Country - county

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These are two words easy to mis-type - and not always easy to spot in proof-reading. Their plural forms (countries and counties) have the same problem.

  • As a political unit, a country is a nation, or state - an organisation qualified to be a member of the United Nations. (As a term of general geographical description, it is an alternative to a 'town'.) The country (with an '-r-') is the area controlled by a national government.
  • In the UK and US at least, a county (without an '-r-') is a smaller administrative unit. The county (for example Yorkshire) is a unit of local government. In some contexts, it means 'the territory owned or governed by a Count, for example the Counties of Edessa and Tripoli. In this sense it is the Old French equivalent of the Old English shire, which was the territory ruled jointly by an ealdorman and a sheriff. This later became a jarl in the North Germanic of the vikings, the equivalent of the West Germanic earl of Old English.