A country is a distinct territorial body, a state, nation, or other political entity. It may be a sovereign state or part of a larger state, 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.
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". 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.
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, 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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, 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. The United Nations consists of 193 sovereign states, and it recognizes the Holy See and the State of Palestine as observer states. 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. The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of the Netherlands proper, the Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.[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. Some dependent territories are treated as a separate "country of origin" in international trade, such the British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.
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.
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.
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.
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