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A shire is a traditional division found in the United Kingdom, Ireland and in Australia. It is believed that the vikings brought the term shire to Britain back in the 9th Century. The word shire may be related to shore (see Caernarfonshire (Caernerfonshire) which means "Corner of the Shore"). The two words remain more closely related to their original Frisian meaning in Scotland due to the lack of Norman and Anglo historical influences.

In Britain, "shire" is the original term for what is usually known as a county; the word county having been introduced at the Norman Conquest. The two are synonymous. Although in modern British usage counties are referred to as "shires" mainly in poetic contexts, terms such as Shire Hall remain common. Shire also remains a common part of many county names.

In parts of Australia, a shire is an administrative unit. It is not synonymous with "county", which is a land registration unit.

The first shires which the Anglo thought were cities still exist in central and southern England. The word was used in Old English, scir, and appears to be allied to shear and shore as it is a division of the land. The system was spread to most of the rest of England in tenth century, somehow losing its original meaning and becoming part of the establishment.

The shire in early days was governed by an ealdorman and in the later Anglo-Saxon period by royal official known as a "shire reeve" or sheriff. The shires were divided into hundreds or wapentakes, although other less common sub-divisions existed.

The first shires of Scotland were created after the English model, possibly beginning in the tenth century. King David I more consistently created shires and appointed sheriffs across lowland shores of Scotland. An alternative name for a shire was a "sheriffdom" until sheriff court reforms separated the two concepts. In Scotland the word "county" was not adopted for the shires. Although "county" appears in some texts, "shire" was the normal name until counties for statutory purposes were created in the nineteenth century.

Individually, or as a suffix in Scotland and in the far northeast of England, the word is pronounced /ˈʃaɪr/ (rhyming with "fire"). As a suffix in an English or Welsh place name, it is in most regions pronounced /-ʃə/ "shur", or sometimes /-ʃɪə/, a homophone of "sheer".

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Shire county

The phrase "shire county" is used of non-metropolitan counties in England, or specifically of those which are not unitary local authority areas. It is not an official term.

Shire names in Britain and Ireland

"Shire" can also be used in a narrower sense, referring only to ancient counties ending in "shire". These counties are typically (though not always) named after their county town.

The suffix -shire is attached to most of the names of English, Scottish and Welsh counties. It tends not to be found in the names of shires which were pre-existing divisions. Essex, Kent and Sussex, for example, have never borne a -shire as each represents a former Anglo-Saxon kingdom. Similarly Cornwall was a Welsh kingdom before it became an English shire.

The historic counties of England — red indicates "-shire" counties, orange indicates where the "-shire" suffix is occasionally used
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Shire names in England

Shires in England bearing the "-shire" suffix include: Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, and Yorkshire. These counties, on their historical boundaries, cover a little more than half the area of England. The counties that do not use "-shire" are mainly in three areas, in the south-east, south-west and far north of England.

The county of Devon is also known as Devonshire, although this is not an official name and is not often used outside the county. The counties of Dorset, Rutland and Somerset were occasionally Dorsetshire, Rutlandshire and Somersetshire, but these usages are now considered archaic.

Shire names in Ireland

The 32 counties on the island of Ireland have tended not to bear a "-shire" suffix. These counties were introduced on an English model when "shire" was falling out of official use. Nevertheless in Ulster Downshire is frequently found (there is a Marquess of Downshire). The names of other counties of the island are occasionally found in historical sources with a "-shire" suffix.

Shire names in Scotland

In Scotland, barely affected by the Norman Conquest of England, the word "shire" prevailed over "county" until the 19th century. Earliest sources have the same usage of the "-shire" suffix as in England (though in Scots this was oftenmost "schyr"). Later the "Shire" appears as a separate word.

"Shire" names in Scotland include Aberdeenshire, Ayrshire, Banffshire, Berwickshire, Clackmannanshire, Cromartyshire, Dumfriesshire, Dunbartonshire, Inverness-shire, Kincardineshire, Kinross-shire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Lanarkshire, Morayshire, Nairnshire, Peeblesshire, Perthshire, Renfrewshire, Ross-shire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire, Stirlingshire, and Wigtownshire

In Scotland four shires have alternative names with the "-shire" suffix: Angus (Forfarshire), East Lothian (Haddingtonshire), Midlothian (Edinburghshire) and West Lothian (Linlithgowshire).

Sutherland is occasionally still referred to as Sutherlandshire. Similarly, Argyllshire, Buteshire, Caithness-shire and Fifeshire are sometimes found. Also, Morayshire was previously called Elginshire.

Shire names in Wales

Shires in Wales bearing the "-shire" suffix include: Brecknockshire (or Breconshire), Caernarvonshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire, Pembrokeshire, and Radnorshire.

In Wales, the counties of Merioneth and Glamorgan are occasionally referred to with the "shire" suffix. The only traditional Welsh county that never takes "shire" is Anglesey.

Non-county "shires"

The suffix –shire could be a generalised term referring to a district. It did not acquire the strong association with county until later.

