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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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Areas of high incidence were identified on the Upper Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay and in counties north and east of Baltimore City.
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.
The developments are the latest in a long legal battle between the counties and the American Civil Liberties Union.
New York State received 13,654 reports of 17,339 dead birds from 32 county health departments and from the New York City Department of Health, which represents five boroughs (counties).
The levels of sales in both counties remain constant, despite the decline in REIT activity, noted Leeds.
A total of 1,263 WN virus-positive dead birds were reported from 61 of 62 NYS counties, including the five NYC boroughs (3).
He claims to have gathered tens of thousands of petition signatures in several counties on behalf of Commandments displays.
The quality of surveillance data varies among counties for several reasons (10, unpub.
The number of apartment sales transactions dropped slightly in 1998, with Hudson and Essex counties registering the most activity once again.
"wet" counties. ([dagger][dagger]) Washington County reduced its
In Fairfield and Westchester counties, temperatures are rising, and it has nothing to do with seasonal changes.
Most counties -- 46 of the state's 75 counties -- collected less in state and use tax in 2002 than in 2001.