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 part of a larger 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 in 1937 and reaffirmed by the United Nations in 1945, a resident of a country is subject to the independent exercise of legal jurisdiction.
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 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
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.
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.
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 is.
- ^ General information or statistical publications that adopt the wider definition for purposes such as illustration and comparison include:.
- Jones, J. (1964). What Makes a Country? Human Events, 24(31), 14.
- 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 2008-11-12.
- "The World Factbook". CIA. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
- OED, Country
- John Simpson, Edmund Weiner (ed.). Oxford English Dictionary (1971 compact ed.). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198611862.
- "Legal Research Guide: United Kingdom". Law Library of Congress. 2009-07-23. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the collective name of four countries, England, Wales, 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 2009-09-22.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is a union of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- "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.
- "Greenland 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 2008-11-12.
- "Index of Economic Freedom – Top 10 Countries". The Heritage Foundation. Archived from the original on 2008-01-24. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
- "Asia-Pacific (Region A) Economic Information" (PDF). The Heritage Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-11-14. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
- "Subjective well-being in 97 countries" (PDF). University of Michigan. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-08-19. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
- Mercer's 2012 Cost of Living Survey city rankings Archived July 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.. Mercer.com (2008-12-18). Retrieved on 2013-07-12.
- 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". Cato Institute.
- Defining what makes a country The Economist