"United Kingdom (the)"

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Table 1 in "Acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology in children – Multi-country", World Health Organization 5/27/2022, includes this:

There are 33 country names in the whole table, and six of them (as listed) normally require a definite article: "The Republic of Modova", "The Netherlands", "The Occupied Palestinian Territories", "The Republic of Korea", "The United Kingdom", "The United States of America". But only "United Kingdom" is given a postposed "(the)" — I wonder why?

And WHO is not consistent in this usage. Thus Table 1 in "Multi-country monkeypox outbreak in non-endemic countries", 5/21/2022, does it differently:


  1. Victor Mair said,

    May 29, 2022 @ 9:36 am

    Cf. "The the in The Ohio State University" (9/5/06)


    This is a topic that has come up repeatedly on Language Log.

    E.g., "Ohio State is serious about calling itself 'The' Ohio State University. The grammatical article is right there on many of the school's seals, logos and signs…."

  2. Allen kamp said,

    May 29, 2022 @ 10:28 am

    And why is it "The Bronx"?

  3. Julian Hook said,

    May 29, 2022 @ 11:44 am

    The "(the)" is hardly the only oddity in that table.

    Why, for example, is "Republic of Korea" alphabetized under "Republic" while "Republic of Moldova" is alphabetized under "Moldova"?

    And for that matter, why "Republic of Korea" and "Republic of Moldova" but not "Republic of Cyprus" and "Kingdom of Belgium"?

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    May 29, 2022 @ 12:11 pm

    I can offer no insights as to why the definite article is post-posed in "United Kingdom" (the)", but I am surprised that the WHO singles out "The Occupied Palestinian Territories". Whilst I have enormous sympathy for this perspective, I would expect (and perhaps hope) that the WHO might, for example, equally recognise "The Occupied Tibetan Territories" and so on …

  5. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 29, 2022 @ 1:11 pm

    @Julian Hook: "Republic of Korea" is necessary to specify that you mean what is commonly (but unofficially) called South Korea rather than the other one. But there's no comparable disambiguation motive not to just use bare "Moldova."

    Separately, myl's list of six countries in the first table that are typically arthrous in running English prose omitted a seventh, listed in the table only as "Maldives."

  6. Trogluddite said,

    May 29, 2022 @ 1:35 pm

    I wondered if it were that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is one "United Kingdom" among many, but for some reason has the privilege of not requiring further qualification – i.e. it is "_The_ archetype", so to speak. However, a quick Google did not reveal any other current nation with this official form; though it seems that there were historically (e.g. the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Azores).

  7. Alexander Browne said,

    May 29, 2022 @ 1:45 pm

    Maybe it's because off Transnistria – officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic?

  8. Philip Anderson said,

    May 29, 2022 @ 5:51 pm

    @Philip Taylor
    I am not surprised since "the Occupied Palestinian Territory" is a legal entity (the term was used by the ICJ) and recognised by the UN and other international organisations, including WHO.
    While I sympathise with the Tibetans, Tibet isn’t recognised as independent by any country, and had received very little recognition even when it was de facto independent before the Chinese invasion.

  9. Philip Anderson said,

    May 29, 2022 @ 6:04 pm

    @J.W. Brewer
    Maldives, or the Republic of Maldives, appears to be the country’s proper name, even if people often add the article. I believe that country names only take the definite article in English if it is applied to a common noun, such as kingdom.

  10. Anthony said,

    May 29, 2022 @ 10:23 pm

    United Kingdom (the) is the officlal U.N. "short name" for United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the). The most recent addition to the list of short names is Czechia, for Czech Republic (the).

  11. /df said,

    May 30, 2022 @ 7:06 am

    Never mind the United Nations, it's the Sex Pistols' "the UK".

  12. Robert Coren said,

    May 30, 2022 @ 9:47 am

    @Allen kamp: According to what I remember from 6th grade (mind you, we're talking over 60 years ago), much or all of the land that is now The Bronx was owned in the 17th-18th centuries by a Dutch colonist family named Bronck, and was known as "the Broncks' Farm", which I guess could easily have been shortened to simply "the Broncks'", and the name (eventually respelled – to look less "Dutch"?) stuck even after the holding was broken up and turned into a city (incorporated into New York City in the 1890s).

  13. Robert Coren said,

    May 30, 2022 @ 9:52 am

    Note that Ukraine, when it was part of the USSR, was generally referred to in English as "the Ukraine"; it took me a while to get used to the lack of article when it became independent (and I still wonder why it isn't "Ukrainia").

    A hundred years ago or so, the country we call Argentina was generally known in British usage (at least) as "the Argentine", and my bet is that the name rhymed with mine.

  14. Rodger C said,

    May 30, 2022 @ 10:14 am

    A hundred years ago or so, the country we call Argentina was generally known in British usage (at least) as "the Argentine", and my bet is that the name rhymed with mine.

    You don't have to bet. Margaret Thatcher, within living memory, still talked like that.

