Last updated
Lapland is a sparsely populated territory in Northern Europe. A view from Saana in Finnish Lapland View from saana.JPG
Lapland is a sparsely populated territory in Northern Europe. A view from Saana in Finnish Lapland

A territory is an area of land, sea, or space, belonging or connected to a particular country, person, or animal. [1]


In international politics, a territory is either the total area from which a state may extract power resources [2] or else an administrative division, i.e. an area that is under the jurisdiction of a sovereign state.

As a subdivision, a territory in most countries is an organized division of an area that is controlled by a country but is not formally developed into, [1] or incorporated into, a political unit of that country, which political units are of equal status to one another and are often referred to by words such as "provinces", "regions", or "states". In its narrower sense, it is "a geographic region, such as a colonial possession, that is dependent on an external government." [3]


The origins of the word "territory" begin with the Proto-Indo-European root ters ('to dry'). [4] From this emerged the Latin word terra ('earth, land') and later the Latin word territorium ('land around a town'). [5] [6] Territory made its debut as a word in Middle English during the 14th century. At this point the suffix -orium, which denotes place, was replaced with -ory which also expresses place. [7]


Examples for different types of territory include the following:

Capital territory

A capital territory or federal capital territory is usually a specially designated territory where a country's seat of government is located. As such, in the federal model of government, no one state or territory takes pre-eminence because the capital lies within its borders. A capital territory can be one specific form of federal district.

Dependent territory

A dependent territory is a territory that is not an independent sovereign state, yet remains politically outside the governing state's integral area. [8] [ failed verification ][ non-primary source needed ] Presently, all dependent territories are either overseas territories or non-sovereign associated states. Only four countries currently possess dependent territories: New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[ citation needed ][ dubious ]

Examples include:

Federal territory

A federal territory is an area within the direct and usually exclusive jurisdiction of the central or national government within a federation.


Australia has ten federal territories, out of which three are "internal territories" (the Australian Capital Territory, the Jervis Bay Territory, and the Northern Territory) on mainland Australia; and the other seven are "external territories" (Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Norfolk Island, and the Australian Antarctic Territory ), which are offshore dependent territories.


Canada has three federal territories in addition to its 10 provinces. The territories are officially under the direct control of the federal government and are created by statute (while provinces had constitutional jurisdiction), but in practice they operate similar to provinces.

Each territory has a premier, legislative assembly, and Commissioner (who performs a similar role to a lieutenant governor).

The territories are, from west to east, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.


Overseas territory

Overseas territory is a broad designation for a territorial entity that is separated from the country that governs it by an ocean. An overseas territory may be either a constituent part of the governing state or a dependent territory.

Examples include:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Country</span> Distinct territorial body or political entity

A country is a distinct part of the world, such as a state, nation, or other political entity. It may be a sovereign state or make up one part of a larger state. For example, the country of Japan is an independent, sovereign state, while the country of Wales is a component of a multi-part sovereign state, the United Kingdom. A country may be a historically sovereign area, a currently sovereign territory with a unified government, or a non-sovereign geographic region associated with certain distinct political, ethnic, or cultural characteristics.

Administrative division, administrative unit, country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, constituent state, 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.

An independent city or independent town is a city or town that does not form part of another general-purpose local government entity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Federation</span> Political union of partially self-governing territories under a central government

A federation is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government (federalism). In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states, as well as the division of power between them and the central government, is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision, neither by the component states nor the federal political body. Alternatively, a federation is a form of government in which sovereign power is formally divided between a central authority and a number of constituent regions so that each region retains some degree of control over its internal affairs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Federated state</span> 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.

A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state, yet remains politically outside the controlling state's integral area.

A central government is the government that is a controlling power over a unitary state. Another distinct but sovereign political entity is a federal government, which may have distinct powers at various levels of government, authorized or delegated to it by the Federation and mutually agreed upon by each of the federated states. Though inappropriate, the adjective "central" is also sometimes used to describe the government of a federation, such as in India.

A capital district, capital region or capital territory is normally a specially designated administrative division where a country's seat of government is located. As such, in a federal model of government, no state or territory has any political or economic advantage relative to the others because of the national capital lying within its borders. A capital territory can be a specific form of federal district.

An autonomous administrative division is a subnational administrative division or internal territory of a sovereign state that has a degree of autonomy—self-governance—under the national government. Autonomous areas are distinct from the constituent units of a federation in that they possess unique powers for their given circumstances. Typically, it is either geographically distinct from the rest of the state or populated by a national minority. Decentralization of self-governing powers and functions to such divisions is a way for a national government to try to increase democratic participation or administrative efficiency or to defuse internal conflicts. States that include autonomous areas may be federacies, federations, or confederations. Autonomous areas can be divided into territorial autonomies, subregional territorial autonomies, and local autonomies.

A federal territory is an administrative division under the direct and usually exclusive jurisdiction of a federation's national government. A federal territory is a part of a federation, but not a part of any federated state. The states constitute the federation itself and share sovereignty with the federal government, while a territory does not have sovereign status and is constitutionally dependent on the federal government.

A federacy is a form of government where one or several substate units enjoy considerably more independence than the majority of the substate units. To some extent, such an arrangement can be considered to be similar to asymmetric federalism.

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".


  1. 1 2 "territory". Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary . Cambridge University Press . Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  2. Hickman, John (2016). Space is Power: The Seven Rules of Territory. London: Lexington Books. pp. 57–67. ISBN   978-1-4985-1289-3.
  3. Territory. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Accessed 28 January 2022. Archived.
  4. Harper, Douglas. "*ters-". Online Etymology Dictionary . Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  5. Harper, Douglas. "territory". Online Etymology Dictionary . Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  6. "Definition of TERRITORY". Merriam Webster Dictionary . merriam-webster.com . Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  7. Dunmore, Charles W.; Fleischer, Rita M. (2008). Studies in Etymology (Second ed.). Focus. p. 236. ISBN   9781585100125. JSTOR   288048.
  8. "Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples". United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) . the United Nations General Assembly. 14 December 1960. Retrieved 23 September 2019 via Wikisource.
  9. "The Overseas Territories" (PDF). Foreign and Commonwealth Office. June 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2020.