Wikipedia:British Isles Terminology task force/BITERM guideline proposal draft 1 (sandbox working version)

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This is the sandbox version of the working proposed guidline for the use of the term "British Isles". The full name of the guideline is as yet undecided. The main proposal page is at WP:BITASK - the British Isles terminology task force.

For ease of reference, the current version (without the comments etc) is here.


"These guidelines cover the use of the term British Isles on Wikipedia. Although 'British Isles' is widely and most typically used as a geographical term (in the sense of physical geography), it must be recognised that many editors on Wikipedia consider it to be a politicised term too. British Isles is the term used to describe the two large island groups of Great Britain and Ireland as a wider archipelago. However, the term can cause confusion in relation to the island of 'Ireland', which is occupied by two countries, the sovereign state country of Republic of Ireland which is not British, and the smaller British constituent country of Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom. Although the Republic of Ireland (often known as just ‘Ireland’) is technically part of the British Isles, many on Wikipedia do not wish for it to be misidentified as being 'British'. Alongside general use of the term British Isles, this guideline specifically focuses on the accepted use of the term regarding the Republic of Ireland.

Reliable sources can be found where the Channel Islands are said to be part of the British Isles (and this can be seen as a 'tradition' by some), however Wikipedia keeps to the strict geographical meaning of the archipelago in this guideline, and does not include those British islands off the coast of Europe in its definition.

In the wider world the term "British Isles" is often used in a colloquial and sometimes exaggerated sense, however a strict guideline-based use is recommended for the term on Wikipedia.

REVISION COMMENTS: There is no country called "Republic of Ireland". The country is question is called "Ireland". It is more correct to restate the sentence as "country named Ireland (referred to as the republic of Ireland)" or something similar. --HighKing (talk) 14:45, 1 October 2008 (UTC)

REVISION COMMENTS: It doesn't really matter what Wikipedia editors consider "British Isles" to be. What matters is what reputable sources consider it to be, which is mostly geographic but also politically loaded, contentious and (IIRC) old-fashioned. Similarly, the Republic of Ireland is not "technically" part of the British Isles. It is typically included in the British Isles, but it's not universal so "technically" isn't the right word here. Finally, this guideline isn't about ROI/Ireland use so shouldn't get into it. Let's not mix up separate issues. (talk) 08:31, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

But this is a guideline to define how best the term is used on Wikipedia: when examples of usage are so conflicting, only consensus can settle on one single guideline. Such as whether to include the Channel Islands or not, for example (or perhaps be flexible on it). Wikipedia is built on debate and consensus. --Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
It's not up to Wikipedia to create a new definition, in fact it's prohibited. The British Isles includes the Channel Islands. Certainly the people in the Channel Islands think so. (comment repeated below in similarly relevant section) (talk) 08:35, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Hi. this task force is *not* going to create a new definition. Just to reiterate what Matt has said - the task force will try to gather opinions together and attempt to identify a consistent usage guide through consensus. For example, just to get an idea on the complexities we're facing, you state that the British Isles includes the Channel Islands. Well, from a scientific POV, if you are using the term to mean the archipelago of islands northwest of France, then the Channel islands are not part of that geographical feature. But on WP, current consensus decides that they are included. And this task force will document and recommend further examples such as this. --HighKing (talk) 13:04, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
The definitions that Matt lists on his own talk page include the Channel Islands. It's not up to us to create different definitions depending on us having "consensus" on it. (talk) 13:53, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
The diagram I made (currently on my talk page) gives two boundries for the British Isles, 'geographical' and 'traditional'!! Isn't it clear? Both definitions are widely used - that is a simple fact, and it has to be recognised by Wikipedia, whatever its approach on recommended usage is to be (and I would suggest a flexible one on the Channel Islands, making clear the ambiguity). This is the diagram you refer to:
Geographical and traditional boundries
It's a pretty diagram but as far as I can see there is one definition of British Isles and it includes the Channel Islands. I could make pretty diagrams with made up definitions too. (talk) 15:35, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
This is where you show your true colours. Do you really think I would repeat such a thing? For heaven's sake - you must be an adult by now. And why would I make up definitions? Or are you actually not reading this diagram properly either? Even though you trying to get more involved since being warned, you are clearly not up to this debate. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:56, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

