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island or Iceland or Ireland?

island

The words island, Iceland and Ireland are confusing because they sound similar and their spellings are similar. In fact, they have completely different meanings. To understand the differences, we have to think about the difference between common nouns and proper nouns.

island

An island is a piece of land completely surrounded by water. An island can be very small or very big. An island can be in a lake or in a river or in the sea. If it is land with water all around it, it is an island.

The "s" in "island" is silent. The word "island" is pronounced /aɪˈlənd/, with stress on first syllable.

Notice that island usually begins with a small letter, but Iceland and Ireland always begin with a capital letter. They begin with a capital letter because they are names.

Iceland

The word Iceland is the name of a country (sometimes called Republic of Iceland). However, the country of Iceland is also an island, because it is surrounded by water (the North Atlantic Ocean).

Note too that "Iceland" begins with a capital "I" because it is a name.

The word "Iceland" is pronounced /aɪsˈlənd/, with stress on first syllable.

Ireland

Ireland is the name of an island to the west of Great Britain. The island of Ireland contains two political units:

  • Republic of Ireland (also called Eire), which is a country covering about 80% of the island of Ireland.
  • Northern Ireland, which covers about 20% of the island of Ireland and is politically part of the United Kingdom.

Note too that "Ireland" begins with a capital "I" because it is a name.

The word "Ireland" is pronounced /aɪərˈlənd/, with stress on first syllable.


The following table summarizes the relevant points about these three words:

word: island Iceland Ireland
pronunciation: /aɪˈlənd/
/aɪsˈlənd/
/aɪərˈlənd/
noun type: common noun proper noun proper noun
meaning: land surrounded by water name of a country in the North Atlantic Ocean name of an island to the west of Great Britain

Check your understanding with our island or Iceland or Ireland Quiz

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