Administrative division

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World administrative levels World administrative levels.png
World administrative levels

Administrative division, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, administrative region, constituent unit, as well as many similar terms, are generic names for a discrete, officially-delineated geographical area within a particular, independent sovereign state (country). Such a division is created to enhance, in some way, the responsiveness of a national administration (government) to sub-national affairs. As such, an administrative division is granted a certain degree of administrative autonomy, [1] which in some countries is regarded as form of limited self-government.


The names given to such divisions include: states (i.e. "federated states", rather than sovereign states), provinces , lands , oblasts , governorates , wilayahs , prefectures , regions , departments , and cantons . Larger countries are usually divided into two or more such administrative divisions. These, in turn, are usually divided in whole or in part into multiple, second-tier local governments, which are usually known by names such as circuits, counties, comarcas, raions, judets, administrative districts, parishes, municipalities, communes or communities. (In smaller countries, or in particular historical periods, first-level divisions carry a name from the latter group and/or are regarded as "local governments".)

Administrative divisions are conceptually separate from dependent territories, with the former being an integral part of the state and the other being only under some lesser form of control. However, the term "administrative division" can include dependent territories as well as accepted administrative divisions (for example, in geographical databases).

For clarity and convenience the standard neutral reference for the largest administrative division of a country is called the "first-level administrative division" or "first administrative level". Next smaller is called "second-level administrative division" or "second administrative level". [2] [3]

Examples of administrative divisions

English terms

World political divisions Blank Map World Secondary Political Divisions.svg
World political divisions

In many of the following terms originating from British cultural influence, areas of relatively low mean population density might bear a title of an entity one would expect to be either larger or smaller. There is no fixed rule, for "all politics is local" as is perhaps well demonstrated by their relative lack of systemic order. In the realm of self-government, any of these can and does occur along a stretch of road—which for the most part is passing through rural unsettled countryside. Since the terms are administrative political divisions of the local regional government their exact relationship and definitions are subject to home rule considerations, tradition, as well as state statute law and local governmental (administrative) definition and control. In British cultural legacy, some territorial entities began with fairly expansive counties which encompass an appreciably large area, but were divided over time into a number of smaller entities. Within those entities are the large and small cities or towns, which may or may not be the county seat. Some of the world's larger cities culturally, if not officially, span several counties, and those crossing state or provincial boundaries have much in common culturally as well, but are rarely incorporated within the same municipal government. Many sister cities share a water boundary, which quite often serves as a border of both cities and counties. For example, Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts appear to the casual traveler as one large city, while locally they each are quite culturally different and occupy different counties.


Urban or rural regions

General terms for these incorporated places include "municipality," "settlement," "locality," and "populated place."


Non-English terms

Due to variations in their use worldwide, consistency in the translation of terms from non-English to English is sometimes difficult to maintain.


See also

Related Research Articles

County Geographical and administrative region in some countries

A county 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. Literal equivalents in other languages, derived from the equivalent of "count", are now seldom used officially, including comté, contea, contado, comtat, condado, Grafschaft, graafschap, and zhupa in Slavic languages; terms equivalent to English language administrative terms such as municipality, district, circuit and commune/community are now often instead used.

Local government is a generic term for the lowest tiers of public administration within a particular sovereign state. This particular usage of the word government refers specifically to a level of administration that is both geographically-localised and has limited powers. While in some countries, "government" is normally reserved purely for a national administration (government) (which may be known as a, the term local government is always used specifically in contrast to national government – as well as, in many cases, the activities of sub-national, first-level administrative divisions. Local governments generally act only within powers specifically delegated to them by law and/or directives of a higher level of government. In federal states, local government generally comprises a third or fourth tier of government, whereas in unitary states, local government usually occupies the second or third tier of government.

Town Settlement that is usually bigger than a village but smaller than a city

A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world.

In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics, human impact characteristics, and the interaction of humanity and the environment. Geographic regions and sub-regions are mostly described by their imprecisely defined, and sometimes transitory boundaries, except in human geography, where jurisdiction areas such as national borders are defined in law.

