is a land area
of local government
. A county may have cities
within its area.
Originally, in continental Europe, a county (comté
) was the land under the
jurisdiction of a count
called earls in post-Celtic Britain, Ireland and France—the term is
from Old Norse jarl and
was introduced by the Vikings—but there is no
correlation between counties and earldoms.
, was simply
used by the Normans
to replace the native
English term scir
, as the Anglo-Saxon
system of shires was unique and thus hard for the Norman invaders
to comprehend so they resorted to calling them counties.
was an administrative division of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom (Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, etc.), usually named after its administrative
centre: for example, Gloucester, in Gloucestershire; Worcester, in Worcestershire;
etc. or originate from these forms of names (e.g.
Wiltshire derived from 'Wiltonshire' with Wilton as its old county
Thus, whereas the word comté
denoted a sovereign
jurisdiction in the original French, the English county
denotes a subdivision of a sovereign jurisdiction.
Five of the ten Canadian provinces use county as a regional
subdivision. These include all four original provinces,
Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and
Quebec, as well as the fifth province, Prince Edward
Only portions of Ontario are comprised of
counties: other divisions include districts, district
municipalities, metropolitan municipalities, and regional
municipalities. Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan use census divisions instead of counties, and
The word "county" is used to translate the Chinese
(县 or 縣).
Mainland China under the People's
Republic of China, counties are the third level of
local government, coming under both the province level
and the prefecture
The number of counties in China proper
numbers about 2,000, and has remained more or less constant since
the Han Dynasty
(206 BC - AD 220).
remains one of the oldest levels of government in China and
significantly predates the establishment of provinces in the
Dynasty (1279 - 1368).
The county government was
particularly important in imperial China because this was the
lowest layer at which the imperial government functioned. The head
of a county during imperial times was the magistrate
context, "prefecture" and "district" are alternative terms to refer
to xiàn before the establishment of the Republic of
The English nomenclature "county" was
adopted following the establishment of the ROC.
See also: Political
divisions of China
Denmark was divided
into counties (amter) from 1662 to 2006.
January 2007 the counties were replaced by five Regions
. At the same time, the number of
municipalities was slashed from 271 to 98.
The counties were first introduced in 1662, replacing the 49 fiefs
) in Denmark-Norway
the same number of counties. This number does not include the
subdivisions of the Duchy of Schleswig
which was only under partial Danish control. The number of counties
in Denmark (excluding Norway) had dropped to c. 20 by 1793.
Following the reunification of South
with Denmark in 1920, four counties replaced the
and Sønderborg County
in 1932 and Skanderborg
were separated in 1942. From
1942 to 1970, the number stayed at 22. The number was
further decreased by the 1970 Danish municipal reform, leaving 14
counties plus two cities unconnected to the county structure;
Copenhagen and Frederiksberg.
Bornholm County merged with the
local four municipalities, forming the Bornholm Regional
The remaining 13 counties were abolished on
1 January 2007 where they were replaced by five new regions. In the
same reform, the number of municipalities was slashed from 270 to
98 and all municipalities now belong to a region.
administrative unit of Hungary is called megye, (historically, they were
also called comitatus
in Latin), which can be translated
with the word county.
It is the highest level of
the administrative subdivisions of the country, although counties
are grouped into seven statistical regions. Counties are subdivided
s, which literally means "little area", though
translating this as a commune
is more proper. Communes
have statistical and organizational functions only, whilst they
have their own "capital cities". Presently Hungary is subdivided into 19
"proper" counties, 22 urban counties (cities with the same rights
as a whole county) and 1 capital, Budapest.
The comitatus was also the historic administrative unit in the
Kingdom of Hungary
included areas of present-day neighbouring countries of
Although the Latin name (comitatus
) is the equivalent of
the French comté
, historical Hungarian counties have never
been sovereign jurisdictions. They were subdivisions of the royal
administration and as such, should really be translated as
. Even the word megye
is a shortened form of
the original vármegye
, where the element vár
, thus denoting an area supervised and
governed from a royal castle, much like an Anglo-Saxon shire
provinces of Iran are further
subdivided into counties called shahrestan ( ), an
area inside an ostan, and
consisting of a city centre, a few bakhsh (
), and many villages around them.
Counties of Iran
There are usually a few
cities ( ) and rural agglomerations ( ) in each county. Rural
agglomerations are a collection of a number of villages. One of the
cities of the county is appointed as the capital of the
Each shahrestan has a government office known as Farmandari which
coordinates different events and government offices. The Farmandar,
or the head of Farmandari, is the governor of the Shahrestan.
Fars has the highest number of Shahrestans, with 23,
while Semnan and South Khorasan have only 4 Shahrestans each; Qom uniquely has one, being coextensive with its namesake county.
Iran had 324 Shahrestans
island of Ireland was
historically divided into 32 counties, of which 26 later formed the
Ireland and 6 made up Northern Ireland.