(reduce indent) MattLewis is trying to make things very personal. I am reading the diagram correctly. It is confused. The British Isles includes the Channel Islands. (talk) 15:58, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Matt is correct to point out that there are differing definitions, and it is better to be inclusive and mention other definitions. Matt is not making up anything, and nobody is creating new definitions. For example, The British Geological Society website has a makeamap flash application to depict the British Isles, yet it excludes the Channel Islands. The diagram is a work in progress - I would suggest that describing why you are confused or what exactly you find confusing will help identify is a change is required. --HighKing (talk) 17:42, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Is the diagram correct? Great Brtain is just the island of that name, not icluding Anglesey, Orkney etc.. Also, the term British Islands is little used, having a very specific legal meaning, and I believe there should be no attempt in Wikipedia to promote it as any sort of alternative, for anything. MidnightBlue (Talk) 17:52, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

(reduce indent) Great Britain, by definition, includes Orkney, Shetland, etc. Is sometimes includes the Isle of Man. Don't argue with me about this, argue with the OED. As for the British Isles, if the British geological society uses the term incorrectly that is surely their problem and we can mention it in the British Isles page as an example of varied usage. We should not make the same mistake just because they do. A guideline for use of the term should be that it is used correctly. (talk) 07:41, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

On Matt's diagram. If it said "Britain and Ireland" where it currently has the made-up "geographical archipelago" definition it would be correct, as far as I can see. (talk) 07:57, 17 October 2008 (UTC)
One other thing on the diagram. The mainland has vanished. The islands don't exist in isolation from the rest of Europe. (talk) 08:37, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

(outdent)In general, I believe this discussion has been resolved. 79.155.* made points about the definition of "British Isles", and the definition of "Great Britain". I believe the points revolved around what is perceived by "correctness", but equally it has been shown that there is no single definition of "correctness" and that Matt's diagram shows the most commonly accepted definitions. This is based on the existence of references for each definition. I'm happy that Matt's diagram is accurate as far as possible - only questions is, should we collect definitions to back up each area? For now, I believe we can accept this diagram for the purposes of this task force. --HighKing (talk) 11:34, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

HighKing believes wrongly. There is a generally accepted definition which can be regarded as more correct than a definition made up my Matt. Wotapalaver (talk) 18:03, 6 January 2009 (UTC)

Main articles[edit]

British Isles

Geographical components of the term 'British Isles':

  • Other islands:
    • Isle of Man (UK Crown Dependency)
    • Channel Islands (UK Crown Dependencies) - not geographically part of the British Isles, but by tradition are sometimes included

Political components of the term 'British Isles':

See also:[edit]


Note on 'technical' use of the term "British Isles"[edit]

This guideline often refers to the 'technical' use of the term British Isles. Generally, the term 'technical' here covers the sciences and disciplines of physical geography, geology, natural history (including fauna but excluding flora) and archaeology. When used in a 'pure' technical sense the term is always acceptable.

REVISION COMMENTS: As mentioned above, these "technical" uses often do not include the Channel Islands. For instance, geologically they are part of France. Their natural history is French, not British or Irish. In terms of archeology they are part of France also. Unless the Channel Islands are unambiguously part of the topic then the term "British Isles" should not be used and should be replaced by "Britain and Ireland". (talk) 08:44, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

That would mean deleting nearly all of the 'technical' use on Wikipedia, which doesn't normally include the Channel Islands. It would also mean restricing the terms usage to 'every corner only' contexts. --Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
It would mean that if text is talking about Britain and Ireland it should say Britain and Ireland. If it's not talking about the British Isles then it shouldn't say British Isles. (talk) 08:31, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Hi, good points. But from a technical point of view, there are differing definitions of the term British Isles. For example, there is no definition for Flora - the island of Britain is defined separately from the island of Ireland. You've mentioned another example I wasn't aware of, that of geology. I think it's a worthwhile exercise listing the "technical" points of view and documenting the normally accepted usage within the disciplines.
Do you have proof on the 'no flora' thing? I found use of the term, when I looked. (eg. Botanical Society of the British Isles ) --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
The definition of the British Isles includes the Channel Islands. (talk) 14:10, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Please don't keep repeating this - we don't have the space. The most widely-used definition is the techinical one (in countless technical documents) - it defines the archipelago only. You favoured 'cultural' defiintion, however, is also widely used. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

(reduce indent) The most widely used definition includes the Channel Islands. I have put the OED definition on the discussion page. (talk) 15:59, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

On the specific example of the Botanical Society, their mapping system correctly includes the Channel Islands. see[[1]]. In any case even if they, or others like the Geologists, use the term incorrectly we should not repeat the same mistake. (talk) 07:44, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

Note on reliable sources[edit]

Unless the term 'British Isles' is being used in a purely technical context (such as geology, archaeology or natural history), reliable sources should be found to support its use. If a reliable source exists that uses term 'British Isles' contrary to Wikipedia's guidelines, and is needed for the text of an article, the term should be re-phrased according to the intended meaning of the term, and not appropriated into the text as "British Isles". If the term is part of a wider quote, a disclaimer per accepted convention needs to be applied.