  15. Philip Taylor said,

    May 30, 2022 @ 10:27 am

    And it's not even necessary to search for recordings of the Blessèd Margaret opining on "the Argentine"; it is a phrase which was common in my youth, and the "wine"-rhyme pronunciation is still attested as correct by no less an authority than the LPD — /ˈɑːdʒ ən taɪn/. Needless to say I disagree with their syllabification (I would have /ˈɑː dʒən taɪn/) but otherwise agree with their pronunciation, which also admits of a rhotic variant.

  16. /df said,

    May 30, 2022 @ 12:09 pm

    I confirm "the Argentine" rhyming with "wine" and indeed a nice piece of Argentine steak was a favourite of my grandmother (d. 1970). Generally "Argentinian" would be used nowadays but "Argentine" still sounds right to me for produce.

    "The Ukraine" works like The Marches (Welsh. eg) or The Borders (Scottish, eg). So it might still be appropriate to describe the geographical area but not the nation, especially not if chunks of the "The Ukraine" should turn out to be in Russia.

    In Wales, there is Gower, a scenic peninsula near Swansea (in it, according to the Post Office) that unversed people often call "the Gower", presumably on the model of "the Gower [peninsula]".

    But what is the elided noun to which "Argentine" would have applied when using "the Argentine" for the country? Ngram searching suggests "confederation" or "republic". I'm going, with Wikipedia, for the latter: República Argentina has been the official name since 1860.

  17. Philip Taylor said,

    May 30, 2022 @ 12:42 pm

    Your "Gower" observations puzzle me, /df — you write that "In Wales, there is Gower, a scenic peninsula", so you appear to define Gower as the peninsula, but then you write « [which] unversed people often call "the Gower", presumably on the model of "the Gower [peninsula]" ». If Gower is, as you appear to state "a scenic peninsula", then your "unversed people" are surely not modelling "the Gower" on "the Gower peninsula" but are using the phrase to refer to "the Gower peninsula", just as you did in your opening words.

    As to whether such persons are unversed I cannot say, but the following is invariably sung in a Welsh accent and therefore presumably has Welsh origins —

    Oh I've got an Uncle Mike, and he's got a motor bike
    He'll do ninety miles an hour when he's burning down the Gower
    Was you ever see, was you ever see
    Was you ever see such a funny thing before ?

    FWIW, the narrator also has an Uncle Daniel (who has a cocker spaniel), etc.

  18. Philip Anderson said,

    May 30, 2022 @ 2:33 pm

    @Philip Taylor
    It’s Gŵyr in Welsh, with no article, and originally included more than just the peninsula. Would you also refer to the Shetland, because Shetland is also known as the Shetland Islands?

  19. Philip Taylor said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 1:23 am

    Philip A — Gŵyr: interesting, I didn't now that. But as to "the Shetland" no — I invariably refer to them in the plural — "the Shetlands". I don't think I've ever said (or written) singular "Shetland" in my life.

  20. Andreas Johansson said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 1:39 am

    I use "Ukraine" for the modern country and "the Ukraine" for the historical region (and similarly "Sudan" v. "the Sudan").

    And I normally call a certain Latin American country Argentina and its inhabitants Argentines.

  21. Philip Taylor said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 2:34 am

    I was wrong — I do use "Shetland" in the singular, but only in the set phrase "Orkney and Shetland".

  22. Philip Anderson said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 7:04 am

    I wouldn’t occur to me to refer to the Shetlands.
    I do say the Falklands, but that’s because Falkland was never their name (they were named after Viscount Falkland, who took his title from a Scottish village).
    I also say Shetland pony but the Falklands War.
    Like Andreas Johansson, the X seems to me to refer to a region rather than a country or political entity.

  23. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 8:17 am

    Wikipedia seems to be an inconsistent mess (often within the same article), as to "the Maldives" versus anarthrous "Maldives." I think the article is natural for the same reason it is for "the Netherlands," but not everyone disagrees. Maybe "Maldives" is like one of those situations ("Talking Heads" is a standard example) where the name of a rock band that wants to be arthrous (because it is morphologically plural) is thought anarthrous by its members and/or hard-core fans, who thus have learned to suppress the natural tendency toward arthrousness as a sign of in-group knowledge and cultural capital. Here are some other morphologically plural UN members, where there seems to be some variation from country to country as to when the definite article is/isn't used:

    [The] Comoros
    [The] Marshall Islands
    Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (same pattern as, e.g. "Dion and the Belmonts")
    [The] Seychelles
    [The] Solomon Islands
    [The] United Arab Emirates

    Non-plural examples of arthrousness expressly acknowledged by the UN's website include:
    Democratic Republic of the Congo
    Gambia (Republic of The)

  24. Philip Taylor said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 9:29 am

    Thinking to check whether "the Republic of Gambia" was attested in the wild, I asked Google to report on all occurrences thereof. Without telling me that it could not get an exact match to "the Republic of Gambia", it instead returned all matches of +the +Republic +of +Gambia. This is, as far as I am concerned, a new (and very unwanted) behaviour by Google, sadly bringing it into line with Amazon which will these days happily return a million things in which one is not interested as opposed to the two in which one is, and I wonder whether this may be tied up with the fact that I recently changed the user agent that my browser by turning off both general.useragent.compatMode.firefox and general.useragent.compatMode.strict-firefox. Are there any out there still able to get Google to report that a quoted string cannot be matched during a search ?

