A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French or denoting a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count (earl) or a viscount.The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, C. W. Onions (Ed.), 1966, Oxford University Press Literal equivalents in other languages, derived from the equivalent of "count", are now seldom used officially, including , , , , , , , and ''zhupa'' in Slavic languages; terms equivalent to English language administrative terms such as municipality, district, circuit and commune/community are now often instead used. When the Normans conquered England, they brought the term with them. The Saxons had already established the districts that became the historic counties of England, calling them shires;Vision of Britai

— Type details for ancient county. Retrieved 31 March 2012
many county names derive from the name of the county town (county seat) with the word ''shire'' added on: for example, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. The Anglo-Saxon people, Anglo-Saxon terms ''earl'' and ''earldom'' were taken as equivalent to the continental Europe, continental terms "count" and "county" under the conquering Normans, and over time the two blended and became equivalent. Further, the later-imported term became a synonym for the native Old English word () or, in Modern English, ''shire'' – an equivalent administrative division of the kingdom. The term "county" evolved, consequently, to designate a level of local government, local administration that was immediately beneath a Central government, national government, within a unitary state, unitary (non-federal) system of government. County later also became used differently in some federalism, federal systems of government, for a local administrative division subordinate to a primary subnational entity, such as a Province (e.g. Canada) or a State (e.g. the United States); in these countries, a county is a Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics, level 3 territorial unit (NUTS 3). In the United States and Canada, founded 600 years later on the British traditions, counties are usually an administrative division set by convenient geographical demarcations, which in governance have certain officeholders (for example sheriffs and their sheriff's department, departments) as a part of the state (United States), state and province (Canada), provincial mechanisms, including geographically common court systems. A county may be further subdivided into districts, hundred (county division), hundreds, civil township, townships or other administrative jurisdictions within the county. A county usually, but not always, contains cities, towns, civil township, townships, villages, or other municipal corporations, which in most cases are somewhat subordinate or dependent upon county governments. Depending on the nation, municipality, and local geography, municipalities may or may not be subject to direct or indirect county control — the functions of both levels are often consolidated into a city government when the area is densely populated. Outside English-speaking countries, an equivalent of the term ''county'' is often used to describe subnational jurisdictions that are structurally equivalent to counties in the relationship they have with their national government; but which may not be administratively equivalent to counties in predominantly English-speaking countries.



Counties are the current second-level political division in Kenya. Each county has an assembly where members of the county assembly (MCAs) sit. This assembly is headed by a Governor. Each county is also represented in the Senate of Kenya by a senator. Additionally, a Women's Representative is elected from each county to the Parliament of Kenya to represent women's interests. Counties replaced provinces of Kenya, provinces as the second-level division after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya.


Liberia has 15 counties, each of which elects two senators to the Senate of Liberia.

The Americas


Provinces in Argentina are divided into departments of Argentina, departments ( es, departamentos), except in the Buenos Aires Province, where they are called . The Buenos Aires, Autonomous City of Buenos Aires is divided into communes ().


In Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, Canadian province, provinces that have a two-tier system of local government, the counties constitute the upper tier and local municipalities form the lower tier.

New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island

The counties of list of counties of New Brunswick, New Brunswick and list of counties of Prince Edward Island, Prince Edward Island are historical and have no governments of their own today. However, they remain used as census divisions, census Census geographic units of Canada, divisions by Statistics Canada, and by locals as geographic identifiers.


The primary administrative Ontario#Administrative divisions, division of Southern Ontario is its 22 counties, which are upper-tier local governments providing limited municipal services to rural and moderately dense areas—within them, there are a variety of lower-tier towns, cities, villages, etc. that provide most municipal services. This contrasts with Northern Ontario's 10 districts, which are geographic divisions but not local governments—although some towns, etc. are within them that are local governments, the low population densities and much larger area have significant impacts on how government is organized and operates. In both Northern and Southern Ontario, urban densities in cities are one of two other local structures: regional municipalities (restructured former counties which are also upper tiers) or single-tier municipalities.