The amount of reliable sources needed to support the use of "British Isles" would be article-relevant.

REVISION COMMENTS: The term is often lazily used in these contexts. Geology, archeology, etc., of "The British Isles" almost never includes (as it should in theory) the Channel Islands. Flora, fauna, climate, geology, etc, of the Channel Islands are different to Britain and Ireland. The Channel Islands are part, by definition, of the British Isles but have essentially no geological or other geographical connection. If the topic includes Britain and Ireland but not, for instance, the Channel Isles then the phrase "Britain and Ireland" should be used. (talk) 08:41, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

So it can only be used of the Channel Islands are involved in the example? This would limit most of the use of the term, especially the 'techinical' use that (as you say) usually excludes the Channel Islands.--Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
It's possible it would reduce the use of the term to places where such usage could be described as correct, yes. (talk) 08:32, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
I've seen books with titles such as "Wild Rabbits of the British Isles", "Stone Circles of the British Isles", "Meadow Flowers of the British Isles", etc (BTW, these are all made-up titles to illustrate the point). The policy for WP is for a reliable source, not necessarily that it conform to the scientific profile of the subject matter. But in general for technical matters, we should take our lead from the definition within the "technical" discipline, and if that discipline uses the term British Isles, then WP should follow suit. Even if the definition is not in line with whatever WP consensus is on general use of the term, it's up to the scientific discipline to effect change, not WP - WP should reflect normal usage within the field.
I have no problem that the British Isles article should reflect varied usage. It already does, slightly. The question here is what a guideline on British Isles usage in WP articles should say. It should follow the dictionary definition as a minimum first step, no? (talk) 14:11, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
There are many dictionaries (including technical ones) - we should recognise them all. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
For such a guideline as this Wikipedia should not confuse things and should stick to the vastly most common definition, which includes the Channel Islands. I have not seen an encyclopedia or so-called "technical" definition that ejects the Channel Islands from the British Isles. (talk) 16:01, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Lets move this discussion to one place - I've added a reference to the British Geological Society above and I won't repeat it here, but it strikes me that this particular discussion is being spread out over many sections. If that's the case and this discussion continues, it might be best to start it on the discussion page. --HighKing (talk) 17:45, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Note on comparative terms[edit]

Comparisons must pass notability, as well as being verifiable. It is not usually notable to say that something is greater than the third largest in the "British Isles" for any important geographical feature. If it is less significant, then second largest, or often just largest, would suffice. In articles about geographical subjects where comparisons hold a particular significance, wider comparisons can be made. Where there is specific relevancy to making the wider comparison in the text, this rule of thumb can also be broken.

REVISION COMMENTS: Comparisons must also be used according to verifiability and reliable sources --HighKing (talk) 14:45, 1 October 2008 (UTC)

Notability is the main issue with comparision, but added reminder that verify must also be followed. --Matt Lewis (talk) 00:13, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

REVISION COMMENTS: Comparisons must also be used according to verifiability, combined if possible with a little courtesy. It would be ludicrous to call Essex one of the most successful cricket teams in the British Isles, just as it would be ludicrous to call Cork one of the most successful hurling teams in the British Isles. On geographical features like, for instance, the Shannon, the issue is more difficult. The Shannon is sometimes described as being the longest river in the British Isles, but is far more often called the longest river in Ireland. Which fact is more notable? Not easy. (talk) 08:36, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

This is what the guidelines are all about.. --Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Strongly agree, and I would like to see clear guidelines on this issue. --HighKing (talk) 13:17, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Note on disambiguating the island of 'Ireland'[edit]

There is currently no one fixed way on Wikipedia to denote the word 'Ireland', either as the island or as the country. However, it is often the custom on Wikipedia to use a piped linked "Ireland" for the country (pipe-linked to Republic of Ireland). Ireland-as-the-island also contains the country Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. For the sake of clarity in matters where the United Kingdom is relevant, it recommended to take a disambiguating approach regarding the word 'Ireland' wherever possible. Alternatives to the piped link, such as Ireland (island), are shown in the examples below.

