “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” exists as the short form “the United Kingdom”. In order not to leave any doubt, the label “Made 100% in the United Kingdom”, or “Entirely Manufactured in the United Kingdom” could be possibilities. This tells us nothing about the origin of the materials of course.

  2. An interesting conundrum. Britain is a generic term which can refer to the either Great Britain (the island), the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or The British Isles (depending on context). Previously it was not unusual for the term Britain to also include the empire (Although more properly referred to as The British Empire.) So the main use was and should be a political region than a geographical one.
    People generally understand Britain to mean the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Also, with the political changes taking place and the possibility of Scotland becoming independent, we might lose The United Kingdom; so the label would no longer apply.
    Made in Britain would be my choice.

    1. People can generally understand something to mean a thing and all be wrong too. Usage does not equal definition.

  3. We spent a fair amount of time thinking about this before finally deciding to stamp on “Handmade in Great Britain” on our bicycle’s name plate. In part this was because “Great Britain” is less of a mouth full and requires less space on a label than “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. But also felt it was a better fit for our brand than the alternatives and would resonate more strongly with our customers.

    I suppose you would have to balance how accurate & inclusive you feel you need to be against the impact that might have on the value of the marque.

  4. The term Great Britain or Britain cannot include Northern Ireland, end of story. So the official term, the United Kingdom (until Ireland is united……….) should surely be used. In fact, the site name should be changed to makeit……. that’s the problem; what is the adjective ? Makeitunitedkingdomish ?

  5. Catherine madge

    I think that ‘Made in Britain’ is a good term to use. Made in Great Britain does use the adjective reminding us Britain is great, so why not be proud of it!

    1. The term ‘Great’ in Great Britain does not mean ‘fantastic’ it just means ‘big’ or ‘large’. The largest island in the British Isles is called Great Britain in the same way the largest Island in the Canaries is called ‘Grand’ Canaria. The Germans call it Grossbritannien, where again ‘Gross’ means big (and not bad).

  6. I’m addressing this in a more local frame for a local promotion: Made in Forest Hill.

    Where items come from further afield I’ll be referring to them as Made in London, Made in England or Made in UK depending on which is the most local I can claim, if any.

    1. I agree with Penelope. It would be a great pity if moves to establish a standard formula such as “Made in Britain” led to it replacing “Made in England”, “Made in Scotland” and so on.

    2. Many years ago I was taken to task over using ‘Made in Britain’ because of EU labeling rules. To get round this, I changed the label on our products to ‘Made in the Black Country’, as this related to both the area of manufacture and the cradle of Britain’s manufacturing heritage. This was fine if I sold locally, but further afield nobody had a clue where the Black country was. Using local town names will result in the same problem, especially if the items are exported. Many American towns have the same names as English ones, so it is important that the Country of origin is stated. Made in Forest Hill, England perhaps?

  7. David Courtney

    I believe that the naming is quite immaterial to all of this.
    The most important element is agreeing on a logo which covers all bases. And this, in my view, has to be some kind of incarnation of the Union flag. This is recognised world-wide and needs NO FURTHER EXPLANATION.
    Whether manufacturers then further embellish it with Made in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom is academic and may be left to the will and wish of those whose patriotism is led by their actual physical location………….
    Let’s celebrate this diversity while displaying homogeneity at national level!

  8. Maureen Foster

    I suppose we will have to wait and see what Scotland do when they get a vote whether to stay as part of Great Britain!?!

  9. For now, made in Britain will do. BUT, if the Scots & Welsh want to be independent, ( an untruth, because they will still be governed by a foreign power, the EU!) then lets joyfully have good old made in England! Lots of foreigners refer to Britain as England anyway.

  10. Made in the UK has many advantages.
    Obviously, the main one is that it’s the most correct term. But it’s also nice and short, which makes it ideal for use in a logo (which was what started this thread in the first place). At the Olympics, Great Britain was shortened to GB for similar reasons. TeamGB was a snappy little soundbite – Team Great Britain is such a mouthful! UK is a neat, short abbreviation for United Kingdom, lends itself to use online, in web addresses, social media and so on. I would prefer to label my products Made in the UK.

  11. … but Northern Ireland / Ulster and Eire are part of the British Isles, aren’t they?
    As you comment, there’s no UK equivalent of adjective for British, so my vote goes for Britain / British.
    Makes it very difficult to search for UK-ish stuff on the web, though – have to search ‘Made in England’, ‘Made in Scotland, ‘Made in Wales’, ‘Made in Ulster’, ‘Made in Northern Ireland’, ‘Made in Britain’, ‘Made in the UK’!

  12. I recently contacted a company that states on their product that it is ‘MADE IN THE BRITISH ISLES’.
    I asked if the product was made in Republic of Ireland or the UK and received a response that they do not share commercial information and flatly refused to share with me actual place of origin.

    It appears that some products made in the Republic of Ireland hide under the term British Isles to somehow suggest that the product could be made in the UK.

  13. The man from Northern Ireland was right.Great Britain refers to the Union of England and Wales with Scotland in 1707.The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland encompasses the Province of Northern Ireland (after partition in 1921)as well.We should employ the term ‘Made in the UK’.

  14. I vaguely remember from Childhood that products made in Scotland could not be labelled as “Made in Scotland” but required to be labelled as “Made in the UK” or “Made in Great Britain” or such but not using the word “Scotland”. Is this correct?

  15. Be careful with ‘made in british isles’ though – it isn’t popular in Republic of Ireland where the name implies the islands are sort of Britain, whereas they are 2 completely separate countries

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