These counties are traditionally grouped into 4 provinces
(5) and Ulster
(9). Historically, the counties of Meath, Westmeath and small parts of surrounding counties constituted
the province of Mide, which was one of the
"Five Fifths" of Ireland (in the Irish
language the word for province, Cuige, from
Cuig, five means "a fifth"); however, these have
long since become the three northernmost counties of Leinster
In the Republic each county is administered by an
elected "county council
", and the old
provincial divisions are merely traditional names with no political
The number and boundaries of administrative counties in the
Republic of Ireland were reformed in the 1990s. For example County Dublin was broken into three: Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin
- the City of
Dublin had existed for centuries before.
Tipperary" is actually two administrative counties, called
North Tipperary and South Tipperary while the major urban
centres Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford have been separated from the town and rural areas
of their counties.
Thus, the Republic of Ireland now has
thirty-four 'county-level' authorities, although the borders of the
original twenty-six counties are still officially in place.
In Northern Ireland, the six county councils and the smaller town
councils were abolished in 1973 and replaced by a single tier of
local government. However, in the north as well as in the south,
the traditional 32 counties and 4 provinces remain in common usage
for many sporting, cultural and other purposes. County identity is
heavily reinforced in the local culture by allegiances to county
teams in Hurling
and Gaelic football
. Each GAA county
has its own flag/colours (and often a
nickname too), and county allegiances are taken quite seriously.
See the counties of Ireland
the Gaelic Athletic
Liberia has 15 counties, each of which elects two senators
to the Liberian Senate.
) is the Lithuanian word
for county. Since 1994 Lithuania has 10 counties; before 1950 it had 20.
only purpose with the county is an office of a state governor who
shall conduct law and order in the county. See counties of Lithuania
Zealand abolished its provinces in 1876, a system of
counties similar to other countries' systems was instituted,
lasting until 1989.
They had chairmen, not mayors as
and cities had; many legislative
provisions (such as burial
and land subdivision
control) were different
for the counties.
During the second half of the 20th century, many counties received
overflow population from nearby cities. The result was often
a merger of the two into a "district" (eg Rotorua) or a change of name to "district' (eg Waimairi) or
"city" (eg Manukau).
The Local Government Act 1974 began the process of bringing urban,
mixed, and rural councils into the same legislative framework.
Substantial reorganisations under that Act
resulted in the 1989 shake-up, which covered the country in
(non-overlapping) cities and districts and abolished all the
counties except for the Chatham Islands County, which survived under that name for a
further 6 years but then became a "Territory" under the "Chatham
Norway is divided into 19 counties
) since 1972. Up to that year Bergen was a
separate county, but is today a municipality in the county of Hordaland.
All counties form administrative entities
called county municipalities (sing. fylkeskommune
), further subdivided into
, plur. kommunar/kommuner
). One county, Oslo, is not
divided into municipalities, rather it is equivalent to the
municipality of Oslo.
Each county has its own county
) whose representatives are elected
every four years together with representatives to the municipal councils
. The counties
handle matters as high schools and local roads, and until 1 January
2002 hospitals as well. This responsibility was transferred to the
and health trusts
there is a debate on the future of the county municipality as an
administrative entity. Some people, and parties, such as the
, call for
the abolishment of the county municipalities once and for all,
while others, including the Labour Party
, merely want to merge
some of them into larger regions.
second-level administrative division in Poland is called
(This is a subdivision of a voivodeship
and is further subdivided
.) The term is often translated
into English as county
(or sometimes district
For more details see powiat
and List of counties in Poland
administrative subdivisions of Romania are called judeţ (plural:
judeţe), name derived from jude, a mayor and
judge of a city (akin to English judge; both are derived
from Latin) Presently Romania is subdivided into 41 counties and
the capital, Bucharest having a separate status.
See the list of
counties of Romania
The Swedish division into counties
was established in 1634, and was
based on an earlier division into Provinces
. Sweden is today
divided into 21 counties, and each county is further divided into
the county level there is a county administrative
led by a governor appointed by the central government of Sweden
, as well as an
elected county council
that handles a separate set of issues, notably hospitals
and public transportation
The Swedish term used is län
which literally means "fief
The United Kingdom is divided into a number of metropolitan
and non-metropolitan counties
. There are also ceremonial counties
group small non-metropolitan counties into geographic areas broadly
based on the historic
counties of England
. The metropolitan and non-metropolitan
counties had replaced in 1974 a system of administrative counties
and county boroughs
introduced in 1889.
Most non-metropolitan counties in England are run by county councils
and divided into non-metropolitan districts
with its own council. Local authorities in the UK are usually
responsible for running education, emergency services, planning,
transport, social services, and a number of other functions.
