A country is a region that is identified as a distinct national entity
in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign
state or one that is occupied by another state, as a
non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a
geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or
differently associated people with distinct political characteristics.
Regardless of the physical geography, in the modern internationally
accepted legal definition as defined by the
League of Nations
League of Nations in 1937
and reaffirmed by the
United Nations in 1945, a resident of a country
is subject to the independent exercise[clarification needed] of legal
Sometimes countries refers both to sovereign states and to other
political entities, while other times it refers only to states.
For example, the
CIA World Factbook
CIA World Factbook uses the word in its "Country
name" field to refer to "a wide variety of dependencies, areas of
special sovereignty, uninhabited islands, and other entities in
addition to the traditional countries or independent states".[Note
1 Etymology and usage
3 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
Etymology and usage
The word country comes from
Old French contrée, which derives from
Vulgar Latin (terra) contrata ("(land) lying opposite"; "(land) spread
before"), derived from contra ("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
– "a country" – through misuse and subsequent conflation is now a
synonym for state, or a former sovereign state, in the sense of
sovereign territory or "district, native land". Areas much smaller
than a political state may be called by names such as the West Country
in England, the
Black Country (a heavily industrialized part of
England), "Constable Country" (a part of
East Anglia painted by John
Constable), the "big country" (used in various contexts of the
American West), "coal country" (used of parts of the US and elsewhere)
and many other terms.
The equivalent terms in French and other Romance languages (pays and
variants) have not carried the process of being identified with
political sovereign states as far as the English "country", instead
derived from, pagus, which designated the territory controlled by a
medieval count, a title originally granted by the Roman Church. In
many European countries the words are used for sub-divisions of the
national territory, as in the German Bundesländer, as well as a less
formal term for a sovereign state. France has very many "pays" that
are officially recognised at some level, and are either natural
regions, like the Pays de Bray, or reflect old political or economic
entities, like the Pays de la Loire.
A version of "country" can be found in the modern
French language as
contrée, based on the word cuntrée in Old French, that is used
similarly to the word "pays" to define non-state regions, but can also
be used to describe a political state in some particular cases. The
modern Italian contrada is a word with its meaning varying locally,
but usually meaning a ward or similar small division of a town, or a
village or hamlet in the countryside.
See also: List of sovereign states
The term "country" can refer to a sovereign state. There is no
universal agreement on the number of "countries" in the world, since a
number of states have disputed sovereignty status. There are 206
sovereign states, of which 193 states are members of the United
Nations, two states have observer status at the U.N. (the
Holy See and
Palestine), and 11 other states are neither a member or observer at
the U.N. All are defined as states by declarative theory of statehood
and constitutive theory of statehood. The latest proclaimed state is
South Sudan in 2011.
Although not sovereign states, England, Scotland,
Wales and Northern
Ireland are usually referred to as countries (depending on context),
which collectively form the United Kingdom—a sovereign state that is
also referred to as a country. The Kingdom of Denmark, a
sovereign state, comprises
Mainland Denmark and two nominally separate
countries—the Faroe Islands, and Greenland—which are almost fully
internally self-governing. The Kingdom of the Netherlands, a sovereign
state, comprises four separate countries: Netherlands, Aruba,
Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. In the Kingdom of Spain, the regions of
Galicia, the Catalan speaking parts (Catalonia,
Valencia and Balearic
Islands) and the Basque
Country are sometimes recognized as
non-sovereign states or group of states (namely, autonomous
communities under the Spanish law), specially within nationalist
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 or the British Virgin Islands),
with citizenry at times identical and at times distinct from their
own. Such territories, with the exception of distinct dependent
territories, are usually listed together with sovereign states on
lists of countries, but may nonetheless be treated as a separate
"country of origin" in international trade, as Hong Kong
List of sovereign states and dependent territories by continent
Lists of countries and territories
^ General information or statistical publications that adopt the wider
definition for purposes such as illustration and comparison
^ Tjhe Kwet Koe v Minister for Immigration & Ethnic Affairs 
FCA 912 (8 September 1997), Federal Court (Australia).
^ Rosenberg, Matt. "Geography: Country, State, and Nation". Retrieved
^ "The World Factbook". CIA. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
^ OED, Country
^ a b John Simpson, Edmund Weiner (ed.). Oxford English Dictionary
(1971 compact ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
^ "Legal Research Guide: United Kingdom". Law Library of Congress.
2009-07-23. Retrieved 2013-03-29. The
United Kingdom of Great Britain
Northern Ireland is the collective name of four countries,
Scotland and Northern Ireland. The four separate
countries were united under a single Parliament through a series of
Acts of Union.
^ "Countries Within a Country". 10 Downing Street. 2003-01-10.
Archived from the original on 2008-09-09. Retrieved 2009-09-22. The
United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales
and Northern Ireland.
United Kingdom — Geography". Commonwealth Secretariat.
2009-09-22. Archived from the original on 2009-03-24. Retrieved
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
(UK) is a union of four countries: England, Scotland,
^ "Travelling Europe — United Kingdom". European Youth Portal.
European Commission. 2009-06-29. Archived from the original on
2010-02-05. Retrieved 2009-09-22. The
United Kingdom is made up of
four countries: England, Northern Ireland,
Scotland and Wales.
^ "Made In The British Crown Colony". Thuy-Tien Crampton. Archived
from the original on 2014-04-07.
^ "MATCHBOX LABEL, MADE IN HONG KONG". delcampe.net. Archived from the
original on 1 April 2014.
^ "Carrhart Made In Hong Kong?". ContractorTalk.
Country Information". Countryreports.org. Retrieved
2008-05-28. "The World Factbook – Rank Order – Exports".
Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
^ "Index of Economic Freedom". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved
^ "Index of Economic Freedom – Top 10 Countries". The Heritage
Foundation. Archived from the original on 2008-01-24. Retrieved
^ "Asia-Pacific (Region A) Economic Information" (PDF). The Heritage
Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-11-14. Retrieved
^ "Subjective well-being in 97 countries" (PDF). University of
Michigan. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-08-19. Retrieved
^ Mercer's 2012 Cost of Living Survey city rankings Archived July 25,
2008, at the Wayback Machine.. Mercer.com (2008-12-18). Retrieved on
^ EIU Digital Solutions. "Country, industry and risk analysis from The
Economist Intelligence Unit – List of countries – The Economist
Intelligence Unit". eiu.com.
^ Hanke, Steve H. (May 2014). "Measuring Misery around the World".
Defining what makes a country The Economist
Find more aboutCountryat's sister projects
Definitions from Wiktionary
Media from Wikimedia Commons
News from Wikinews
Quotations from Wikiquote
Texts from Wikisource
Textbooks from Wikibooks
Learning resources from Wikiversity
Data from Wikidata
The CIA World Factbook
Country Studies from the United States Library of Congress
Foreign Information by
Country & Territory Guides from
GovPubs at UCB Libraries
United Nations statistics division
Lists of sovereign states and dependent territories by continent
List of island countries