REVISION COMMENTS: Disambiguation of "Ireland" is a separate and difficult issue. It's not relevant here, any more than the common use of "England" to describe the UK is relevant here. (talk) 08:42, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

The guideline has to pick at least one option of using "Ireland/ROI" etc - how else can it offer alternatives to the phrase 'British Isles'? We then have a problem of which option(s) to offer - the above parag explains the current state of play. --Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
This guideline should use whatever is decided on the other task force. (talk) 08:33, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
I agree. I believe the two task forces can operate independently, and if the other task force decides on "Ireland (South)", then that's automatically assumed to be the term of choice used here. But I think Matt is right to look down the road a little and detect that there is a possibility that these task forces may intertwine once or twice... --HighKing (talk) 13:20, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
These taskforces may well entwine. However, the people involved may be very different and the two are not dependent on each other in any way. This guideline should respect the conclusion of the other and hopefully vice versa. (talk) 15:41, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Terms used in the guideline[edit]

REVISION COMMENTS: "Britain" can mean either the island of Great Britain or the whole of the UK, depending on context. However, its primary meaning is the island of Great Britain (e.g. and Use in political contexts to mean the UK should always be disambiguated to say "the UK" if the UK is meant. The term "British Isles" includes the Channel Islands also. (talk) 08:50, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

One other comment. Britain and Great Britain both include the Hebrides, Orkey, Shetland, etc. This is by definition. The Isle of Wight is not not in Great Britain. (talk) 08:58, 15 October 2008 (UTC)
Defining when to use 'UK' for 'Britain' etc is out of the scope of this guideline. The other draft 'Ireland' proposal gives more detail on what the above terms entail - that tree can be moved here (I'll move it to the top of the guideline, and amend it the use 'Republic of Ireland'). --Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
It's not up to Wikipedia to create a new definition, in fact it's prohibited. The British Isles includes the Channel Islands. Certainly the people in the Channel Islands think so. (talk) 08:29, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Similarly, "Britain" primarily means "Great Britain" and not "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Not within the competence of a WP taskforce to change that. (talk) 08:36, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Consensus is consensus. WP changes nothing. It's the editors that decide how phrases are used (strongly guided by policy). I often wonder given a hypothetical situation if WP, by consensus, decided that the Channel Islands were part of Africa, then I suggest that even the policy of WP:VS would be unable to overrule it (IMHO). Truth does not matter on Wikipedia, just consensus. As such, it is not strictly correct to state that WP creates new defintions - merely that WP reflects the current consensus. --HighKing (talk) 13:25, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
I believe the phrase on the verifiability page is that truth doesn't matter, just verifiability. If consensus could decide that the Channel Islands were part of Africa and that consensus could have any force then WP would be dead. (talk) 13:55, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
You simply misunderstand the WP:Verify page - it does't say 'truth doesn't matter'!!!! Verify is qualified by WP:REDFLAG, weight, and many excellent suggestions (like to name the main protagonists with exceptional statements). You have to get past that bloody misleading first line in verify! It will be re-written before long, or Wikipedua will collapse under the protestations of unflexible people who don't have the patience read past one line. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:29, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

(reduce indent) I quote from the verifiability page; "The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—that is, whether readers are able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true. " I realise that many editors do not like the verifiability policy. (talk) 15:38, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

I'm going to quote you many times when I get that opening line changed. Wikipedia has to face up to the baseline quality of its editors - until it does it will never properly advance. You refuse to acknowledge all the many qualifiers after that line - but then, you are a troll.--Matt Lewis (talk) 16:01, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
I believe calling other editors trolls violates the civility policies. Please apologise. (talk) 16:12, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
You are not long for this place. --Matt Lewis (talk) 16:19, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Guideline guide[edit]

Five separate guidelines (A-E) have been structured around the 'nationality weight' that can occur when the term 'British Isles' is in question. The term 'heavy' is used denote an over-riding importance of a specific factor (such as the UK) within the article/subject.

The following table is an aid to choosing one of the five guidelines. To best decide which is the most suitable guideline to follow, it is recommended that the table is followed sequentially. If in any doubt over which guideline to use, referring to the actual examples in each individual guidelines should help.

Step Issue (per weight) Refer to...
1 UK and Republic of Ireland-heavy issue Guideline A
2 UK-heavy issue Guideline B
3 Republic of Ireland-heavy issue Guideline C
4 Regional-specific issue Guideline D
5 Secondary usage (or none of the above) Guideline E

REVISION COMMENTS: This needs to mention Ireland-only and Great Britain-only topics (and IoM and CI too). For instance, the Shannon is ONLY in Ireland. It is not on the island of Great Britain. It is the longest river in Ireland. It could perhaps be described as "The Shannon is the longest river in Ireland. It is also sometimes described as being the longest river in the British Isles*." (where the * is to a footnote on use of the term "British Isles") Not sure this is perfect, but I'll have to think about it. London, however, is the largest city in the UK and I've never heard anyone describe it as the largest city in the British Isles. It's simply not a relevant issue for London. (talk) 08:56, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

The 'Do not mislead' WP:DONOTMISLEAD part of #Guideline B - UK-heavy issue link could be refered to here, as this is where it states that the island of Ireland needs to be included, as people will expect it to be as it's such a major part of the archipelago. The guideline below covers all use..--Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
I've moved the 'Collective use' section to below (to 'What the term should encompass'). --Matt Lewis (talk) 02:00, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

What the term should encompass[edit]

In certain situations (especially regarding the Republic of Ireland), the term 'British Isles' can also be used for less than the entirety of the isles. As a rule of thumb, it is acceptable to use the term here when the subject covers three or more countries or islands within the British Isles - including the Republic of Ireland, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and any smaller islands or areas. If only two places are concerned, just their two names should be used, and never "British Isles". Remember that the term 'British Isles' is always an optional expression, and there are always other ways to describe the situation. Do not mislead!

