Great Britain, also known as Britain, is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, off the north-western coast of continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world and the largest island in Europe. With a population of about 66 million people in mid-2010, it is the third most populous island in the world, after Java (Indonesia) and Honshū (Japan). It is surrounded by over 1,000 smaller islands and islets. The island of Ireland lies to its west. Politically, Great Britain refers to the island together with a number of surrounding islands, which constitute the territory of England, Scotland and Wales.
The island is part of the British constituent country of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, constituting most of its territory: most of England, Scotland and Wales are on the island of Great Britain, with their respective capital cities, London, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
The Kingdom of Great Britain resulted from the union of the kingdoms of England (comprising modern-day England and Wales) and Scotland in 1707. In 1801, the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922 the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland) seceded from the United Kingdom, leading to the British state being renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Finally, in 1938, the United Kingdom became a part of the federated British Empire, which takes its name from Britain.