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A country is a distinct territorial body or
political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relations, and have a capacity to mobilize resource ...
. It may be an independent
sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relatio ...
or part of a larger state, as a non-
sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descende ...
or formerly sovereign
political division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are generic names for geographical areas into which a particular, ...

political division
, a physical territory with a
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Departmen ...

government
, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated
people A people is any plurality of persons considered as a whole. Used in politics and law it is a term to refer to the collective or community of an ethnic group, a nation, to the public or common people, common mass of people of a polity. As suc ...

people
s with distinct political characteristics. It is not inherently sovereign.
The largest country in the world by geographical area is
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...

Russia
, while the most populous is
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different countries, the in the world after . Covering an area of ap ...

China
. The smallest and the least populous is the
microstate upright=1.4, Map of the smallest states in the world by land area. Note many of these are not considered microstates A microstate or ministate is a sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralize ...
Vatican City Vatican City (), officially the Vatican City State ( it, Stato della Città del Vaticano; la, Status Civitatis Vaticanae),—' * german: Vatikanstadt, cf. '—' (in Austria: ') * pl, Miasto Watykańskie, cf. '—' * pt, Cidade do Vatica ...

Vatican City
.


Etymology and usage

The word ''country'' comes from
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spok ...
, which derives from
Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin, is non-literary Literature broadly is any collection of written Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is th ...
() ("(land) lying opposite"; "(land) spread before"), derived from ("against, opposite"). It most likely entered the English language after the Franco-Norman invasion during the 11th century. In English the word has increasingly become associated with political divisions, so that one sense, associated with the
indefinite article Indefinite may refer to: * the opposite of definite in grammar ** indefinite article ** indefinite pronoun An indefinite pronoun is a pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the ...
– "a country" – through misuse and subsequent conflation is now a synonym for state, or a former
sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relatio ...
, in the sense of sovereign territory or "district, native land". Examples of these in North America include ,
Shuswap CountryThe Shuswap Country, or simply the Shuswap (pronounced /ˈʃuːʃwɑːp/) and called Secwepemcúl̓ecw in Secwepemctsín, is a term used in the Canadian province The provinces and territories of Canada are sub-national divisions within the geog ...
,
Okanagan Country The Okanagan Country, also known as the Okanagan Valley, is a region located in the Provinces and territories of Canada, Canadian province of British Columbia and the U.S. state of Washington (state), Washington (where it is spelled the Okanogan Co ...
, Blackfoot Country, Inuit Country, the
Comanche The Comanche or Nʉmʉnʉʉ ( com, Nʉmʉnʉʉ; "the people") are a Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants ...

Comanche
Country or
Comanchería The Comancheria or Comanchería (Comanche The Comanche or Nʉmʉnʉʉ ( com, Nʉmʉnʉʉ; "the people") are a Native Americans in the United States, Native-American tribe (Native American), nation from the Great Plains whose historic territory ...
, and the
Delaware Delaware ( ) is a state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Maryland to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and New Jersey and the Atlantic Ocean to its east. The state takes i ...
Country or
Lenapehoking Lenapehoking is widely translated as ' homelands of the Lenape The Lenape ( or ), also called the Leni Lenape, Lenni Lenape and Delaware people, are an indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands, who live in the United States and Canada. ...

Lenapehoking
. Areas much smaller than a political state may be called by names such as the
West Country The West Country is a loosely defined area of south-western England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is sep ...

West Country
in England, the
Black Country The Black Country is an area of the English West MidlandsWest Midlands may refer to: Places * West Midlands (region), a region of the United Kingdom **West Midlands (county), the metropolitan county in the West Midlands region ** West Midlands ...
(a heavily industrialised part of England), "
Constable Country Dedham Vale is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB; ; AHNE) is an area of countryside File:Rural landscape in Finland.jpg, A rural landscape in Lappeenranta, South Karelia, Finland. 15 ...
" (a part of
East Anglia East Anglia is a geographical area in the East of England. The area included has varied but the legally defined Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics, NUTS statistical unit comprises the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshi ...
painted by
John Constable John Constable (; 11 June 1776 – 31 March 1837) was an English landscape painter in the Romantic Romantic may refer to: Genres and eras * The Romantic era, an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement of the 18th and 19th centu ...