  25. Robert Coren said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 9:51 am

    I know that I have seen references in the press to "The Gambia", and it has always struck me as odd.

  26. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 11:43 am

    Note the presence of the 'the" in the English version of the Gambia's national anthem: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_The_Gambia_Our_Homeland

    I don't know if the morphosyntactic resources of the other language (which the article is inconsistent on the identity of!) allow a similar arthrous/anarthrous contrast.

  27. Andreas Johansson said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 1:55 pm

    I've always assumed "the Gambia" is arthrous because it's a river, and only by pars pro toto also the region or country about it.

    I note the WP article about the river writes the country as "The Gambia", with the article capitalized, which strikes me as odd.

  28. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 2:40 pm

    If you browse around the official website of the Gambian Embassy in Washington, D.C., it often but not exclusively throws in the definite article where you wouldn't necessarily expect it. https://www.gambiaembassydc.us/

    This to me raises an interesting question about the scope and strength of the politeness-based norm "call them whatever they want to be called." When it comes to issues like use/non-use of definite articles, where there are reasonably strong general background default rules in English, I'm inclined to think that I'm willing to continue to say "the Maldives" even if the present government over there would prefer anarthrous "Maldives" and likewise to continue to say anarthrous "Gambia" even if the present government over there would prefer arthrous "the Gambia," in each instance without feeling that I'm being more of an insensitive jerk than I'm willing to be.

  29. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 2:47 pm

    I posted too quickly and should have added that it is perhaps relevant to my prior point that while I have frankly not recently googled the human-rights-etc. record of either the present government of (the) Gambia or the present government of (the) Maldives, neither of them is presently on my conscious list of "regimes so odious that you should presumptively reject their advice on how to talk about them in English on moral grounds."

  30. Philip Anderson said,

    May 31, 2022 @ 5:40 pm

    For me there’s a significant difference between the Maldives and the Netherlands.
    When a country’s name is a qualified common noun, I think it’s natural to keep the article:
    The (United) Kingdom
    The (Solomon) Islands
    The (United) States
    The (Nether-)lands

  31. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 7:39 am

    @Philip A. I suppose I think of "the Maldives" as just an alternative way of saying "the Maldive Islands." And at least in my variety of English, one standardly uses "the" with the morphologically-plural name of a group of islands even if it's just a proper name, e.g. "the Lesser Antilles" or its subset "the Grenadines" (which I referenced above as part of a nation-state name).

    There are apparently people Out There (including government officials) who take the position that arthrous "the Solomon Islands" is the name of an archipelago whereas by contrast anarthrous "Solomon Islands" is the name of the nation-state whose territory includes most-but-not-all of that archipelago. That seems to me a silly and artificial distinction, although perhaps there are varieties of English in which it feels more intuitive.

  32. Philip Taylor said,

    June 1, 2022 @ 11:02 am

    Apropos (of) JWB's immediately preceding observations on the Solomon Islands, there is a similar situation in the United Kingdom where we have Cornwall (a county) and the Duchy of Cornwall (a duchy) which are most definitely not co-terminus, the Duchy including parts of Cornwall but also four times as much land in Devon (another county), and parts of roughly 13 other counties !

  33. Lesley McCullough said,

    June 2, 2022 @ 7:30 pm

    I live in the Yukon. It was once "The Yukon Territory" and then "The Yukon" but the quasi-constitutional Yukon Act of 2003 clarified the the territory's name was "Yukon" without the definite article. And there has been pushback on that ever since until it became a campaign issue in the last territorial election. The result is that the legal name remains "Yukon" ( the Yukon Act is a federal statute so we couldn't change it anyway but in all communications the territorial government will use "The Yukon", Chalk one up for the definite article.

  34. Philip Taylor said,

    June 3, 2022 @ 1:44 am

    You reference to "[the] Yukon" clarifies, for the first time, my own interpretation of the significance of the inclusion or omission of the definite article in a singular geographical name. For me, "the Yukon" would be an area of land, possibly but not necessarily with a single administration, whilst "Yukon" would have to be the name of a hamlet, village, town, county/duchy/province/state/whatever, country or continent. For reasons that are as yet unclear, I don't appear to apply the same reasoning to plural geographical names, so "the Maldives" could well be "a settlement, village, . .. country or continent". Are there any plural place names that don't conventionally take the definite article ?

  35. Steve Plant said,

    June 3, 2022 @ 7:09 am

    @ Philip Taylor


  36. Philip Taylor said,

    June 3, 2022 @ 10:40 am

    For me, definitely the Skerries, but others may differ …

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