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[Fr., comté,=domain of a count], division of local governmentlocal government,
political administration of the smallest subdivisions of a country's territory and population. Characteristics and Types

Although there are special-purpose local government bodies (e.g.
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 in the United States, Great Britain, and many Commonwealth countries. The county developed in England from the shire, a unit of local government that originated in the Saxon settlements of the 5th cent. By the 11th cent. the shire system was fully established throughout most of England, with each shire being ruled by a shire-reeve, or sheriff, appointed by the crown. By the 14th cent. the office of justice of the peace had developed; in each county a court of three or four justices, also appointed by the king, assisted the sheriff in the administration of local affairs. With the passage of the Local Government Act of 1888, power passed from the king's appointed officials to the newly created county councils, elected by local residents. The county system of government was adopted in most of the nations settled by the British.

In the United States there are some 3,100 counties (254 in Texas alone); most are rural or suburban, but except where, as in Virginia, a city may be independent (not part of a county), every part of a state is also part of a county. Some cities, like New York (where the five boroughs are also counties) comprise more than one county. Louisiana, influenced by the French, has instead parishes, which are essentially similar to counties; Alaska has boroughs. The major functions of county government in the United States include law enforcement, the recording of deeds and other documents, and the provision and maintenance of public works such as roads and parks. Some states, though, notably Connecticut, have abolished almost all county governmental functions.


See H. S. Duncombe, County Government in America (1966); J. C. Bollens, American County Government (1969).



(1) In the feudal period, a hereditary feudal possession headed by a count.

(2) An administrative-territorial unit in several bourgeois countries. In the USA, 47 states are divided into counties (a total of more than 3,000 counties). Counties are governed by elected county councils. In Great Britain there are administrative counties and county boroughs. The administration of counties is directed by elected councils, including so-called aldermen, who are co-opted by the council. The administration of counties also includes representatives of the central government—for example, the lord lieutenant and sheriff. The Australian Commonwealth, some Canadian provinces, and New Zealand also have counties.



a. any of the administrative or geographic subdivisions of certain states, esp any of the major units into which England and Wales are or have been divided for purposes of local government
b. (as modifier): county cricket
2. NZ an electoral division in a rural area
3. Obsolete the lands under the jurisdiction of a count or earl
References in periodicals archive ?
A shift of minorities has forced Democrats to pay attention to the collar counties in this election--a strategy that "wasn't as obvious four years ago," Poshard said.
This was so because cotton--the crop upon which those efforts depended--declined constantly in price as a result of the fact that hundreds of counties in the South had undertaken similar development campaigns.
Cushman & Wakefield anticipates that rents will continue to rise in both counties.
8 percent growth in the metro population, and, individually, over half of all nonmetro counties lost population during the 1980s (Ghelfi & Parker, In press).
The divide in the GOP between aggressive skeptics of big government and status-quo huggers is writ large in this most Republican of counties.
5 million for the 15 counties with no targets and $56 million for the 49 counties that don't have any of the top 50.
However, the overall debt burden, representing indebtedness of the cities, counties, and special districts located within the county, is high at $3,741 or 6.
It also recommends putting the lawyers' wages on par with those in the County Counsel's Office, a practice common in six other California counties studied.
The district includes portions of the counties of Gratiot, Isabella and Midland (the counties) in the central portion of Michigan's lower peninsula.
Hill said her staff prepared the report to help lawmakers gauge how well each of the state's 58 counties is performing a variety of services, from keeping roads in repair to keeping jail inmates locked up.
Half-cent sales tax proceeds are distributed to each county based on its retail sales activity, and within counties according to a formula based on the relative population of the incorporated and unincorporated areas.
Instead of making it easier to put the question of a new county before voters, the rewritten bill would create a commission to study the services received by desert residents of Los Angeles, Kern and San Bernardino counties, and to evaluate the financial feasibility of creating a new county.