A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's
birth Birth is the act or process of bearing or bringing forth offspring, also referred to in technical contexts as parturition. In mammals, the process is initiated by hormones which cause the muscular walls of the uterus to contract, expelling the fe ...
, residence or
citizenship Citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the law of a country (and/or local jurisdiction) of belonging to thereof. In international law International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set ...
. A country may be an independent sovereign state or part of a larger state, as a non-
sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from the Latin word ''superānus'', meaning "above". The roles of a sovereign va ...
or formerly sovereign
political division
political division
, a physical territory with a
government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, Executive (government), ex ...
, or a geographic region associated with sets of previously independent or differently associated people with distinct political characteristics. It is not inherently sovereign. ''Countries'' can refer both to sovereign states and to other political entities, while other times it can refer 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". The largest country in the world by geographical area is
Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, largest country in the world, covering and encompassing mo ...
, while the most populous is
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion. Covering approximately 9.6& ...
, followed by
India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous country, the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest ...

, the
United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., federal di ...
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, Pacific oceans. It consists of more than List of islands ...

Pakistan Pakistan, . Pronounced variably in English language, English as , , , and . officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world's List of countries by population, fifth-most populous country with a popul ...
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 milli ...
. The newest UN member is South Sudan. Admission of new members requires the approval of the UNGA, General Assembly; and UN membership has since 1991 been reserved to sovereign states.

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 Norman invasion of England, Franco-Norman invasion during the 11th century. In English language, 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 (France), 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 Catholic Church. In many European countries the words are used for sub-divisions of the national territory, as in the states of Germany, German Bundesländer, as well as a less formal term for a sovereign state. France has very many "pays" that are officially recognized 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 (country subdivision), ward or similar small division of a town, or a village or hamlet in the countryside.

Country names

Most countries have two Toponymy, names, a protocol name and a geographical name or short name. The protocol name (full name, formal name, official name) e.g. ''the Republic of India'', the ''Slovak Republic'', the ''Czech Republic'', the ''Swiss Confederation'', the ''State of Qatar'', the ''Principality of Monaco'', the ''Kingdom of Norway'', the ''Grand Duchy of Luxembourg'', the ''Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia'', the ''People's Democratic Republic of Algeria'', the ''Argentine Republic'', the ''United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'', the ''United States of America'', the ''United Mexican States'', the ''Commonwealth of Australia'', the ''Socialist Republic of Vietnam'', the ''Union of Soviet Socialist Republics''. The long form (official title) is used when the state is targeted as a Legal person, legal entity: e.g. ''This Decision is addressed to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.'', ''The French Republic is authorised to …'', ''Agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Russian Federation …''. If the recurrence of the name of a state in the text leads to a preference for using the short form, it can be introduced with the phrase ‘hereinafter referred to as …’. The geographical name (short name) e.g. ''India'', ''Slovakia'', ''Czechia'', ''Switzerland'', ''Qatar'', ''Monaco'', ''Norway'', ''Luxembourg'', ''Ethiopia'', ''Algeria'', ''Argentina'', the ''United Kingdom'', the ''United States'', ''Mexico'', ''Australia'', ''Vietnam'', the ''Soviet Union''. The short form (short name) is used when the state is referred to geographically or economically:  e.g. ''Workers residing in France'', ''Exports from Greece …''. For certain states, the long form and the short form are identical: e.g. the ''Central African Republic'', the ''Democratic Republic of the Congo'', the ''Dominican Republic'', the ''United Arab Emirates'', ''Bosnia and Herzegovina'', ''Canada'', ''Georgia'', ''Hungary'', ''Iceland'', ''Ireland'', ''Jamaica'', ''Japan'', ''Malaysia'', ''Mongolia'', ''Montenegro'', ''New Zealand'', ''Romania'', ''Saint Lucia'', ''Saint Vincent and the Grenadines'', the ''Solomon Islands'', ''Turkmenistan'', ''Tuvalu'', ''Ukraine''.

Country symbols

*national flag, flag *Gallery of country coats of arms, coat of arms or national emblem *seal (emblem), seal or stamp *national motto *national colors *national anthem

Sovereignty status

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 List of states with limited recognition, disputed sovereignty status. By one application of the declarative theory of statehood and constitutive theory of statehood, there are list of sovereign states, 206 sovereign states; of which 193 are members of the United Nations, two have observer status at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) (the Holy See and State of Palestine, Palestine), and 11 others are neither a member nor observer at the UNGA. The latest proclaimed state is South Sudan since 2011. 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, a ''pays d'outre-mer'', or the British Virgin Islands), with citizenry at times identical and at times distinct from their own. but may nonetheless be treated as a separate "country of origin" in international trade, as Hong Kong is. A few states consist of a union of smaller polities which are considered countries: * The Kingdom of the Netherlands includes four separate constituent countries ( nl, Kingdom of the Netherlands#Constituent countries, landen): Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. * The United Kingdom includes Countries of the United Kingdom, the four countries England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Crown Dependencies and the British overseas territories, Overseas Territories, which are not part of the UK itself, * The Danish Realm consists of Denmark proper and its two autonomous territories: the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Country classification

Several organizations seek to identify trends in order to produce country classifications. Countries are often distinguished as Developing country, developing countries or Developed country, developed countries.

The United Nations

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs annually produces the ''World Economic Situation and Prospects'' report that classified states as developed countries, economies in transition, or developing countries. The report classifies country development based on per capita gross national income. Within the broad categories, the United Nations identified subgroups based on geographical location or ad hoc criteria. The UN outlines the geographical regions for developing economies as Africa, East Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The 2019 report recognizes only developed countries in North America, Europe, and Asia and the Pacific. The majority of economies in transition and developing countries are found in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The UN additionally recognizes 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, as well as small island developing states and landlocked developing countries. It also identifies heavily indebted poor countries.

The World Bank

The World Bank also classifies countries based on GNI per capita. Using the ''World Bank Atlas method'', it 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 Asia-Pacific, East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, MENA, 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 also

* City network * Constituent state * List of sovereign states and dependent territories by continent * Lists of countries and territories * List of former sovereign states * Princely State * Micronation



Further reading

Defining what makes a country
''The Economist''

External links

Country Studies
from the United States Library of Congress
Foreign Information by Country

from GovPubs at UCB Libraries
United Nations statistics division
{{Authority control Countries, Human geography