Quebec's counties are more properly called "list of regional county municipalities and equivalent territories in Quebec, Regional County Municipalities" (). The province's List of former counties of Quebec, former counties proper were supplanted in the early 1980s.


A ''county'' in Alberta used to be a type of designation in a single-tier municipal system; but this was nominally changed to "list of municipal districts in Alberta, municipal district" under the ''Municipal Government Act'', when the ''County Act'' was repealed in the mid-1990s. However, at the time the new "municipal districts" were also permitted to retain the usage of ''county'' in their official names. As a result, in Alberta, the term ''list of municipal districts in Alberta, county'' is synonymous with the term ''list of municipal districts in Alberta, municipal district'' – it is not its own incorporated municipal status that is different from that of a municipal district. As such, Alberta Municipal Affairs provides municipal districts with the opportunity to change to a ''county'' in their official names, but some have chosen to hold out with the ''municipal district'' title. The vast majority of "municipal districts" in Alberta are named as counties.

British Columbia

British Columbia has counties of British Columbia, counties for the purposes of its justice system but otherwise they hold no governmental function. For the provision of all other governmental services, the province is divided into list of regional districts of British Columbia, regional districts that form the upper tier, which are further subdivided into list of municipalities in British Columbia, local municipalities that are partly autonomous, and unincorporated area, unincorporated list of regional district electoral areas in British Columbia, electoral areas that are governed directly by the regional districts.


The province of Manitoba was divided into List of former counties of Manitoba, counties; however, these counties were abolished in 1890.

Rest of Canada

Manitoba and Saskatchewan are divided into rural municipalities. The Northwest Territories and Nunavut are divided into regions; however, these regions only serve to streamline the delivery of territorial governmental services, and have no government of their own. Newfoundland and Labrador, and Yukon do not have any second-level administrative subdivision between the provincial/territorial government and their municipalities.


Jamaica is divided into 14 parishes of Jamaica, parishes which are grouped together into 3 historic counties of Jamaica, counties: Cornwall County, Jamaica, Cornwall, Middlesex County, Jamaica, Middlesex, and Surrey County, Jamaica, Surrey.

United States

Counties in U.S. states are Administrative division, administrative or political subdivision of the state in which their boundaries are drawn. In addition, the United States Census Bureau uses the term "county equivalent" to describe places that are comparable to counties, but called by different names. Today, 3,142 counties and county equivalents carve up the United States, ranging in number from 3 for Delaware to 254 for Texas. Forty-eight of the 50 U.S. states use the term "county", while Alaska and Louisiana use the terms "List of boroughs and census areas in Alaska, borough" and "List of parishes in Louisiana, parish", respectively, for analogous jurisdictions. A ''consolidated city-county'' such as Philadelphia and San Francisco is formed when a city and county merges into one unified jurisdiction. Conversely, an ''Independent city (United States), independent city'' like Baltimore and St. Louis legally belongs to no county, i.e. no county even nominally exists in those places compared to a consolidated city-county where a county does legally exist in some form. The Washington, D.C., District of Columbia, outside the jurisdiction of any state, is viewed by the U.S. Census Bureau as a single county equivalent. The specific governmental powers of counties vary widely between the states. They are generally the intermediate tier of state government, between the statewide tier and the immediately local government tier (typically a city, town/borough or village/township). Some of the governmental functions that a county may offer include judiciary, county prisons, land registration, enforcement of building codes, federally mandated services programs. Depending on the individual state, counties or their equivalents may be administratively subdivided into civil township, townships, borough, boroughs or boros, or towns (in the New England states, New York (state), New York, Pennsylvania, and Administrative divisions of Wisconsin, Wisconsin). For independent cities and consolidated city-counties, those places report directly to the state. New York City is a special case where the city is made up of Boroughs of New York City, five boroughs, each of which is territorially coterminous with a List of counties in New York, county of New York State. In the context of city government, the boroughs are subdivisions of the city but are still called "county" where state function is involved, e.g., "''New York County'' Courthouse". County governments in Rhode Island and Connecticut have been completely abolished but the entities remain for administrative or statistical purposes. Alaska's Unorganized Borough, Alaska, Unorganized Borough also has no county equivalent government, but the U.S. Census Bureau further divides it into statistical county equivalent subdivisions called List of boroughs and census areas in Alaska, census areas. The areas of each county also vary widely between the states. For example, the territorially medium-sized state of Pennsylvania has 67 counties delineated in geographically convenient ways. By way of contrast, Massachusetts, with far less territory, has massively sized counties in comparison even to Pennsylvania's largest, yet each organizes their judicial and incarceration officials similarly. Most counties have a county seat: a city, town, or other named place where its administrative functions are centered. Some New England states use the term shire town to mean "county seat". A handful of counties like Harrison County, Mississippi have two or more county seats, usually located on opposite sides of the county, dating back from the days when travel was difficult.



