a. Of or relating to Great Britain or its people, language, or culture.
b. Of or relating to the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth of Nations.
2. Of or relating to the ancient Britons.
1. (used with a pl. verb) The people of Great Britain.
2. British English.
3. The Celtic language of the ancient Britons.
[Middle English Brittish, from Old English Bryttisc, relating to the ancient Britons, from Bryttas, Britons, of Celtic origin.]
Usage Note: Almost everyone in the British Isles speaks a dialect of English—a legacy of England's historic dominance over the region. Perhaps that is why many Americans treat British and English as if they were synonyms. But such a usage belies the political and cultural diversity of the British Isles, which contain two main islands and a number of smaller ones. The islands are home to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to the Republic of Ireland, and to several smaller political entities such as the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey. How people refer to themselves in this complex situation often depends on their political outlook. The people of Wales and Scotland, for example, are not English; they may call themselves British in the context of their citizenship in the United Kingdom, or they may call themselves Welsh or Scottish in contexts that emphasize their distinct cultural identity. Similarly, residents of England can be called either British or English. Citizens of the Republic of Ireland are neither British nor English, and in fact many of them avoid using the term British Isles itself, regarding it as fundamentally colonialist. In Northern Ireland, the term Irish is preferred by those who favor independence from the United Kingdom, while British is often preferred by those who support continued union with the UK—but many residents consider themselves both Irish and British. In this dictionary, biographical entries use the terms English and Scottish to describe people who were born in England or Scotland before the year 1707, when the two kingdoms were formally united by acts of both countries' parliaments. We use British to describe English and Scottish people born after 1707. (We use the same year as a cutoff for the term Welsh, though Wales was officially annexed by England in the 16th century.) With a few exceptions, we describe those born in Ireland as Irish, regardless of whether they were born under British rule.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
1. relating to, denoting, or characteristic of Britain or any of the natives, citizens, or inhabitants of the United Kingdom
3. (Historical Terms) relating to or denoting the ancient Britons
4. (Historical Terms) of or relating to the Commonwealth: British subjects.
5. (Peoples) (functioning as plural) the natives or inhabitants of Britain
(Languages) the extinct Celtic language of the ancient Britons. See also Brythonic
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
Brit•ish (ˈbrɪt ɪʃ)
1. of or pertaining to Great Britain or its inhabitants.
2. of or pertaining to the island of Britain and its inhabitants, esp. before the division of the island into the principalities of England, Wales, and Scotland in the Middle Ages. n.
(used with a pl. v.
a. the inhabitants of Great Britain, or natives of Great Britain living elsewhere; Britons.
the Celtic-speaking inhabitants of Britain before the Germanic invasions of the 5th century a.d.
[before 900; Middle English Brittische, Old English Bryttisc, derivative of Brytt(as) Britons]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
Britain British Briton
Britain or Great Britain consists of England, Scotland, and Wales. The United Kingdom consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The British Isles refers to Britain, Ireland, and all the smaller islands around the coast.
The nationality of someone from the United Kingdom is British, although some people prefer to call themselves English, Scottish, Welsh, or Northern Irish. It is incorrect and may cause offence to call all British people 'English'.
You can refer to all the people who come from Britain as the British.
I don't think the British are good at hospitality.
The British have always displayed a healthy scepticism towards ideas.
The British can also be used to refer to a group of British people, for example the British representatives at an international conference.
The British have made these negotiations more complicated.
The British had come up with a bold and dangerous solution.
In writing, an individual British person can be referred to as a Briton.
The youth, a 17-year-old Briton, was searched and arrested.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012