Township Designation for types of settlement as administrative territorial entities

Township refers to various kinds of settlements or administrative subdivisions in different countries.

District Administrative division, in some countries, managed by local government

A district is a type of administrative division that, in some countries, is managed by local government. Across the world, areas known as "districts" vary greatly in size, spanning regions or counties, several municipalities, subdivisions of municipalities, school district, or political district.

Federated state Territorial and constitutional community forming part of a federal union

A federated state is a territorial and constitutional community forming part of a federation. Such states differ from fully sovereign states, in that they do not have full sovereign powers, as the sovereign powers have been divided between the federated states and the central or federal government. Importantly, federated states do not have standing as entities of international law. Instead, the federal union as a single entity is the sovereign state for purposes of international law. Depending on the constitutional structure of a particular federation, a federated state can hold various degrees of legislative, judicial and administrative jurisdiction over a defined geographic territory and is a form of regional government.

An oblast is a type of administrative division of Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine and the former Soviet Union and Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Administrative geography of the United Kingdom Geographical subdivisions of local government in Great Britain and Northern Ireland

The administrative geography of the United Kingdom is complex, multi-layered and non-uniform. The United Kingdom, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe, consists of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For local government in the United Kingdom, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have their own system of administrative and geographic demarcation. Consequently, there is "no common stratum of administrative unit encompassing the United Kingdom".

Unincorporated area Region of land not governed by own local government

An unincorporated area is a region not governed by a local municipal corporation. Similarly, an unincorporated community is a settlement not governed by its own local municipal corporation, but is administered as part of larger administrative divisions, such as a township, parish, borough, county, city, canton, state, province, or country. Occasionally, municipalities dissolve or disincorporate, which may happen if they become fiscally insolvent, and services become the responsibility of a higher administration. Widespread unincorporated communities and areas are a distinguishing feature of the United States and Canada. Most other countries of the world have either no unincorporated areas at all, or these are very rare; typically remote, outlying, sparsely populated, or uninhabited areas.

Subdivisions of Scotland Present or former administrative subdivisions of Scotland

For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 areas designated as "council areas", which are all governed by single-tier authorities designated as "councils". They have the option under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1997 of being known as a "comhairle" when opting for a Gaelic name; only Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has chosen this option, whereas the Highland Council has adopted its Gaelic form alongside its English equivalent informally.

A canton is a type of administrative division of a country. In general, cantons are relatively small in terms of area and population when compared with other administrative divisions such as counties, departments, or provinces. Internationally, the best-known cantons – and the most politically important – are those of Switzerland. As the constituents of the Swiss Confederation, theoretically, the Swiss cantons are semi-sovereign states.

Political divisions of the United States States, the District of Columbia, territories; and their subdivisions

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Census geographic units of Canada Term used in Canada

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A governorate is an administrative division of a country. It is headed by a governor. As English-speaking nations tend to call regions administered by governors either states or provinces, the term governorate is often used in translation from non-English-speaking administrations.

The administrative divisions of India are subnational administrative units of India; they compose a nested hierarchy of country subdivisions.

A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman provincia, which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire's territorial possessions outside Italy. The term province has since been adopted by many countries. In some countries with no actual provinces, "the provinces" is a metaphorical term meaning "outside the capital city".

Government of Baghdad

The government of Baghdad is divided into a hierarchy of governments that both aid governance and provide bottom-up representation. The city constitutes a new “capital territory” whose structure differs from other parts of the country.

A tehsil is an administrative division in some countries of the Indian subcontinent that is usually translated to "township". It is a subdistrict of the area within a district including the designated city, town, hamlet, or other populated place that serves as its administrative centre, with possible additional towns, and usually a number of villages. The terms in India have replaced earlier geographical terms, such as pergunnah and thana.


  1. "What does Administration mean?". The STANDS4 Network.
  2. "Global Administrative Unit Layers (GAUL)". FAO. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.
  3. "Core Geo-Database". United Nations Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG). Archived from the original on 1 May 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014.