John Constable
), the "big country" (used in various contexts of the
American West The Western United States (also called the American West, the Far West, and the West) is the region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the ...

American West
), "coal country" (used of parts of the US and elsewhere) and many other terms. The equivalent terms in various
Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin between the third and eighth centuries. They are a subgroup of the Italic languages in the Indo-European languages, Indo- ...
s (e.g. the French ) have not carried the process of being identified with sovereign political states as far as the English ''country''. These terms are derived from the Roman term , which continued to be used in the Middle Ages for small geographical areas similar to the size of English counties. In many
European countries The list below includes all entities falling even partially under any of the various common definitions of Europe, geographical or political. Fifty generally recognised sovereign states, Kosovo with limited, but substantial, international recog ...
, the words are used for sub-divisions of the national territory, as in the , as well as a less formal term for a sovereign state. France has very many "" that are officially recognised at some level and are either
natural region A natural region (landscape unit) is a basic geographic unit. Usually, it is a region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features ...
s, like the
Pays de BrayImage:Rouen dot.png, Location within France The Pays de Bray (, literally ''Land of Bray'') is a small (about 750 km²) natural region of France situated to the north-east of Rouen, straddling the French Département in France, departments of ...
, or reflect old political or economic entities, like the
Pays de la Loire In France, a ''pays'' () is an area whose inhabitants share common geographical, economic, cultural, or social interests, who have a right to enter into communal planning contracts under a law known as the Loi Pasqua or LOADT (''Loi d'Orientatio ...
. A version of "country" can be found in modern French as , derived from the
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spok ...
word , that is used similarly to the word to define non-state regions, but can also be used to describe a political state in some particular cases. The modern Italian is a word with its meaning varying locally, but usually meaning a
ward Ward may refer to: Division or unit * Hospital#Departments or wards, Hospital ward, a hospital division, floor, or room set aside for a particular class or group of patients, for example the psychiatric ward * Prison ward, a division of a pen ...
or similar small division of a town, or a village or hamlet in the countryside.


Country names

Countries may be known by two
names A name is a term used for identification by an external observer. They can identify a class or category of things, or a single thing, either uniquely, or within a given context. The entity identified by a name is called its referent A referent ...
: a protocol, formal, full, or official name; and a geographical, common, or short name.


Country symbols

Symbols of a country indicate
cultural Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior among two or more organisms within the same species, and encompasses any behavior in which one member affects the other. This is due to an int ...

cultural
,
religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Different religions may or may not contain v ...

religious
or
political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the Cognition, cognitive process resulting in the selection ...

political
symbol of any
nation A nation is a community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as Norm (social), norms, religion, values, Convention (norm), customs, or Identity (social science), identity. Communities may share a sense ...

nation
or race the country consists of. There are many categories of symbols which can be seen in flags, coat of arms or seals. *
Flag A flag is a piece of fabric A textile is a flexible material made by creating an interlocking network of yarn Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crochetin ...

Flag
s *
Coats of arms A coat of arms is a heraldic visual design on an escutcheon (i.e., shield A shield is a piece of personal armour held in the hand, which may or may not be strapped to the wrist or forearm. Shields are used to intercept specific attacks, ...
or
national emblem The national emblem means "national crest / shield emblem or logo design", which represents the image and dignity of the country's political power and people. It is one of the symbols of a country's political power.The national emblem is an emble ...
s * Seals or stamps *
National motto This article lists state and national mottos for the world's nations. The mottos for some List of unrecognized countries, states lacking general international recognition, List of extinct states, extinct states, non-sovereign nations, regions, and ...
s *
National colours National colours are frequently part of a country's set of national symbol A national symbol is a symbol of any entity considering and manifesting itself to the world as a national community: the sovereign states but also nations and country, coun ...
*
National anthem A national anthem is a patriotic Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, devotion, and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. This attachment can be a combination of ...
s


