Are they interchangeable or different?
United, Union Federal and Confederation: How are they different?
"United" as in the "United States" and "United Kingdom"
"Union" as in the "European Union" and "Soviet Union"
"Fedral" as in "Federal Republic of Germany" and "Russian Federation"
"Confederation" as in "Swiss Confederation"
Are they mutually interchangeable terms?
If not, how are they different from each other?
Only political scientists know the difference.
A confederation is a looser union than a federation. A confederation is almost like a strong alliance of separate nations while a federation is individual states joining to form a single nation.
"United" comes from "unite", meaning "combine". "Union" is just a noun form of this word, so the two are basically equivalent except of course for its grammatical role in the phrase. Basically a "union" implies that something is comprised of individual parts, but it says nothing about the role of those individual parts, so it can mean virtually anything. For example, the states in the United States are very tightly knit... they're subordinate to the national government to the point that, to me, the states feel more like simple regional divisions rather than separate entities -- although of course each state does have its own laws and policies.
On the other hand, the European Union is very loosely knit... the countries that it is comprised of are very different from each other and not at all analogous to U.S. states. The United Nations is even more loosely knit and isn't a government at all -- not in the sense that I usually think of one.
The Soviet Union was somewhere between these two extremes... officially it was considered one country, but people never lost a strong sense of national identity. The same goes for the United Kingdom... it's considered one country, but it consists of three countries. One country, three countries. A bit confusing, really.
The United States sometimes refers to itself as the Union, especially in the past... for example, when discussing the Civil War, the north is almost invariably called the Union and not the United States, although it was still called the United States in that period. The annual speech that the President gives is called the "State of the Union" address. I can't think of very many other contexts where using "Union" this way to refer to the U.S. sounds very natural, though.
I think Guest above described the difference between federation and confederation pretty well, but it's a rather loose definition. These terms have more specific meanings; see these pages:
Incidentally, the US national government is often called "federal", which is used to contrast it with the state government, e.g., federal law versus state law. Oddly enough, I don't think I've heard the US being referred to as a "federation", but it does fit the definition. We just don't really call it one unless we're discussing the definition of "federation" and what countries would be considered one.
United refers to a tight-knit group of political entities who have given up most or all of their sovereignty. A Union is a group of United political entities. A confederation is a group of political entities that have agreed to a binding alliance, but maintain most of their sovereignty.
The US and the UK are "unions", but what are Canada, Mexico, and France, for example.
Mexico is one -- they're the United Mexican States (Estados Unidos Mexicanos).
Has the "United Kingdom/the Great Britain" ever been called as the "Union Kingdom" in history?
Canada is a confederation.
France is a unitary, centralized republic. However, since 1872, a gradual (some would say halting) move to decentralization has been occurring. Where once there was the national government and 100 départements, there are now 26 intermediate régions, each comprising a number of départements.
Nevertheless, most power remains concentrated with the national government
<<Has the "United Kingdom/the Great Britain" ever been called as the "Union Kingdom" in history?>>
"Union" is a noun, so it's only been "United Kingdom." And it would be either THE United Kingdom or Great Britain... Great Britain cannot have a determiner because there's only one Britain, while there are several kingdoms.
Since 1789, the US has had a subtle increase in centralization. It's something no Americans actually wants to see happen, but both the Democrat and Republican Parties favor (the former more so than the latter)... It's weird.
***The same goes for the United Kingdom... it's considered one country, but it consists of three countries. One country, three countries. A bit confusing, really***
It isn't, really - in fact, it's quite simple.
The United Kingdom = Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland
United under one Crown - Queen Elizabeth II being the Head of State, thus making it a Democratic Monarchy, but with the Queen remaining independent from her elected Government in the form of the House of Commons consisting of 650 Members representing individual Constituencies,each directly elected to Parliament for terms not exceeding five years. This is known as the Lower House. The Upper House is known as the House of Lords, not directly elected by the public but appointed to Office by the Crown, for the most part, peers from all walks of life. Fewer are elevated to the House of Lords by inheritance as in the past, and the main purpose of the Lords is to act in a supervisory capacity and to offer advice and revision on all Bills presented to them by the Commons. If they think a Bill needs to be reconsidered it is passes back to the Commons where the MPs go through the whole process of discussion again in the light of the advice given by the Lords before it is passed into law and becomes an Act of Parliament. But the Commons are not bound hand and foot by the Lords, and they can, if they so wish, use the Parliament Act to force the Bill through irrespective of the views expressed by their Lordships, sitting in grandeur in their ermine and gold and seated on their scarlet benches in the Upper House. The Commons, in effect, can say "Sucks yaboo!" to the Lords, but they very rarely do, as the ooccasion very rarely arises in the first place.
In all that I would agree with you that it is a wee bit complicated if you are not familiar with the oldest Parliamentary democracy in the world.
Great Britain itself consists only of Scotland, England and Wales. So it's correct to say that the United Kingdom consists of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
This does not in fact include some of the islands, which are more or less self governing, with their own elected bodies. In the Isle of Man their governing body is known as the Tynwald - a Norse name, as amazingly the Isle of Man, although in the middle of the Irish sea, equidistant from Scotland, England and Ireland, has historic links with Norway. Nevertheless, the Isle of Man comes under the British Crown.
In the English Channel, situated much closer to France than to England, are another group of islands - the Channel Islands, again, like the Isle of Man, self governing, the governing bodies there being called States, as in the States of Jersey and the States of Guernsey, these being the two largest islands in the group. The other islands are much smaller and are also self governing, more or less - Alderney and Sark, and here the appointed Governors are called Seigneurs, reflecting the very strong French connections, the islands at one time being part of the Dukedom of Normandie (or Normandy as it is in English.)
Like the Isle of Man they two come under the British Crown, and throughout English is the native Language, although there may still be speakers of the original "patois" tongue, but I don't know for sure whether there are attempts to keep this CI patois alive and not allow it to die out, as was the fate of Manx in the Isle of Man. I don't know whether there were any differences between the "patois" of Jersey and Guernsey.
Most of the placenames on Jersey and Guernsey are French in character, although the respective capitals are St Helier and Guernsey.
The currency of the IOM and the CI is the Pound Sterling £, as on the UK mainland.
The Head of State is the Queen, as on the mainland.
They drive on the left, as on the mainland, although in the case of the CI, the only part of Great Britain to be occupied by the Germans during WW2 (from July 1940 to May 1945), the occupying Germans forced them to drive on the right. The day after Liberation they reverted to the left hand side again and burnt every single swastika flag in sight and cut off the hair of all the Jerrybags - local women who had had "relations" with the occupying German military, or had fraternised with them in any way at all during the Occupation. That was their just punishment. And quite right too.
<<<although the respective capitals are St Helier and Guernsey>>>
Correction: This should have read "the respective capitals are St Helier (Jersey) and St Peter Port (Guernsey).
Ack, I don't know why I said three countries. I did mean four: Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Island. I guess I was sleepier than I thought and miscounted. I did forget the smaller islands, though... but I'm sure I'm not the only one with that tendency ^^;
Anyway, I just meant that the terminology is a bit confusing -- how both the UK as a whole and its constituents can be called "countries". Thanks for the lesson, though. :)
What about Pitcairn Island?
Why doesn't Canada have an official full name?
It would be cool to have one