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Not to be confused with Country.
For other uses, see County (disambiguation).

A county, abbreviated Cnty. (US) or Co. (UK and Ireland), is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposes, in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French conté or cunté denoting a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count (earl) or a viscount. The modern French is comté, and its equivalents in other languages are contea, contado, comtat, condado, Grafschaft, Gau, etc. (cf. conte, comte, conde, Graf).

When the Normans conquered England, they brought the term with them. The Saxons had already established the districts that became the historic counties of England, calling them shires (many county names derive from the name of the county town with the word "shire" added on: for example, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire). The Vikings introduced the term earl (from Old Norse, jarl) to the British Isles. Thus, "earl" and "earldom" were taken as equivalent to the continental use of "count" and "county". So the later-imported term became a synonym for the native English word scir ([ʃiːr]) or, in Modern English, shire. Since a shire was an administrative division of the kingdom, the term "county" evolved to designate an administrative division of national government in most modern uses.

A county may be further subdivided into districts, hundreds, townships or other administrative jurisdictions within the county. A county usually, but not always, contains cities, towns, townships, villages, or other municipal corporations. Depending on the nation, municipalities may or may not be subject to direct or indirect county control.

Outside English-speaking countries, an equivalent of the term "county" is often used to describe sub-national jurisdictions that are structurally equivalent to counties in the relationship they have with their national government; but which may not be administratively equivalent to counties in predominantly English-speaking countries.


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