In the eastern states of Australia, counties are lands administrative divisions of Australia, used in the administration of land titles. They do not generally correspond to a level of government, but are used in the identification of parcels of land.

People's Republic of China

The word ''county'' is used to translate the Chinese term ( or ). In Mainland China, governed by the People's Republic of China (PRC), counties are the County-level division, third level of local government, coming under both the Administrative divisions of China#Provincial level, province level and the Administrative divisions of China#County level, prefecture level. There are 1,464 counties in the PRC out of 2,862 county-level divisions. The number of counties has remained more or less constant since the Han dynasty (206 BC – AD 220). The county remains one of the oldest levels of government in China and significantly predates the establishment of provinces in the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). The county government was particularly important in imperial China because this was the lowest layer at which the imperial government functioned. The head of a county during imperial times was the magistrate. In older context, ''district'' was an older English translation of before the establishment of the Republic of China (1912–49), Republic of China (ROC). The English nomenclature ''county'' was adopted following the establishment of the ROC. During most of the imperial era, there were no concepts like municipalities in China. All cities existed within counties, jun (country subdivision), commanderies, prefectures, etc., and had no governments of their own. Large cities (must be imperial capitals or seats of prefectures) could be divided and administered by two or three counties. Such counties are called 倚郭縣 (, 'county leaning on the city walls') or (, 'county attached to the city walls'). The yamen or governmental houses of these counties exist in the same city. In other words, they share one county town. In this sense, a or is similar to a district of a city. For example, the city of Guangzhou (seat of the eponymous prefecture, also known as ''Canton'' in the Western world) was historically divided by Nanhai District#History, Nanhai County () and Panyu District#History, Panyu County (). When the first modern city government in China was established in Guangzhou, the urban area was separated from these two counties, with the rural areas left in the remaining parts of them. However, the county governments remained in the city for years, before moving into the respective counties. Similar processes happened in many Chinese cities. Nowadays, most counties in mainland China are administered by prefecture-level cities. However, they are all rural areas, and no longer serve as urban districts.


The Provinces of Iran, ostans (provinces) of Iran are further subdivided into counties called ( fa, شهرستان). County consists of a city centre, a few ( fa, بخش), and many villages around them. There are usually a few cities ( fa, شهر, ) and rural agglomerations ( fa, دهستان, ) in each county. Rural agglomerations are a collection of a number of villages. One of the cities of the county is appointed as the capital of the county. Each has a government office known as (), which coordinates different events and government offices. The , or the head of , is the governor of the . Fars Province has the highest number of , with 36, while Qom Province, Qom uniquely has one, being wiktionary:coextensive, coextensive with its Qom County, namesake county. Iran had 324 in 2005 and 443 in 2021.


County is the common English translation for the Korean character, character ( or ) that denotes the current second level political division in South Korea and one type of municipal-level division in North Korea.

