Great Britain (Welsh: Prydain Fawr, Scottish Gaelic: Breatainn Mhòr, Cornish: Breten Veur, Scots: Great Breetain), also known as Britain, is an island situated to the north-west of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, the largest European island and the largest of the British Isles. With a population of about 60.0 million people in mid-2009, it is the third most populous island in the world, after Java and Honshū. Great Britain is surrounded by over 1,000 smaller islands and islets. The island of Ireland lies to its west. Politically, Great Britain may also refer to the island itself together with a number of surrounding islands which constitute the territory of England, Scotland and Wales.
All of the island is territory of the sovereign state of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and most of the United Kingdom's territory is in Great Britain. Most of England, Scotland, and Wales are on the island of Great Britain, as are their respective capital cities: London, Edinburgh, and Cardiff.
The Kingdom of Great Britain resulted from the political union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland with the Acts of Union 1707 on 1 May 1707 under Queen Anne. In 1801, under a new Act of Union, this kingdom merged with the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. After the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921) most of Ireland seceded from the Union, which then became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The relatively limited variety of fauna and flora on the island is due to its size and the fact that wildlife has had little time to develop since the last glacial period. The high level of urbanisation on the island has contributed to a species extinction rate that is about 100 times greater than the background species extinction rate.