Sovereignty status

The term "country" can refer to a
sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relatio ...
. There is no universal agreement on the number of "countries" in the world since a number of states have disputed sovereignty status. By one application of the
declarative theory of statehood A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty Sovereignty is the supreme authority within a territory. In any state, sovereignty is assigned to the person, body, or instituti ...
and
constitutive theory of statehood A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relation ...
, there are 206 sovereign states; of which 193 are members of the UN, two have observer status at the
United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations The United Nations System consists of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) ...
(UNGA) (the
Holy See The Holy See ( lat, Sancta Sedes, ; it, Santa Sede ), also called the See of Rome or Apostolic See, is the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian ...
and
Palestine Palestine ( or ) most often refers to: * State of Palestine, a ''de jure'' sovereign state in the Middle East * Palestine (region), a geographical and historical region in the Middle East Palestine may also refer to: * Palestinian National Aut ...
), and 11 others are neither a member nor observer at the UNGA. The degree of autonomy of non-sovereign countries varies widely. Some are possessions of sovereign states, as several states have overseas territories (such as
French Polynesia )Territorial motto: ( en, "Great Tahiti of the Golden Haze") , anthem = "La Marseillaise "La Marseillaise" is the national anthem of France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a coun ...
, or the
British Virgin Islands ) , anthem = "God Save the Queen "God Save the Queen", alternatively "God Save the King" (dependent on the gender of the reigning monarch), is the or in most s, their territories, and the British . The author of the tune is unknown, an ...

British Virgin Islands
), with citizenry at times identical and at times distinct from their own. Such territories, are usually listed together with sovereign states on
lists of countries This is a list of lists of countries and territories by various criteria. A country or territory is a geographical area, either in the sense of ''nation'' (a cultural entity) or ''Sovereign state, state'' (a political entity).The Oxford English Di ...
, but may nonetheless be treated as a separate "
country of origin Country of origin (COO) represents the country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some for ...
" in international trade, as
Hong Kong Hong Kong (; , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China on the ...

Hong Kong
is. A few states consist of a union of smaller polities which are considered countries: * France includes
French Polynesia )Territorial motto: ( en, "Great Tahiti of the Golden Haze") , anthem = "La Marseillaise "La Marseillaise" is the national anthem of France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a coun ...
, which has the ''sui generis'' status of (overseas country), among the rest of (overseas France), in addition to "
Metropolitan France Metropolitan France (french: France métropolitaine or ''la Métropole''), also known as European France, is the area of France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a List of transcon ...

Metropolitan France
" ("the Hexagon"). * The
Kingdom of the Netherlands , national_anthem = ) , image_map = Kingdom of the Netherlands (orthographic projection).svg , map_width = 250px , image_map2 = File:KonDerNed-10-10-10.png , map_caption2 = Map of the four constituent countries shown to scale , capital = ...
includes four separate constituent countries ( nl,
landen Landen () is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routledge. It ...
):
Netherlands ) , national_anthem = ( en, "William of Nassau") , image_map = EU-Netherlands.svg , map_caption = , image_map2 = BES islands location map.svg , map_caption2 = , image_map3 ...

Netherlands
,
Aruba Aruba ( , , ) is an island and a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands , national_anthem = ) , image_map = Kingdom of the Netherlands (orthographic projection).svg , map_width = 250px , image_map2 = File:KonDerNed-10-1 ...

Aruba
,
Curaçao Curaçao ( ; ; pap, Kòrsou, ) is a Lesser Antilles The Lesser Antilles ( es, link=no, Antillas Menores; french: link=no, Petites Antilles; pap, Antias Menor; nl, Kleine Antillen) are a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea The Cari ...
, and
Sint Maarten Sint Maarten (, ) is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands , national_anthem = ) , image_map = Kingdom of the Netherlands (orthographic projection).svg , map_width = 250px , image_map2 = File:KonDerNed-10-10-10.png , ...

Sint Maarten
. * The
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
includes the four countries
England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is separated from by the to the east and the to the south. The country cover ...

England
,
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
,
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba Alba (Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig or Scots Gaelic, sometimes referred to simply as Gaelic) is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic languages, Celtic branch of the Indo-European ...

Scotland
and
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
. The
Crown Dependencies#REDIRECT Crown Dependencies The Crown dependencies (french: Dépendances de la Couronne; gv, Croghaneyn-crooin) are three island territories off the coast of Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off t ...

Crown Dependencies
and the
Overseas Territories A territory is an administrative division, usually an area that is under the jurisdiction of a sovereign state. In most country, countries, a ''territory'' is an organized division of an area that is controlled by a country but is not formally ...

Overseas Territories
, which are not part of the UK itself, are also considered countries (for example: Bermuda).


