I speak American English. My guess is that calling the UK a "country" would be seen as incorrect in British English. However, just about every map I see online showing "X by country" identifies the UK as one whole country, including those by the World Bank, Wikipedia, the CIA World Factbook...

Has the meaning shifted over time? What is the history of the word "country"?

  • In English, "country" is used to refer to the four landen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (the European Netherlands, Aruba, etc), as well as the countries of the UK, but it doesn't seem to be used for many nations' subnational divisions.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 12, 2022 at 10:24
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    Has the meaning shifted over time? No. It has always been vague and context-dependent. etymonline.com/search?q=country
    – Greybeard
    Jun 12, 2022 at 12:24
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    There are also the terms "home nation" and "home country" (for England, Wales, Scotland, and N. Ireland). Whether that clarifies or confuses things is unclear to me! Jun 26, 2022 at 4:58

2 Answers 2


The history of the word "country" is a research project, first published as A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by The Philological Society, not just known as the Oxford English Dictionary. Originally, the word, from Middle French (meaning region, area of land delimited by natural or political boundaries) was used in a broader sense, as they say (sense 1) "The land of a person's birth, citizenship, residence, etc.; one's homeland", or (sense 2) "Land, terrain, or a region of undefined extent, esp. considered with regard to its physical characteristics" such as chalk country, fen country, stag-hunting country, country of the red deer. The latter use is fairly common in American English. I do not think the meaning has changed much over time, instead, politics has changed.

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    In the US, the country means not the city. Jun 11, 2022 at 16:41
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    It does in the UK as well.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 11, 2022 at 20:16
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    @John Lawler: But not exclusively: Biden lays out vision for the country, as political divisions growhttps://www.youtube.com › watch President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address ... Biden lays out vision for the country, as political divisions grow
    – Greybeard
    Jun 12, 2022 at 12:33
  • As noted by the OP, it also has a political sense. Jun 12, 2022 at 14:35
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    It is not clear how this is supposed to answer the question. Neither of the quoted definitions captures the sense in which the four countries of the UK are countries.
    – jsw29
    Sep 26, 2022 at 16:04

It looks like you can call the UK a country, judging by this sentence from Wikipedia:

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,[note 1][19] is a sovereign country in Europe....

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Sep 26, 2022 at 23:43

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