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In geography, a country is a geographical region or a landscape, especially rural (the countryside, as opposed to the city). The term is often applied to a political division or the territory of a state, or to a smaller, or former, political division of a geographical region. Usually, but not always, a country coincides with a sovereign territory and is associated with a state, nation and government.

In common usage, the term country is used in the sense of both nations and states, with definitions varying. In some cases it is used to refer both to states and to other political entities,[1][2][3] while in some occasions it refers only to states[4] It is not uncommon for general information or statistical publications to adopt the wider definition for purposes such as illustration and comparison.[5][6][7][8][9]

Some entities which constitute cohesive geographical entities, and may be former states, but which are not presently sovereign states are commonly regarded and referred to as countries. The "constituent countries" of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, are one example, and the countries of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were others. Former states such as Bavaria (now part of Germany) and Piedmont (now part of Italy) would not normally be referred to as "countries" in contemporary English. The degree of autonomy of non-state countries varies widely. Some are possessions of states, as several states have overseas dependencies (such as the British Virgin Islands, Netherlands Antilles, and American Samoa), with territory and citizenry distinct from their own. Such dependent territories are sometimes listed together with independent states on lists of countries, and may be treated as a "country of origin" in international trade, as Hong Kong is.


Etymology and development of the word

Country has developed from the Latin contra, meaning "against", used in the sense of "that which lies against, or opposite to, the view", i.e. the landscape spread out to the view. From this came the Late Latin term contrata, which became the modern Italian contrada. The term appears in Middle English from the 13th century, already in several different senses.[10]

In English the word has increasingly become associated with political divisions, so that one sense, associated with the indefinite article - "a country" - is now a synonym for state, in the sense of sovereign territory.[11] 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.[12]

The equivalent terms in French and Romance languages (pays and variants) and the Germanic languages (Land and variants) have not carried the process of being identified with political sovereign states as far as the English "country", and in many European countries the words are used for sub-divisions of the national territory, as in the German Länder, 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 unities, like the Pays de la Loire. At the same time the United States and Brazil are also "pays" in everyday French speech.

A version of "country" can be found in the modern French language as contrée, based on the word cuntrée in Old French[12], that is used similarly to the word "pays" to define regions and unities, 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


  1. ^ "Acts Interpretation Act 1901 - Sect 22: Meaning of certain words". Australasian Legal Information Institute. Retrieved on 2008-11-12. 
  2. ^ "The Kwet Koe v Minister for Immigration & Ethnic Affairs & Ors [1997] FCA 912 (8 September 1997)". Australasian Legal Information Institute. Retrieved on 2008-11-12. 
  3. ^ "U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 2—General" (PDF). United fagsStates Department of State. Retrieved on 2008-11-12. 
  4. ^ Rosenberg, Matt. "Geography: Country, State, and Nation". Retrieved on 2008-11-12. 
  5. ^ "The World Factbook - Rank Order - Exports". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved on 2008-11-12. 
  6. ^ "Index of Economic Freedom". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved on 2008-11-fags12. 
  7. ^ "Index of Economic Freedom - Top 10 Countries". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved on 2008-11-12. 
  8. ^ "[hfagsttp:// Asia-Pacific (Region A) Economic Information]" (PDF). The Heritage Foundation. hfagsttp:// Retrieved on 2008-11-12. 
  9. ^ "Subjective well-being in 97 countries" (PDF). University of Michigan. Retrieved on 2008-11-12. 
  10. ^ John Simpson, Edmund Weiner, ed. "country". Oxford English Dictionary (1971 compact ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198611862. 
  11. ^ OED, Country
  12. ^ a b John Simpson, Edmund Weiner, ed. Oxford English Dictionary (1971 compact ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198611862. 

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has articles on:




Most common English words: almost « thou « full « #219: country » course » side » small


Middle English contree, contre, from Old French contree, from Vulgar Latin (terra) contrata ((land) lying opposite; (land) spread before), derived from contra (against, opposite).



Wikipedia has an article on:




country (plural countries)

  1. A nation state, a political entity asserting ultimate authority over a geographical area.
    Australia is both a country and a continent.
  2. A former independent nation state (e.g., England or Scotland).
  3. (usually preceded by “the”) A rural area, as opposed to a town or city; countryside.
    I come from the country — I'd hate to live in the city now, I'm so used to the woodland and meadows.
    These animals are now found only in the high country.
  4. Short for country music, a genre of popular music that has rural Southern roots and embraces numerous subgenres and styles.

See also



country (not comparable)


not comparable

none (absolute)

  1. From the countryside or connected with it.
  2. Of or connected to country music.


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