from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The largest administrative division of most states in the United States.
  • noun A territorial division exercising administrative, judicial, and political functions in Great Britain and Ireland.
  • noun The territory under the jurisdiction of a count or earl.
  • noun The people living in a county.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Originally, the domain or territory of a count or earl.
  • noun Now, a definite division of a country or state for political or administrative purposes.
  • noun Collectively, the inhabitants of a county.
  • Of or pertaining to a county: as, county families; county society.
  • noun A count; an earl or lord.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun obsolete An earldom; the domain of a count or earl.
  • noun A circuit or particular portion of a state or kingdom, separated from the rest of the territory, for certain purposes in the administration of justice and public affairs; -- called also a shire. See Shire.
  • noun obsolete A count; an earl or lord.
  • noun See Commissioner.
  • noun [Eng.] a city or town having the privilege to be a county by itself, and to be governed by its own sheriffs and other magistrates, irrespective of the officers of the county in which it is situated; as London, York, Bristol, etc.
  • noun a court whose jurisdiction is limited to county.
  • noun a county distinguished by particular privileges; -- so called a palatio (from the palace), because the owner had originally royal powers, or the same powers, in the administration of justice, as the king had in his palace; but these powers are now abridged. The counties palatine, in England, are Lancaster, Chester, and Durham.
  • noun [Eng.] rates levied upon the county, and collected by the boards of guardians, for the purpose of defraying the expenses to which counties are liable, such as repairing bridges, jails, etc.
  • noun [U.S.] a county town.
  • noun [Eng.] the general quarter sessions of the peace for each county, held four times a year.
  • noun the town of a county, where the county business is transacted; a shire town.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun historical The land ruled by a count or a countess.
  • noun An administrative region of various countries, including Bhutan, Canada, China, Croatia, France, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro and Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • noun A definitive geographic region, without direct administrative functions, as in traditional county.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun (United States) the largest administrative district within a state
  • noun (United Kingdom) a region created by territorial division for the purpose of local government


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English counte, territorial division, from Old French conte, the territory of a count, from Medieval Latin comitātus, from Late Latin, the office of count, from Latin, retinue, from comes, comit-, companion; see ei- in Indo-European roots.]



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  • If the county made a habit of shaking hands with chars, however could one know whom not to know? - ''Yashima, or, The Gorgeous West'' by R T Sherwood, 1931.

    (NB the definite article, meaning the landed gentry)

    December 24, 2008