The island of Ireland and its surrounding isles is a principle part of the British Isles. If the reader would reasonably expect all or part of the island of Ireland to be included in the term, but the specific matter does not include the island of Ireland, the term should not be used.

REVISION COMMENTS: Stongly disagree. The "British Isles" explicitly includes CI and IoM. Unless there are (i) included and (b) relevant then "British Isles" should never be used. (talk) 09:19, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

But the common technical use (geology etc) does not include the Channel Islands. How can we remove scientific use? --Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
If the term is used incorrectly in articles then such use should be removed when found. The British Isles includes the Channel Islands. (talk) 08:38, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Shall we contact all the institutions the world over that use the term for the archipelago only, and tell them they got it wrong? --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
The question posed above it meaningless. I only suggest that Wikipedia uses the term correctly. (talk) 16:01, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
The primary criteria is to follow real-world usage. If a scientific community uses "British Isles" in a way that, for example, excluded the Channel Islands, then this community should follow suit. If gets more difficult if it is shown that the scientific community is split - taking the example of flora, the scientific community does not use the term British Isles and uses each island instead. Yet I have seen example where a book may exist that refers to "British Isles" (e.g. something like "Evergreen Forests of the British Isles"). I recommend that in these cases, if the book is the only source for the information, then it is OK to refer to British Isles, but if another source exists, then it should be preferred. --HighKing (talk) 11:42, 11 November 2008 (UTC)
If the primary criteria is to use real-world usage, then perhaps we should start with having a guideline follow the dictionary definition, which includes Channel Islands. Wotapalaver (talk) 18:04, 6 January 2009 (UTC)

Guideline A - UK and Republic of Ireland-heavy issue[edit]

To avoid the word 'British' being mistakenly connected with Ireland in a political sense, various forms of phrasing can be used to help disambiguate. The use of 'United Kingdom' on some of these examples may acceptably be changed to 'British Isles' and vice versa, when neither is technically wrong.

The term should only be used in Ireland-heavy subjects when clearly relating to the whole of the British Isles. However, the meaning of the term in it's fullest sense can sometimes be implicit, rather than explicit. Remember that the term 'British Isles' is always an optional expression, and there are always other ways to describe the situation. It is strongly recommended that either the "Republic of Ireland" or the island of "Ireland" is mentioned alongside the term "British Isles" in all Ireland-heavy cases that are not technical (ie not geology or archeaology etc), or when the technical relevance is shared - perhaps with a human geography, or a non-scientific matter.

REVISION COMMENTS: The term should only ever be used when referring to the whole of the British Isles, i.e. including the Channel Islands, and only if it's appropriate. "British Isles" and "UK" are never acceptable interchanges. (talk) 09:03, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

This restricts its use to such a degree that it would mean removing most of the use of the term. Also, as said above, the statndard 'technical' use (in geology etc) does not include the Channel Islands. We cannot disallow the common-place technical use. --Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
If the term is used incorrectly in articles then such use should be removed when found. The British Isles includes the Channel Islands. (talk) 08:38, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Only in your own favoured definition. You cannot just ignore the other widely used archipelago-only definition. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Not my favoured definition. It is the definition in OED. Britannica uses the same definition, as far as I know. (talk) 16:03, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Collective use[edit]

Examples of correct use:

  • "Sam sailed around the British Isles"
Note: If Sam properly sailed around the islands of the Ireland and Great Britain, this term is acceptable.

Examples of alternative use:

  • "Sam sailed around Great Britain and Ireland"
Note: Alternative uses can be used.

Example of incorrect use:

  • "Sam sailed around the British Isles"
Note: When Sam only sailed around the Irish Sea (ie between the UK and the Rupublic of Ireland). Using the "Irish Sea" would be correct here.
Note: The "Triple Crown" is a competition involving Ireland (as the combined island), England, Scotland and Wales. Using the term "British Isles" would not be recommended here, as it is a Republic of Ireland-heavy issue, and rugby is a sport.