Country classification

Several organisations seek to identify trends to produce country classifications. Countries are often distinguished as
developing countries 450px, Example of Older Classifications by the IMF and the United Nations, UN from 2008 A developing country is a country with a less developed industrial base and a low Human Development Index (HDI) relative to other countries. However, ...
or developed countries.


The United Nations

The
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) is part of the United Nations Secretariat The United Nations Secretariat (french: link=no, Secrétariat des Nations unies) is one of the six major organs of the United N ...
annually produces the ''World Economic Situation and Prospects Report'' classifies states as developed countries, economies in transition, or developing countries. The report classifies country development based on per capita
gross national income The gross national income (GNI), previously known as gross national product (GNP), is the total domestic and foreign output claimed by residents of a country, consisting of gross domestic product (GDP Gross domestic product (GDP) is a mone ...
(GNI). The UN identifies subgroups within the broad categories based on geographical location or ad hoc criteria. The UN outlines the geographical regions for developing economies like Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The 2019 report recognises only developed countries in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. The majority of economies in transition and developing countries are found in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The UN additionally recognises multiple trends that impact the developmental status of countries in the ''World Economic Situation and Prospects''. The report highlights fuel-exporting and fuel-importing countries, small island developing states, and landlocked developing countries. It also identifies heavily indebted developing countries. The newest
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization An intergovernmental organization (IGO) is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states (referred to as ''member states''), or of other organizations through formal ...

United Nations
(UN) member is
South Sudan South Sudan (), officially known as the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the la ...

South Sudan
.


The World Bank

The
World Bank The World Bank is an international financial institution An international financial institution (IFI) is a financial institution that has been established (or chartered) by more than one country, and hence is subject to international law. Its o ...
also classifies countries based on GNI per capita. The ''World Bank Atlas method'' classifies countries as low-income economies, lower-middle-income economies, upper-middle-income economies, or high-income economies. For the 2020 fiscal year, the World Bank defines low-income economies as countries with a GNI per capita of $1,025 or less in 2018; lower-middle-income economies as countries with a GNI per capita between $1,026 and $3,995; upper-middle-income economies as countries with a GNI per capita between $3,996 and $12,375; high-income economies as countries with a GNI per capita of $12,376 or more. It also identifies regional trends. The World Bank defines its regions as East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, North America, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Lastly, the World Bank distinguishes countries based on the operational policies of the World Bank. The three categories include
International Development Association The International Development Association (IDA) (french: link=no, Association internationale de développement) is an international financial institution which offers concessional loans and grant (money), grants to the world's poorest developing ...

International Development Association
(IDA) countries,
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) is an international financial institution An international financial institution (IFI) is a financial institution that has been established (or chartered) by more than one country, ...
(IBRD) countries, and Blend countries.


See also

*
City network City networks are a geographical concept studying connections between cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The co ...
*
Constituent state A constituent state is a state entity that constitutes a part Part, parts or PART may refer to: People *Armi Pärt Armi Pärt (born 18 June 1991) is an Estonian handballer, playing in French D2 for Massy Essonne Handball. He is also a m ...
*
Lists of countries and territories This is a list of lists of countries and territories by various criteria. A country or territory is a geographical area, either in the sense of ''nation A nation is a community of people formed on the basis of a common language, history, ethnic ...
*
List of former sovereign states A historical sovereign state is a state that once existed, but has since been dissolved due to conflict, war, rebellion, annexation, or uprising. This page lists sovereign states, country, countries, nations, or empires that have ceased to exist ...
* List of sovereign states and dependent territories by continent *
List of transcontinental countries This is a list of countries A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutional ...
*
Micronation A micronation is a political entity whose members claim that they belong to an independent nation or sovereign state lacking legal recognition by world governments or major international organizations. Most are geographically very small, but ra ...
*
Princely state A princely state, also called a native state, feudatory state or Indian state (for those states on the subcontinent), was a under a local or indigenous or regional ruler in a with the and after 1858 with the . Though the history of the pri ...
* Quasi-state


Notes


References


Further reading


Defining what makes a country
''The Economist''


External links




Country Studies
from the
United States Library of Congress The Library of Congress (LC) is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress and is the ''de facto'' national library of the United States. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The libr ...

Foreign Information by Country
an

from GovPubs at UCB Libraries
United Nations statistics division
{{Authority control Human geography