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County facts for kids

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A county is the name for a piece of land. It has a different meaning in different languages. Originally the word was for the land under a count (in Great Britain an earl). Today a "county" is often something between a larger state and a smaller town or district.

County governments keep records and organize elections and laws. They are a kind of local government.


Canada has ten provinces. Five of them have counties in them. In Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, these are local government units, but in Quebec and Prince Edward Island they are now only geographical units.


The word "county" is the English name for the Chinese word xiàn (县 or 縣). On Mainland China under the People's Republic of China, counties are the third level of local government. On Taiwan, the county is the highest governmental level below the Republic of China central government.

There are about 2,000 counties in China; this number is about the same as in the Han dynasty, 2,000 years ago. The county is one of the oldest levels of government in China.

In the past, "prefecture" and "district" were names for xiàn, before the Republic of China. People started using the English name "county" after the start of the Republic of China.

The head of a county is the magistrate.


Counties started to be units of regional self-government in Croatia in 1990. There are twenty counties and the city of Zagreb which has the same status. They are called županije and their leader is a župan.


There was a change in the historical counties of France in 1790 after the Revolution. The new government unit was the département. But French people use the word county (comté) in the name of the Free County region, the old Free County of Burgundy.


The government unit of Hungary is megye, or in Latin: comitatus. This is the same as the word county. Today Hungary has 19 counties, 20 city counties and 1 capital, Budapest. The comitatus was also the unit in the Kingdom of Hungary.


Ireland originally had 32 counties in the nineteenth century. 26 of these later formed the Republic of Ireland and 6 formed Northern Ireland. The counties were in 4 provinces - Leinster (12 counties), Munster (6) Connacht (5) and Ulster (9).

In the 1970s in Northern Ireland and in the 1990s in the Republic of Ireland, there was a change in the county numbers and borders (where they started and finished). In the Republic, for example, the change broke Dublin County into four parts: Dublin City, Dún Laoghaire - Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin. 'County Tipperary' is really two counties, Tipperary North Riding and Tipperary South Riding. The towns Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford are now separated from the countryside areas of their counties. So the Republic of Ireland now has thirty-four "county-level" units. But for sports, culture etc. people normally talk about the original 32 counties and 4 provinces.

Each county has a flag/colours and often a nickname too.


"County" is one name for gun (郡), which is a part of a prefecture. Other names for gun are "rural district", "rural area" or "district". People do not like to use "district" because the usual translation of "district" is choume (丁目).

Today, "counties" have no political power or organisation use. Postal services use it.

New Zealand

After New Zealand ended its provinces in 1876, they began using a county system as in other countries. They used it until 1989.

During the second half of the 20th century, many people went to the country counties from nearby cities. Because of this, sometimes they put the two together, making a "district" (e.g. Rotorua). Or sometimes they changed the name to "district" (e.g. Waimairi) or "city" (e.g. Manukau).

In 1974 they had a big change; they made the organisation the same all over New Zealand. Today the country has cities and districts, but no counties.


Norway has 19 Counties (singular fylke, plural fylker, literally "folk"). Until 1972, Bergen was a county, but today it is a municipality in the county of Hordaland. All counties have municipalities (singular kommune, plural kommuner).

Each county has an assembly (fylkesting). Norwegians choose the people in the assembly every 4 years. The counties work with high schools and roads, etc. Some people, and political parties, such as the Conservatives, Høyre, want the end of the counties. Others want to make some of them into larger regions.


In English we normally call the Polish second-level organisation unit powiat a "county" or "district".


The smaller units of Romania are called judeţ (plural: judeţe). This name comes from jude, a judge of a city. Today Romania has 40 counties and the capital, Bucharest has a separate status.


We sometimes call the units of Serbia (okrug) counties, but more often we call them districts.


In 1634 the old provinces in Sweden had a new name: counties. Today there are 21 Counties, and in each County there are Municipalities. The Swedish name is Län.

United Kingdom

See also List of counties of the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom there are 92 traditional counties (also known as shires), 86 in Great Britain and 6 in Northern Ireland. The British counties are different ages.

In England, in Anglo-Saxon times, Shires were units for getting taxes. They usually had a town at their centre. People called these towns the shire town. The shires had the same name as their shire town (for example Bedfordshire). Later people called these towns the county town. The name "county" came from the Normans, from a Norman word for an area under a Count (lord).

In 1539 Wales got thirteen counties. The counties in Scotland are this age or older.

The county boundaries (borders) of England are different today. In medieval times, some important cities got the status of counties, for example London, Bristol and Coventry. Some small places, e.g. Islandshire, were also counties. In 1844, a lot of these small places returned to their old counties.

United States

The name "county" is also used in 48 of the 50 states of the United States, for the next government unit smaller than the state. Louisiana uses the name parishes and Alaska uses boroughs. The U.S. Census Bureau lists 3,141 counties or organisation units of this sort. The power of the county government is very different in every state.

In New England, counties are mostly for law. In Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, they have no governmental use; they are only geographic names. Most power is in the New England town.

In other places than New England, counties are for the police, water, gas and electricity, libraries, statistics and birth certificates. County sheriffs are the head of the police in some states, for areas outside of cities and towns. Other places have "County Police" and county sheriffs are for law. Each county has a county seat, usually the biggest town, where the county offices are.

In Western states, for example California, the county is the basic unit of local government.

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