New Zealand

After New Zealand abolished its provinces of New Zealand, provinces in 1876, a system of counties similar to other countries' systems was instituted, lasting until 1989. They had chairmen, not mayors as boroughs and cities had; many legislative provisions (such as burial and subdivision (land), land subdivision control) were different for the counties. During the second half of the 20th century, many counties received overflow population from nearby cities. The result was often a merger of the two into a ''district'' (e.g. Rotorua) or a change of name to either ''district'' (e.g. Waimairi) or ''city'' (e.g. Manukau City). The Local Government Act 1974 (New Zealand), Local Government Act 1974 began the process of bringing urban, mixed, and rural councils into the same legislative framework. Substantial reorganisations under that Act resulted in the 1989 shake-up, which covered the country in (non-overlapping) cities and districts and abolished all the counties except for the Chatham Islands County, which survived under that name for a further 6 years but then became a "Territory" under the "Chatham Islands Council".


''County'' is the common English translation for the chinese character, character ( zh, w=hsien4) that denotes the current first level political division in Taiwan and surrounding islands. However, provincial city (Taiwan), provincial cities have the same level of authority as counties. Above county, there are special municipality (Taiwan), special municipalities (in effect) and province (suspended due to economical and political reasons). There are currently 14 counties in Taiwan.



Denmark was divided into counties ( da, amter) from 1662 to 2006. On 1 January 2007 the counties were replaced by five regions of Denmark, Regions. At the same time, the number of municipalities was slashed to 98. The counties were first introduced in 1662, replacing the 49 fiefs () in Denmark–Norway with the same number of counties. This number does not include the subdivisions of the Duchy of Schleswig, which was only under partial Danish control. The number of counties in Denmark (excluding Norway) had dropped to around 20 by 1793. Following the reunification of South Jutland County, South Jutland with Denmark in 1920, four counties replaced the Prussian . Aabenraa County, Aabenraa and Sønderborg County merged in 1932 and Skanderborg County, Skanderborg and Aarhus County, Aarhus were separated in 1942. From 1942 to 1970, the number stayed at 22. The number was further decreased by the 1970 Danish municipal reform, leaving 14 counties plus two cities unconnected to the county structure; Copenhagen and Frederiksberg. In 2003, Bornholm County merged with the local five municipalities, forming the Bornholm, Bornholm Regional Municipality. The remaining 13 counties were abolished on 1 January 2007 where they were replaced by five new regions. In the same reform, the number of municipalities was slashed from 270 to 98 and all municipalities now belong to a region.


A was a territory ruled by a count () in medieval France. In modern France, the rough equivalent of a county as used in many English-speaking countries is a departments of France, department (). Ninety-six departments are in metropolitan France, and five are overseas department and region, overseas departments, which are also classified as overseas regions. Departments are further subdivided into 334 arrondissements of France, arrondissements, but these have no autonomy; they are the basis of local organisation of police, fire departments and, sometimes, administration of elections.


Each administrative district consists of an elected council and an executive, and whose duties are comparable to those of a county executive in the United States, supervising local government administration. Historically, counties in the Holy Roman Empire were called . The majority of German districts are "rural districts" (German: ), of which there are 294 . Cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants (and smaller towns in some states) do not usually belong to a district, but take on district responsibilities themselves, similar to the concept of Independent city, independent cities and there are 107 of them, bringing the total number of districts to 401.


The administrative unit of Hungary is called (historically, they were also called ; in Latin), which can be translated with the word ''county''. The 19 counties constitute the highest level of the administrative subdivisions of the country together with the capital city Budapest, although counties and the capital are grouped into seven statistical regions. Counties are subdivided to municipalities, the two types of which are towns and villages, each one having their own elected mayor and council. 23 of the towns have the rights of a county although they do not form independent territorial units equal to counties. Municipalities are grouped within counties into subregions (), which have statistical and organizational functions only. The was also the historic administrative unit in the Kingdom of Hungary, which included areas of present-day neighbouring countries of Hungary. Its Latin name () is the equivalent of the French . Actual political and administrative role of counties changed much through history. Originally they were subdivisions of the royal administration, but from the 13th century they became self-governments of the nobles and kept this character until the 19th century when in turn they became modern local governments.