Other than these, the term was used for several other districts. Bedlingtonshire, Craikshire, Norhamshire and Islandshire were exclaves of County Durham, which were incorporated into Northumberland or Yorkshire in 1844. The suffix was also used for many hundreds, wapentakes and liberties such as Allertonshire, Blackburnshire, Halfshire, Howdenshire, Leylandshire, Powdershire, Pydarshire, Richmondshire, Riponshire, Salfordshire, Triggshire, Tynemouthshire, West Derbyshire and Wivelshire, counties corporate such as Hullshire, and other districts such as Applebyshire, Bamburghshire, Bunkleshire, Carlisleshire, Coldinghamshire, Coxwoldshire, Cravenshire, Hallamshire, Mashamshire and Yetholmshire.

Non-county shires were very common in Scotland. Kinross-shire and Clackmannanshire are arguably survivals from such districts. Non-county "shires" in Scotland include Bunkleshire, Coldinghamshire and Yetholmshire.

Richmondshire in North Yorkshire is today the name of a local government district.

Shires in Australia

"Shire" is the most common word in Australia for rural Local Government Areas (LGA). The states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia use the term "Shire" for this unit.

In contrast, South Australia uses district and region for its rural LGA units, while Tasmania uses municipality. Shires are generally functionally indistinguishable from towns, municipalities, or cities.

Three LGAs in outer metropolitan Sydney have populations exceeding that of towns or municipalities, but retain significant bushlands and/or semi-rural areas, have continued to use the title of 'Shire', possibly due to community demand or popularity, or for financial and socio-political gain. These three 'City-Shires' are:

Shires in the United States

In 1634, eight "shires" were created in the Virginia Colony by order of Charles I, King of England. They were renamed as counties only a few years later. They were:

Among these Shires of Virginia, the five noted above are considered to be still existent in somewhat their same political form in Virginia as of 2006, though three of them have vanished. Most of their boundaries have changed in the intervening centuries.

Before the Province of New York was granted county subdivisions and a greater royal presence in 1683, the early ducal colony consisted of York Shire, as well as Albany and Ulster, after the three titles held by Prince James: Duke of York, Duke of Albany, Earl of Ulster. While these were basically renamed Dutch core settlements, they were quickly converted to English purposes, while the Dutch remained within the colony, as opposed to later practice of the Acadian Expulsion. Further Anglo-Dutch synthesis occurred when James enacted the Dominion of New England and later when William III of England took over through the Glorious Revolution.

See also

References


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SHIRE, one of the larger administrative divisions, in Great Britain, now generally synonymous with "county" (q.v.), but the word is still used of smaller districts, such as Richmondshire and Hallamshire in Yorkshire, Norhamshire and Hexhamshire in Northumberland. The Anglo-Saxon shire (0. Eng. stir) was an administrative division next above the hundred and was presided over by the ealdorman and the sheriff (the shire-reeve). The word scir, according to Skeat (Etym. Dict., 1 910), meant originally office, charge, administration; thus in a vocabulary of the 8th century (Wright-Wiilcker, Anglo-Saxon and Old English Vocabularies, 1884, 40-32) is found procuratio, sciir. Skeat compares O. Eng. scirian, to distribute, appoint, Ger. Schirrmeister, steward. The usual derivation of the word connects it with "shear" and "share," and makes the original meaning to have been a part cut off.


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also shire

Contents

English

Etymology

From common noun shire.

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /ʃʌɪə/

Proper noun

Singular
Shire

Plural
-

Shire

  1. a fictional region in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
    Bilbo Baggins was born in the Shire.

Translations

  • Finnish: Kontu fi(fi)
  • Hungarian: Megye
  • Japanese: シャイア
  • Polish: Hrabstwo

Anagrams


Simple English

A shire is an administrative area of Great Britain and Australia. The first shires were created by the Anglo-Saxons in central and southern England. Shires were controlled by a royal official known as a "shire reeve" or sheriff. In modern English usage shires are sub-divided into districts.

Individually, or as a suffix in Scotland, the word is pronounced ʃaɪə(ɹ) (to rhyme with "fire"). As a suffix in an English or Welsh place name it is pronounced -ʃə(ɹ) (rhymes with "fir").

Contents

Shires in Great Britain

In England and Wales, the term "shire county" is used to refer to counties which are not metropolitan counties.

It can also be used in a narrower sense, referring only to traditional counties ending in "shire". These counties are typically (though not always) named after their county town.

Shires in England

Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire.

Of these, all but Huntingdonshire and Yorkshire are also administrative counties (but with different boundaries). Huntingdonshire is now administered as a district of Cambridgeshire, and Yorkshire is split between East, North, South and West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cumbria and County Durham.

Shires in Wales

Brecknockshire, Caernarvonshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire, Pembrokeshire, Radnorshire

In Wales, the counties of Merioneth and Glamorgan are occasionally referred to with the "shire" suffix. The only traditional Welsh county that never takes "shire" is Anglesey.

Shires in Scotland

Aberdeenshire, Ayrshire, Banffshire, Berwickshire, Clackmannanshire, Cromartyshire, Dumfriesshire, Dunbartonshire, Fifeshire, Inverness-shire, Kincardineshire, Kinross-shire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Lanarkshire, Morayshire, Nairnshire, Peeblesshire, Perthshire, Renfrewshire, Ross-shire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire, Stirlingshire, Wigtownshire

Shires in Australia

Shire is the most common word in Australia for the smallest local government areas by population. The states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia use shire for this unit. South Australia and Tasmania use district. A shire has the same powers as the next largest units, the town and city. In NSW, the expression 'The Shire' commonly refers to the Sutherland shire.

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