Administrative division

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World administrative levels World administrative levels.png
World administrative levels

Administrative division, [1] administrative unit, [2] [3] [4] country subdivision, [5] administrative region, [6] subnational entity[ citation needed ], first-level subdivision[ citation needed ], as well as many similar terms, are generic names for geographical areas into which a particular, independent sovereign state (country) is divided. Such a unit usually has an administrative authority with the power to take administrative or policy decisions for its area. [3]


Usually, the countries have several levels of administrative divisions. The common names for the principal (largest) administrative divisions are: states (i.e. "federated states", rather than sovereign states), provinces , lands , oblasts , governorates , cantons , prefectures, counties, regions , departments , and emirates . [5] These, in turn, are often subdivided into smaller administrative units known by names such as circuits, counties, comarcas, raions, judets or districts, which are further subdivided into the municipalities, communes or communities constituting the smallest units of subdivision (the local governments).

The exact number of the levels of administrative divisions and their structure largely varies by country (and sometimes within a single country). Usually, the smaller the country is (by area or population), the fewer levels of administrative divisions it has. For example, the Vatican does not have any administrative subdivisions and Monaco has only one level, while such countries as France and Pakistan have five levels each. The United States is composed of states, possessions, territories, and a federal district, each with varying numbers of subdivisions.

The principal administrative division of a country might be called the "first-level (or first-order) administrative division" or "first administrative level". Its next subdivision might be called "second-level administrative division" or "second administrative level" and so on. [1] [4] [7]

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).[ citation needed ]

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.

Departments of France Administrative subdivision in France

In the administrative divisions of France, the department is one of the three levels of government under the national level, between the administrative regions and the communes. Ninety-six departments are in metropolitan France, and five are overseas departments, which are also classified as overseas regions. Departments are further subdivided into 332 arrondissements, and these are divided into cantons. The last two levels of government have no autonomy; they are the basis of local organisation of police, fire departments and, sometimes, administration of elections.

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 the 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.

Administrative regions of Greece First-level administrative entities of Greece

The administrative regions of Greece are the country's thirteen first-level administrative entities, each comprising several second-level units, originally known as prefectures and, since 2011, as regional units.

ISO 3166-2 is part of the ISO 3166 standard published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and defines codes for identifying the principal subdivisions of all countries coded in ISO 3166-1. The official name of the standard is Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions – Part 2: Country subdivision code. It was first published in 1998.

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

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ISO 3166-1 is a standard defining codes for the names of countries, dependent territories, and special areas of geographical interest. It is the first part of the ISO 3166 standard published by the International Organization for Standardization.

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.

Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics European Union standard for country subdivisions

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A geocode is a code that represents a geographic entity. It is a unique identifier of the entity, to distinguish it from others in a finite set of geographic entities. In general the geocode is a human-readable and short identifier.

Census geographic units of Canada Term used in Canada

The census geographic units of Canada are the census subdivisions defined and used by Canada's federal government statistics bureau Statistics Canada to conduct the country's quinquennial census. These areas exist solely for the purposes of statistical analysis and presentation; they have no government of their own. They exist on four levels: the top-level (first-level) divisions are Canada's provinces and territories; these are divided into second-level census divisions, which in turn are divided into third-level census subdivisions and fourth-level dissemination areas.

Parishes of Grenada

The Caribbean island country of Grenada is divided into regions known as parishes.

Administrative divisions of North Korea

The administrative divisions of North Korea are organized into three hierarchical levels. These divisions were created in 2002. Many of the units have equivalents in the system of South Korea. At the highest level are nine provinces and four special municipalities. The second-level divisions are cities, counties, and districts. These are further subdivided into third-level entities: towns, dongs (neighborhoods), ris (villages), and workers’ districts.

Municipalities of North Macedonia

The municipalities are the first-order administrative divisions of North Macedonia.

NUTS statistical regions of Portugal Statistical regions of Portugal

The Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) is developed by Eurostat, and employed in Portugal for statistical purposes. The NUTS branch extends from NUTS1, NUTS2 and NUTS3 regions, with the complementary LAU sub-categorization being used to differentiate the local areas, of trans-national importance.


  1. 1 2 "Administrative divisions - The World Factbook". Retrieved 2021-03-26.
  2. "General maps | Geospatial, location information for a better world". Retrieved 2021-03-26.
  3. 1 2 Article 3(1). "EUR-Lex - 02003R1059-20191113 - EN - EUR-Lex". Retrieved 2021-03-25.
  4. 1 2 "Global Administrative Unit Layers (GAUL)". FAO. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015.
  5. 1 2 "ISO 3166-2:2020". ISO. Retrieved 2021-03-26.
  6. "OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms - Administrative regions Definition". Retrieved 2021-08-27.
  7. "Second Administrative Level Boundaries | Geospatial Information Section & Statistics Division | United Nations". 2021-03-25.