2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: General Geography

This article describes country as a type of geographical or political entity. Country may also refer to the countryside or the country music genre, or the 1984 film of that name.

In political geography and international politics a country is a geographical territory. A dictionary definition would be "the land of a person's birth, residence, or citizenship; a political state or nation or its territory". In common usage, it is used casually in the sense of both nation (a cultural entity; see below) and state (a political entity; see below). Definitions may vary. It is sometimes used to refer to both states and some other political entities., while in some occasions it refers only to State. It is not uncommon for general information or statistical publications to adopt the wider definition for purposes such as illustration and comparison.

This disparity is also reflected in general English usage. Usage within the United Kingdom tend to adopt a wider definition of the word country. Furthermore, the word is also used to refer to the constituent parts of the United Kingdom (see below). In most usages outside the UK, however, the term country carries with it strong connotations of political independence, and it may be considered politically incorrect by neutral observers to refer to Tibet as a country, for example.

There are dozens of non- sovereign territories which constitute geographical countries, but are not sovereign states. Several States have overseas dependencies, with territory and citizenry separate from their own. They are sometimes listed together with States on lists of countries.


A country usually has its own government, administration and laws; and often a constitution, police, military, tax rules, and a population who are referred to as one another's countrymen. Together they form what Benedict Anderson has referred to as an imagined community.



A State is an independent territory with a government, a population and sovereignty over these. The entire landmass of the Earth (excluding Antarctica), along with coastal seas is considered to be divided among such countries. There are currently 193 States (countries) recognised by the United Nations — its 192 members and the Vatican City.

In addition to these, there are other non sovereign territories which, under the philosophy of self-determination, wish to be considered countries in this sense. Some of these have de facto control over their population and territory, such as Abkazia, but are not considered States as they are not recognised as having sovereignty. On the other hand, in some internationally-recognised States, there is no functioning central government or there are several de facto States and governments. These are internationally not considered to constitute separate States, but rather to exist on the territory of the internationally recognised State.


A nation is a 'set of people with a common identity who have formed a nation-state or usually aspire to do so' (Viotti and Kauppi, 2001). In this sense of country, the reference is more likely to be to a group that supposedly shares a common ethnic origin, language, religion, or history (real or imagined). The term has become synonymous with 'country' where nations without sovereignty (that is, nations that are not States) have aimed to identify themselves on the same terms as sovereign States. Others, including nationalists, may consider their single nation (or country) to be divided between different States.

Constituent countries

Four of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, which itself may be considered a country in the sense of this article, are also called countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales (see constituent countries of the United Kingdom). Northern Ireland is also sometimes referred to as a province of the United Kingdom.

Nation, country and state: a comparison

The casual use of 'country', 'State' and 'nation' as synonyms leads to confusion. Confounding this is the often confused official use: for example, the United Nations is actually a body made of 'States'; and the countries constituting the United Kingdom are often called the home nations.

In the English language, the terms nation (cultural), country (geographical) and State (political) do have precise meanings, but in daily speech and writing they are often used interchangeably, and are open to different interpretations. For example, Cornwall is considered by some to be a nation in England which is a constituent country, or home nation, of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is an internationally recognised sovereign state, which is also referred to as a country and whose inhabitants have British nationality. The terminology can be further complicated by the use of the word state to mean a non-sovereign sub-entity of a sovereign state, as is done in the United States of America (many of which, however, maintain that they are sovereign and independent states ) and Australia. In most English-speaking countries when the terms state, nation and country are used internally, they are understood by the context in which they are used and are not controversial. However, when these terms are used to describe the statehood aspirations of a people who do not currently live in the internationally recognised independent State they would like to inhabit, these terms can be controversial and open to misunderstanding.

In reality, there is often a rough correspondence between both senses of country - this is the concept of the nation-state. It is one that many governments have attempted to encourage, in order to provide legitimacy to their control over a territory. However, because of historical and modern migration, ethnically homogeneous communities are rare or non-existent (Iceland and Japan being the most commonly quoted exceptions).

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