REVISION COMMENTS: Almost no-one ever sails around anything other than "Britain and Ireland". The CI are almost never included in the itinerary. The major such race at the moment is the "Round Britain and Ireland". ( Similarly, most tours do not include the Channel Islands and are thus not tours of the British Isles. In sport the dominant reference is Rugby, where the term "British Isles" was deliberately deprecated in 2001 or so. The term should not be used in a sporting context unless it is in a historical sporting context (e.g. from the early 20th century at the latest). (talk) 09:10, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

Again, how can we enfortce the Channel Islands? The examples abouve are quite strong on sport as it is.--Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Unless Sam sailed around the Channel Islands then she did not sail around the British Isles, she sailed around Britain and Ireland. (talk) 08:40, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Too restricting - it simply won't be accepted. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Not accepted by who? The race around Britain and Ireland accepted it. It is correct according to OED and all other definitions of the British Isles. (talk) 16:04, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Comparative use[edit]

Please also refer to #Note on comparative terms in the introduction.

Examples of correct use:

Note: In this example, the convention is part of an article that contains technical information, and relates to both the UK and the Republic of Ireland. However, while it is not strictly inaccurate when used in this way, this usage nevertheless mixes a geographical with a geopolitical term (the Republic of Ireland). To avoid possible mis-interpretation of "British Isles" as a political term, it is recommended that mixing terms is avoided. The following two examples are non-mixed alternatives:
  • "X is the biggest farming convention in Ireland and the broader British Isles.".

Example of incorrect use:

Note: This does not mention 'Ireland' (the country or the island) in any manner.


Further examples of comparative use:

Non-"British Isles" approach: "ROI" or "Ireland" (state) with "UK"[edit]

  • "is the longest X in both Ireland and the United Kingdom"
  • "is the (A) longest X in the (one of above) and the B longest in the United Kingdom"


Non-"British Isles" approach: "Ireland" (island) with "UK" or "Great Britain"[edit]

  • "is the longest X in both the entire island of Ireland and the wider United Kingdom"
  • "is the longest X in the island of Ireland and Great Britain"
  • "is the (A) longest X in the island of Ireland and the B longest in (one of the above)"


"British Isles" approach[edit]

Please also refer to #Note on disambiguating the island of 'Ireland' in the introduction.


i. With "Republic of Ireland"[edit]
ii. With "island of Ireland"[edit]
  • "is the (nth?) longest X in the island of Ireland and the nth longest in the wider/broader British Isles"
iii. With "Ireland" (piped to Republic of Ireland)[edit]
  • "is the (nth?) longest X in Ireland and the nth longest in the broader (or any one of above) British Isles"
iv. With "Ireland (island)"[edit]


Guideline B - UK-heavy issue[edit]

For UK-heavy issues, when the term clearly relates to both the main islands of Ireland and Great Britain to some degree (per WP:BIDONOTMISLEAD), the term can generally be used. Please note that there may often be a better alternative to the term, and to use discussion and follow consensus if the term is contested.


Examples of correct phrases:

  • The band toured England and Northern Ireland
Note: In this example the band toured just those two countries. "British Isles" should not be used here.
  • The band toured the British Isles.
Note: In this example the band toured Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland. However, in this particular case, naming the actual countries would be a better and more informative alternative, as only part of the British Isles was covered.
  • The band toured the British Isles.
Note: WIn this example the band toured all or most of the British Isles, including at least one the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  • The band toured Britain / the UK”.
Note: In this example the band toured England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. The use of ‘British Isles’ would be misleading here, as a reader could reasonably expect the island of Ireland to be involved when a touring band is the subject and the term ‘British Isles’ was used. "The Band toured Great Britain and the Isle of Man" would be a more informative line. Alternatively again, a simple list could be used here too.
  • "The tour of the British Isles eventually entailed a birdwatching trip around the islands of western Scotland, a nearby view of the summit of Snowdon (his fear of heights allowed him no nearer), and an accompanied flight in a glider over the Pennines. Sketches of seabirds became a series of celebrated paintings on his return, exhibited during.."
Note: Here there must be a reliable source that uses "British Isles" in the context of the trip. In this case the reader can accept that the British Isles as wider geographical entity (rather than a collection of national boundaries) is a significant aspect of the text. Without sources, the term would not normally be used by a Wikipedia editor here, as the reader would reasonably expect Ireland to feature on such a tour. As fauna feature however (albeit not in a pure technical way), the source itself does not contravene the usage guidelines, so can be used.