England, in the Anglo-Saxon period, Shires were
established as areas used for the raising of taxes, and usually had a fortified town at their
These became known as the shire town
later the county town
. In most cases, the
shires were named after their shire town (for example
Bedfordshire) however there are several exceptions to this
exist, such as Cumberland, Norfolk and Suffolk.
In several other cases, such as
, the town which came
to be accepted as the county town is different from that after
which the shire is named. (See Toponymical
list of counties of the United Kingdom)
The name 'county' was introduced by the Normans
, and was derived from a Norman term for an
area administered by a Count
Norman 'counties' were simply the Saxon shires, and kept their
Saxon names. Several traditional counties, including
Essex, Sussex and
Kent, predate the unification of England by Alfred the Great, and originally existed as
Ireland, the six county councils, if not their counties,
were abolished in 1973 and replaced by 26 local government
The traditional six counties remain in common
everyday use for many cultural and other purposes.
thirteen historic counties of
Wales were fixed by Statute in 1539 (although counties such as
Pembrokeshire date from 1138) and most of the shires of Scotland are of at least this
The county boundaries of England have changed little over time.
mediæval period, a number of important
cities were granted the status of counties in their own right, such
as London, Bristol and Coventry, and numerous small exclaves
such as Islandshire were created. The next major change
occurred in 1844, when many of these exclaves were re-merged with
their surrounding counties (for example Coventry was re-merged with
In 1965 and 1974-1975 a major re-organisation of local government
created in England and Wales several new administrative counties
such as Hereford and
and also created several new metropolitan counties
which served large
urban areas as a single administrative unit. In Scotland
county-sized local government was replaced by larger regions
, which lasted
until 1996. Modern local government in Scotland, Wales, Northern
Ireland and a large part of England is based on the concept of
smaller unitary authorities (a system similar to that which the
for most of Britain in the 1960s).
Map of the United States with county
As with the shires of Anglo-Saxon England, counties in U.S. states
are administrative divisions of the
state in which their boundaries are drawn. Where they exist, they
are the intermediate tier of unitary state government, between the
statewide tier and the immediately local government tier. Counties
are used in 48 of the 50 unitary states; the other two states have
abolished their counties as functional entities, a third state is
in the process of doing so. Of these remaining 48 states, 46 use
the term "county" while Alaska and Louisiana use different terms
for slightly different but nevertheless analogous
on the individual state, counties or their differently named
equivalent may be administratively subdivided themselves into
civil townships, e.g., Michigan, which has civil townships and charter townships (or townships are called
"towns" in states where "township" means "a town" or
"village", e.g. New York); or counties may contain no large municipal
corporations, e.g. Virginia, where all cities are independent cities; or they may contain
cities and unincorporated areas, e.g., California, which historically divided its counties into
townships but has abolished the latter.
Louisiana has entities equivalent to counties called parishes.
Alaska is divided
which typically provide fewer local services than do most U.S.
counties, as the state government furnishes many services
Some of Alaska's boroughs have merged geographical
boundaries and administrative functions with their principal (and
sometimes only) cities; these are known as unified
and result in some of Alaska's cities ranking
among the geographically largest "cities" in the world.
Nevertheless, Alaska considers such entities to be boroughs, not
cities. Alaska is also unique in that more than half the geographic
area of the state is in the "Unorganized Borough
", a legal entity in
which the state also functions as the local government.
New York has a unique system where 57 of its 62 counties are
administrative divisions of the state, with normal county executive
powers; while the remaining five are administrative divisions of
the City of
Greater New York.
These five are each called borough
in context of City
government - Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten
Island (formerly Richmond); but are still called "county" where
state function is involved, e.g., "New York County
Courthouse", not "Manhattan". The county names correlate to the
borough names as New York County, Bronx County, Queens County,
Kings County, and Richmond County.
In two states and parts of a third, county government as such has
been abolished, and county
refers to geographic regions or
districts.In Connecticut,Rhode Islandand parts of Massachusetts
counties exist only to designate boundaries
for such state-level functions as park districts (Connecticut) or
judicial offices (Connecticut and Massachusetts). In states where
county government is weak or nonexistent (e.g., New Hampshire, Vermont), town government
may provide some or all of the local government
Most counties have a county seat
usually a city, where its administrative functions are centered.
Exceptions include the nation's smallest
Virginia, which contains no municipalities; the City and
County of San Francisco, a metropolitan municipality in which city and
county government have been merged into one jurisdiction, so the
county seat is coextensive with the whole county; and, of course,
City, which is coextensive with five counties that,
thus, all have the same county seat - making the question
superfluous. Some New England states use the term shire
town to mean "county seat".
- Etymology of the word county.
- National Association of Counties (U.S.A.):
- National Association of Counties (U.S.A.): Rhode
- National Association of Counties (U.S.A.):
- Massachusetts League of Women Voters: Massachusetts
Government: County Government