When talking about United Kingdom or United States people often pronounce the letters of the abbreviation like "you kay" (UK).

However, I have never noticed anyone spelling out 'GB'. Is it somehow unspellable?

  • Inspired by this. I thought that question will be about the island when I saw the title.
    – Džuris
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 1:23
  • It is an acronym, where each letter stands for a word. Acronyms do not get spelled out phonetically, letter by letter (e.g. gee bee). If someone did not hear you properly (let's say you were speaking over a bad phone connection) you would typically say "GB as in Great Britain". You would say the words the letters represent.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 12:50

3 Answers 3


Great Britain is a subsection of the United Kingdom, so it is not as frequently mentioned as the UK is, since the UK is the accepted term. Although some speakers may decide to say "Gee Bee," it is not in common usage.

To be most widely understood, it is best to simply say "Great Britain." I suspect that it has not entered common speech precisely because it is not the official term for the entire country of the United Kingdom.


It is pronounced "Gee Bee" for each letter and is not spelled out, just as "USA" is usually not spelled out.

Most people will be familiar with the old car decals used to designate country of origin

which has now moved on to the license plate

it is also the designation of the Olympic team from the UK

How to pronounce This is team GB

  • Does Great Britain get shortened to GB in common parlance? Or is it usually in special circumstances to save time when it is repeated frequently? Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 2:26
  • 1
    In the U.S., GB often means Green Bay (the football team).
    – Robusto
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 2:30
  • @Robusto Only a cheesehead would think that. ;-)
    – Peter
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 4:12
  • @CurtisWhite It's complicated, I would say not as often as "US" is abbreviated, but then how often is Great Britain used?. "Modern use of the term Great Britain". For example, when flying to Heathrow, one would usually say "I'm flying to the UK". Royal Mail lists addresses as "UK" addresses. Internet domain names end with ".co.uk" In foreign exchange markets the currency is referred to as GBP (letters) or "Sterling" or specifically "Cable" for GBPUSD, but then there is the British Crown and the British Isles
    – Peter
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 4:49
  • By the way, the UK tourist bureau currently has a campaign in Australia with the slogan OMGB - combining 'OMG - Oh my God' with 'GB - Great Britain'.
    – Sydney
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 7:08

Great Britain is part of the United Kingdom. The official name of the country is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain, since Stewart times, consists of England, Scotland, and Wales. Great Britain curiously does not include the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

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