REVISION COMMENTS: Again, if someone does a birdwatching tour of western Scotland it is not a birdwatching tour of the "British Isles". (talk) 09:21, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

This is covered by the above - esp under 'Do not mislead' (ie. the island of Ireland must be involved for BI to be used) --Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
I've now moved 'Do no mislead' towards the top of the guideline. --Matt Lewis (talk) 01:40, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
While (and I may correct myself here since I haven't thought through it all) it may be possible to neglect the IoM in such a discussion in the same way as it may be possible to neglect Wales (i.e. they are both contained within the primary elements), the Channel Islands are outside the primary elements and are therefore a requirement for British Isles to be used. Otherwise it's Britain and Ireland, not the British Isles. (talk) 08:43, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Actually, according to the definitions given on your talk page, it is possible to neglect IoM in such discussions since can be included within the definition of Britain. Hence Britian and Ireland is more correct UNLESS the Channel Islands are included. (I still need to consider this a little). (talk) 08:59, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
My talk page diagram is clear - it does not demand any inclusion of any one part of BI - but this guidelines (the place that matters) does demand the inclcusion of both the islands of Ireland and Great Brtain in some way. We simply can't demand every corner to be meant. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Your talk page diagram is not authoritative. In any case, unless the Channel Islands is included it is more correct to say Britain and Ireland. Saying the British Isles would be incorrect. (talk) 16:05, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
It's as authoritative as anything else, and it is not more correct to say Britain and Ireland if the Channel Islands are excluded. As Matt said, there's no requirement to include every element of the British Isles to impart validity of use for the term. MidnightBlue (Talk) 17:18, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

(reduce indent) No, it's not authoritative at all. And, according to the OED it is more correct to use Britain and Ireland unless the Channel Islands are included. Read the definitions, as supplied by Matt Lewis, on the discussion page. If you are not talking about the group including the Channel Islands then it is simply correct to say "Britain and Ireland". It would be incorrect to say "British Isles". (talk) 07:48, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

Comparative use[edit]

Please also refer to #Note on comparative terms in the introduction.

Example of correct phrases

  • "The nightclub is the largest in London."
  • "The nightclub is the largest in the UK."
  • "The nightclub is the largest in Europe."
  • "The nightclub is the largest in the world."

Example of incorrect use

  • "The nightclub is the largest in the British Isles."


Guideline C - Republic of Ireland-heavy issue[edit]

If the UK itself has little weight, it is recommended that the term ‘British Isles’ is not used for subjects that are specifically related to the Republic of Ireland. But bear in mind that many technical subjects have an intrinsic connection to the archipelagos itself, and so the term is often relevant for them (see Guideline B in these cases). Also remember that comparative terms should be restricted in amount according to weight and notability (see #Note on comparative terms).


Collective use[edit]

Example of incorrect use

  • "Kelly of Donegal Rovers received attention throughout the British Isles for his ball playing skills."
Note: "British Isles" is likely to be a colloquial exaggeration, so can be seen as unencyclopedic language in Wikipedia's terms.

Examples of correct phrases

  • "Kelly of Donegal Rovers received attention throughout Ireland and Britain for his ball playing skills."
Note: variations along these lines are acceptable.


Comparative use[edit]

Example of correct use

Note: As height is of particular significance to a mountain, having the fourth highest status here is notable enough for inclusion. The comparative height when compared to mountains in Europe is not notable for the article's introduction, as it is too far down in the ranking to be significant.

Example of possibly correct use:

Note: Stadiums do not fall into a technical (geographical etc) category, so the use of "British Isles" is less exacting here. Though stadiums are often compared by size, it can be argued here that "fourth largest in the British Isles" is not notable enough. If this case is made in the relevant article's talk page, it is recommended that the consensus is followed first, but that non-use is the advisable option. As "Republic of Ireland" is the WP:COMMONNAME here (as it is the name of the football (soccer) team), it is recommended that this option is used above "Ireland" and its variations.
Note: This could be a compromise between the two.

Example of incorrect use:

Note: This does not mention 'Ireland' (the country or the island) in any manner.

For possible examples of use, see "Further examples of comparative use:" in Guideline A.

REVISION COMMENTS: On the specific Carauntoohill example, it's not in the top 40 in the "British Isles" and therefore no mention is required at all. On things like football stadia, there is no difference between a football stadium in the "British Isles" and one anywhere in the wider Europe so there is no reason to mention "British Isles" at all. Only if something which is (i) distinctive and (ii) universal to the "British Isles" is there any reason to do a "British Isles" comparison. Again, to take a hurling example it is inappropriate to describe Cork as one of the most successful hurling teams in the "British Isles" since there is essentially no hurling outside Ireland. (talk) 09:30, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