The island of Ireland was historically divided into 32 counties, of which 26 later formed the Republic of Ireland and 6 made up Northern Ireland. These counties are traditionally grouped into provinces of Ireland, four provinces: Leinster (12 counties), Munster (6), Connacht (5) and Ulster (9). Historically, the counties of County Meath, Meath and County Westmeath, Westmeath and small parts of surrounding counties constituted the province of Mide, which was one of the "Five Fifths" of Ireland (in the Irish language the word for province, , means 'a fifth': from , 'five'); however, these have long since been absorbed into Leinster. In the Republic each county is administered by an elected "county council", and the old provincial divisions are merely traditional names with no political significance. The number and boundaries of administrative counties in the Republic of Ireland were reformed in the 1990s. For example, County Dublin was divided into three: Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin; the City of Dublin had existed for centuries before. The cities of Cork (city), Cork and Galway have been separated from the town and rural areas of their counties. The cities of Limerick and Waterford were merged with their respective counties in 2014. Thus, the Republic of Ireland now has 31 'county-level' authorities, although the borders of the original twenty-six counties are still officially in place. In Northern Ireland, the six county councils and the smaller town councils were abolished in 1973 and replaced by a single tier of local government. However, in the north as well as in the south, the traditional 32 counties and 4 provinces remain in common usage for many sporting, cultural and other purposes. County identity is heavily reinforced in the local culture by allegiances to county teams in hurling and Gaelic football. Each Gaelic Athletic Association county has its own flag/colours (and often a nickname), and county allegiances are taken quite seriously. See the counties of Ireland and the Gaelic Athletic Association.


In Italy the word ''county'' is not used; the administrative sub-division of a region is called . Italy, Italian provinces are mainly named after their principal town and comprise several administrative subdivisions called ('communes'). There are currently 110 provinces in Italy. In the context of pre-modern Italy, the Italian word generally refers to the countryside surrounding, and controlled by, the city state. The provided natural resources and agricultural products to sustain the urban population. In contemporary usage, can refer to a metropolitan area, and in some cases large rural/suburban regions providing resources to distant cities.


(plural ) is the Lithuanian word for county. Since 1994 Lithuania has 10 counties; before 1950 it had 20. The only purpose with the county is an office of a state governor who shall conduct law and order in the county.


Norway has been divided into 11 counties of Norway, counties ( nb, fylker, nn, fylke; singular: ) since 2020; they previously numbered 19 following a local government reform in 1972. Until that year Bergen was a separate county, but today it is a municipality within the county of Vestland. All counties form administrative entities called county municipalities ( or ; singular: ), further subdivided into list of municipalities of Norway, municipalities ( or ; singular: ). One county, Oslo, is not divided into municipalities, rather it is equivalent to the municipality of Oslo. Each county has its own county council (Norway), county council () whose representatives are elected every four years together with representatives to the municipal council (Norway), municipal councils. The counties handle matters such as high schools and local roads, and until 1 January 2002 hospitals as well. This last responsibility was transferred to the state-run regional health authority (Norway), health authorities and health trusts, and there is a debate on the future of the county municipality as an administrative entity. Some people, and parties, such as the Conservative Party (Norway), Conservative and Progress Party (Norway), Progress Party, call for the abolition of the county municipalities once and for all, while others, including the Labour Party (Norway), Labour Party, merely want to merge some of them into larger regions.


The territorial administration of Poland since 1999 has been based on three levels of subdivision. The country is divided into Voivodeships of Poland, ''voivodeships'' (provinces); these are further divided into ''powiats'' (counties or districts). The term ''powiat'' is often translated into English as ''county'' (or sometimes ''district'').These 380 county-level entities in Poland include 314 "land counties" (powiaty ziemskie) and the 66 "city counties" (''miasta na prawach powiatu'' or ''powiaty grodzkie'') . They are subdivisions of the 16 voivodeship (Poland), ''voivodeship'', and are further subdivided into 2,477 gmina, gminas (also called commune or municipality).


The Romanian word for county, , is not currently used for any Romanian administrative divisions. Romania is divided into a total of 41 counties ( ro, județe), which along with the municipality of Bucharest, constitute the official administrative divisions of Romania. They represent Romania, the country's NUTS-3 (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics – Level 3) statistical subdivisions within the European Union and each of them serves as the local level of Government of Romania, government within its borders. Most counties are named after a major Rivers in Romania, river, while some are named after notable cities within them, such as the county seat.


