Is there a term for the country that owns or rules a colony from overseas?

Sample sentences:

Quebec's ____ was France.

After the French and Indian War, Quebec's ____ was Britain.

Spain was a major _____ and it colonized many countries throughout the world.

The word "colonizer" emphasizes the colonizing aspect more than the ruling aspect, so it does not seem to fit always, such as in the second sentence. I need to emphasize the control over politics, not the act of settling.

3 Answers 3


You can use the term colonial ruler to emphasize that the colonizing nation/country is the ruler of the colonized territory.

From Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview by Jürgen Osterhammel:

Colonialism is a relationship between an indigenous (or forcibly imported) majority and a minority of foreign invaders. The fundamental decisions affecting the lives of the colonised people are made and implemented by the colonial rulers in pursuit of interests that are often defined in a distant metropolis.

From Unveiling the Nation: The Politics of Secularism in France and Quebec By Emily Laxer:

...France was an arms-length colonial ruler in the territory now known as Quebec.

  • colonizer; /ˈkɒlənʌɪzə/ or coloniser (From internet): a country that sends settlers to a place and establishes political control over it. "Portugal was a major colonizer in both Brazil and parts of Africa"
    – Ram Pillai
    Nov 12, 2019 at 16:41
  • @RamPillai: Thanks. "Colonizer" already includes the ruling sense but OP requested another term that emphasizes the ruling part (per last paragraph).
    – ermanen
    Nov 12, 2019 at 16:52
  • Another term sometimes use is "the colonizing power," as these Google Books search results indicate.
    – Sven Yargs
    Nov 12, 2019 at 19:52
  • @ermanen: Do you think "Colonial force(s)" will fit in?
    – Ram Pillai
    Nov 14, 2019 at 12:56
  • @RamPillai: "Colonial force(s)" suggests that it is the army of the colonizing country.
    – ermanen
    Nov 14, 2019 at 17:50

From merriam-webster.com we see the word OVERLORD has two definitions, and the second definition has two parts. I present for your consideration definition 2 - part a. "an absolute or supreme ruler". In this definition NO detail is included relating to: a person, a committee, a governmental body, etc. With that, I submit that OVERLORD fits just right into your: "Quebec's ________ was France." If two words are permissible for your purpose you may prefer OVERRIDING GOVERNMENT, as merriam-webster.com offers 4 definitions for the word OVERRIDE the verb, the third definition having three parts, part a. being: to prevail over : DOMINATE


Looks like metropole could be the word you're looking for. It's generally used to highlight the ruling aspect of colonial relations.


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