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:

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.

Summary

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

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