With Carauntoohill it depends whether you go by range or not - commonly people go by range (where it is the fourth largest, after Snowdon - pipe-linked example now given from the Snowdon site). All the individual peaks are in Scotland. The examples above are strong on sport - and cover what you are saying (see 'incoprrect use'). See also D below.--Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Commonly people rank by height above sea level. Other rankings are arbitrary and open to interpretation and Everest would not be known as the largest mountain on earth. Carrauntoohil would not rank in the top 40 in Britain and it therefore comparison with British mountains is not meaningful. (talk) 08:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
You are confused about this - see List_of_mountains_of_the_British_Isles_by_relative_height#List. People go by the ranges. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
I am not confused. See [[2]]. In any case, Wikipedia is not a reputable source. Besides, see the article on the biggest mountain in the world. It's Mauna Kea. Height above sea-level is the definitive and most common reference. According to the range definition a midget could be the 2nd tallest person in the British Isles if you moved all the tall people to Ireland and left all the midgets in Britain. (talk) 16:08, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Guideline D - UK and ROI: Regional-specific use[edit]

When the significance of something is mainly regional, or country-specific, then there is no need to draw a wider comparison through using the term 'British Isles'

Example of a correct phrase

  • "The Morris dancing competition is the biggest in England."

Example of incorrect use

  • "The Morris dancing competition is the biggest in the British Isles."
Note: In this example the article focuses on Morris dancers in general. Morris dancing competitions may exist in Scotland etc, but would be very rare, and hence not notable. An exception would be if the subject was explicitly about Morris dancing across the area of the British Isles.
  • "Snowdon is the third biggest peak in the British Isles."
Note: In this example the article is focused only on Wales, and is not about Snowdon specifically. The term 'British Isles' is superfluous in this case - "Snowdon is the biggest mountain in Wales" would suffice. The article on Mount Snowdon itself, however, could mention its status in the British isles.


Since no mountain in Ireland would rank in the top 40 in Britain, comparison with mountains in Ireland is irrelevant for Snowdon, which is one of the largest in Britain. (talk) 08:48, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Snowdon and Carauntoohill are close in height - see List_of_mountains_of_the_British_Isles_by_relative_height#List. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Apparently Snowdon is not the 3rd highest. They're both way down the list. [[3]] It doesn't change anything about Carauntoohil. (talk) 16:10, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
You are picking your own less-common definition. Every knows the commonly used one (first per WP:COMMONNAMES): It has Everest at the top, Ben Nevis first in the UK, with Snowdon third. --Matt Lewis (talk) 16:19, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Exactly. Mountains get ranked by height above sea-level. (talk) 16:32, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
According to the Wikipedia article, which I admit is not authoritative, that puts Snowdon 57th highest mountain in Britain. It took me a while to count that. Carauntoohill is (i think) 97th. (talk) 16:42, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Guideline E - Secondary usage (non UK or ROI-heavy)[edit]

The term 'British Isles' can be used in articles not specifically related to the UK or the Republic of Ireland, when its sense is a purely technical one.

Example of correct use

  • "This can also be observed in other northerly regions like the British Isles".
Note: In this example the subject must be purely technical (ie geographical, geological, architectural or relating to fauna etc.)

Example of incorrect use:

  • "The aid workers came to the poverty-striken country from the British Isles"
Note: In this example the aid workers came from the UK and the Republic of Ireland. "The poverty-striken country" would over-ride the British Isles in subject importance, and there is no actual geographical meaning regarding the use of "British Isles" (only national identity), so a form of "UK and the Republic of Ireland" (or "Britain and Ireland") would be needed here.

REVISION COMMENTS: On the first example, the remark would have to be true for the whole of the British Isles before it should be used. The second example is correct. (talk) 09:32, 15 October 2008 (UTC)

In the first example, what you call the 'whole of the British Isles' would often have to be assumed - we can't demand further refs to show whether the source includes the Channel Islands or not. The main things is that the two largest islands of the Ireland and GB are clealry involved in some way - then it has to pass the guideline. --Matt Lewis (talk) 00:07, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
The British Isles includes the Channel Islands. If something comes from Britain and Ireland but not from either the IoM or the Channel Islands then it is Britain and Ireland and not the British Isles. (talk) 08:49, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Only by your favoured definition. --Matt Lewis (talk) 15:46, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Only by the OED and all other dictionary definitions I am aware of. You are the one who brought the OED definition to my attention. It's pretty unambiguous. "include Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Hebrides, the Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, the Scilly Isles, and the Channel Islands." (talk) 16:11, 16 October 2008 (UTC)
Although it is interesting that it takes pains to say that it includes Britain AND the Hebrides, Orkneys, etc., even though the OED definition already includes the Orkneys, Hebrides, etc., in the definition of Britain. (talk) 16:14, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

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