The Swedish division into counties, , which literally means 'fief', was established in 1634, and was based on an earlier division into provinces of Sweden, provinces; Sweden is divided into 21 counties and 290 municipalities (''kommuner''). At the county level there is a county Administrative Boards of Sweden, county administrative board led by a governor appointed by the central government of Sweden, as well as an elected county councils of Sweden, county council that handles a separate set of issues, notably hospitals and public transportation for the municipalities of Sweden, municipalities within its borders. Every county council corresponds to a county with a number of municipalities per county. County councils and municipalities have different roles and separate responsibilities relating to local government. Health care, public transport and certain cultural institutions are administered by county councils while general education, public water utilities, garbage disposal, elderly care and rescue services are administered by the municipalities. Gotland is a special case of being a county council with only one municipality and the functions of county council and municipality are performed by the same organisation.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is divided into a number of metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England, metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. There are also ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial counties which group small non-metropolitan counties into geographical areas broadly based on the historic counties of England. In 1974, the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties replaced the system of administrative counties of England, administrative counties and county boroughs which was introduced in 1889. The counties generally belong to level 3 of the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics#Former EU state, NUTS 3). In 1965 and 1974–1975, major reorganisations of local government in England and Wales created several new administrative counties such as Hereford and Worcester (abolished again in 1998 and reverted, with some transfers of territory, to the two separate historic counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire) and also created several new metropolitan county, metropolitan counties based on large urban areas as a single administrative unit. In Scotland, county-level local government was replaced by larger local government areas of Scotland 1973 to 1996, regions, which lasted until 1996. Modern local government in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and a large part of England is trending towards smaller unitary authorities: a system similar to that proposed in the 1960s by the Redcliffe-Maud Report for most of Britain. The name "county" was introduced by the Normans, and was derived from a Norman term for an area administered by a Count (lord). These Norman "counties" were simply the Saxon shires, and kept their Saxon names. Several traditional counties, including Essex, Sussex and Kent, predate the unification of England by Alfred the Great, and were originally more or less independent kingdoms (although the most important Saxon Kingdom on the island of Britain, Alfred's own Wessex, no longer survives in any form).


In England, in the Anglo-Saxon England, Anglo-Saxon period, ''shires'' were established as areas used for the raising of taxes, and usually had a fortified town at their centre. This became known as the ''shire town'' or later the county town. In many cases, the shires were named after their shire town (for example Bedford''shire''), but there are several exceptions, such as Cumberland, Norfolk and Suffolk. In several other cases, such as Buckinghamshire, the modern county town is different from the town after which the shire is named. (See Toponymical list of counties of the United Kingdom) Most non-metropolitan counties in England are run by county councils and are divided into non-metropolitan districts, each with its own council. Local authorities in the UK are usually responsible for education, emergency services, planning, transport, social services, and a number of other functions. Until 1974, the county boundaries of England changed little over time. In the medieval period, a number of important cities were granted the status of counties in their own right, such as London, Bristol and Coventry, and numerous small exclaves such as Islandshire were created. In 1844, most of these exclaves were transferred to their surrounding counties.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the six county councils, if not their counties, were abolished in 1973 and replaced by 26 local government districts. The traditional six counties remain in common everyday use for many cultural and other purposes.

Scotland and Wales

The thirteen historic counties of Wales were fixed by statute in 1539 (although counties such as Pembrokeshire date from 1138) and most of the shires of Scotland are of at least this age. The Welsh word for county is ''sir'' which is derived from the English 'shire'. The word is officially used to signify counties in Wales. In the Gaelic form, Scottish traditional county names are generally distinguished by the designation —literally "sheriffdom", e.g. (Argyllshire). This term corresponds to the jurisdiction of the sheriff in the Scottish legal system.



External links

* {{Authority control Counties, Types of administrative division