A country is a distinct territorial body, a state, nation, or other political entity.[1] It may be a sovereign state or part of a larger state,[2] and may be a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, a physical territory with a government, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated peoples with distinct political characteristics.

The marked territories on this global map are mostly of countries which are sovereign states with full international recognition (brackets denote the country of a marked territory that is not a sovereign state). Some territories are countries in their own right but are not recognized as such (e.g. Taiwan), and some few marked territories are disputed about which country they belong to (e.g. Kashmir) or if they are countries in their own right (e.g. West Sahara).

The largest country by area is Russia, while the smallest is the microstate Vatican City. The most populous is China, while the Pitcairn Islands is the least populous.

Etymology and usageEdit

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".[3] An example of this in North America is Navajo Country.

Areas much smaller than a political state may be called by names such as the West Country in England, 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.[3]

The equivalent terms in various Romance languages (e.g. the French pays) 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 pagus, 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 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 modern French as contrée, derived from the Old French word cuntrée,[3] 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.

Country namesEdit

Most countries have a long name and a short name. The long name is typically used in formal contexts and often describes the country's form of government. The short name is the country's common name by which it is typically identified.[4][5][6][7] The names of most countries are derived from a feature of the land, the name of a historical tribe or person, or a directional description.[8] The International Organization for Standardization maintains a list of country codes as part of ISO 3166 to designate each country with a two-letter country code.[9] The name of a country can hold cultural and diplomatic significance. Upper Volta changed its name to Burkina Faso to reflect the end of French colonization, and the name of North Macedonia was disputed for years due to a conflict with the similarly named Macedonia region in Greece.[10]

Country symbolsEdit

Symbols of a country indicate cultural, religious or political symbol of any nation or race the country consists of. There are many categories of symbols which can be seen in flags, coat of arms or seals.

Sovereignty statusEdit

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 and constitutive theory of statehood,[11] there are 206 sovereign states; of which 193 are members of the UN, two have observer status at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) (the Holy See and Palestine), and 11 others are neither a member nor observer at the UNGA.

When referring to a specific polity, the term "country" may refer to a sovereign state, a constituent country, or a dependent territory. A sovereign state is a country that operates under a single government.[12] The United Nations consists of 193 sovereign states,[13] and it recognizes the Holy See and the State of Palestine as observer states.[14] Some countries, such as Taiwan and Sahrawi, have disputed sovereignty status. Some sovereign states are unions of separate polities, each of which may also be considered a country in its own right, called constituent countries. The Danish Realm consists of Denmark proper, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland.[15] The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of the Netherlands proper, the Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.[16][note 1] The United Kingdom consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Dependent territories are the territories of a sovereign state that are outside of its proper territory. These include the Realm of New Zealand, the dependencies of Norway, the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, the territories of the United States, the territories of Australia, the special administrative regions of China, the Danish Realm, Åland, Overseas France, and the Caribbean Netherlands. Most dependent territories have ISO countries codes.[17] Some dependent territories are treated as a separate "country of origin" in international trade,[18][19] such the British Virgin Islands[20] and Hong Kong.[21][22][23]

Country classificationEdit

Several organisations seek to identify trends to produce country classifications. Countries are often distinguished as developing countries or developed countries.

The United NationsEdit

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 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 (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.[24]

The newest United Nations (UN) member is South Sudan.[25][26][failed verification]

The World BankEdit

The World Bank 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.[27]

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 (IDA) countries, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) countries, and Blend countries.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ See Dutch: landen.


  1. ^ "Definition of Country". Worlddata.info. 26 November 2021. Archived from the original on 28 April 2019.
  2. ^ Jones, J. (1964). What Makes a Country? Human Events, 24(31), 14.
  3. ^ a b c John Simpson; Edmund Weiner (eds.). "country, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (1971 compact ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-861186-8.
  4. ^ "Publications Office – Interinstitutional Style Guide – Annex A5 – List of countries, territories and currencies". publications.europa.eu.
  5. ^ "UNGEGN World Geographical Names".
  6. ^ "FAO Country Profiles". www.fao.org.
  7. ^ "Countries: Designations and abbreviations to use".
  8. ^ Ha, Thu-Huong (15 October 2017). "Nearly every country on earth is named after one of four things". Quartz. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  9. ^ "ISO 3166 — Country Codes". ISO. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  10. ^ Savage, Jonathan (21 January 2018). "Why do names matter so much?". BBC News. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  11. ^ "Declaratory and Constitutive Theories of State/Country Recognition". LawTeacher.net. 26 November 2021. Archived from the original on 10 March 2015.
  12. ^ Philpott, Daniel (1995). "Sovereignty: An Introduction and Brief History". Journal of International Affairs. 48 (2): 353–368. ISSN 0022-197X. JSTOR 24357595.
  13. ^ "Member States". United Nations. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  14. ^ "Non-Member-States". United Nations. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  15. ^ "Greenland and the Faroe Islands". The Danish Parliament - EU Information Centre. 15 January 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  16. ^ "What are the different parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands?". Government of the Netherlands. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  17. ^ "ISO 3166 — Country Codes". ISO. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  18. ^ "Canadian Importers Database - Home". 23 November 2021.
  19. ^ "Consolidated federal laws of canada, General Preferential Tariff and Least Developed Country Tariff Rules of Origin Regulations". 20 June 2017.
  20. ^ https://www.facebook.com/wildflowerbvi/photos/a.166146260991256/485800315692514/[user-generated source]
  21. ^ "Made In The British Crown Colony". Thuy-Tien Crampton. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014.
  22. ^ "Matchbox label, made in Hong Kong". delcampe.net. Archived from the original on 1 April 2014.
  23. ^ "Carrhart Made In Hong Kong?". ContractorTalk.
  24. ^ "World Economic and Situation Prospects 2019" (PDF). The United Nations. The United Nations. Retrieved 18 January 2020.
  25. ^ "UN welcomes South Sudan as 193rd Member State". 14 July 2011.
  26. ^ "Admission of New Members to the United Nations - Rules of Procedure". United Nations. 26 November 2021. Archived from the original on 28 November 2010.
  27. ^ "How does the World Bank classify countries?". The World Bank. The World Bank. Retrieved 18 January 2020.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit