In modern parlance, a colony is a territory subject to a form of foreign rule. Though dominated by the foreign colonizers, colonies remain separate from the administration of the original country of the colonizers, the metropolitan state (or "mother country"). This administrative colonial separation makes colonies neither incorporated territories, nor client states. Some colonies have been organized either as dependent territories that are not sufficiently self-governed, or as self-governed colonies controlled by colonial settlers.
The term colony originates from the ancient Roman colonia, a type of Roman settlement. Derived from colon-us (farmer, cultivator, planter, or settler), it carries with it the sense of 'farm' and 'landed estate'. Furthermore the term was used to refer to the older Greek apoikia (Ancient Greek: ἀποικία, lit. 'home away from home'), which were overseas settlements by ancient Greek city-states. The city that founded such a settlement became known as its metropolis ("mother-city").
Since early-modern times, historians, administrators, and political scientists have generally used the term "colony" to refer mainly to the many different overseas territories of particularly European states between the 15th and 20th centuries CE, with colonialism and decolonization as corresponding phenomena. While colonies often developed from trading outposts or territorial claims, such areas do not need to be a product of colonization, nor become colonially organized territories.
Some historians use the term informal colony to refer to a country under the de facto control of another state, although this term is often contentious.
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The word "colony" comes from the Latin word colōnia, used as concept for Roman military bases and eventually cities. This in turn derives from the word colōnus, which was a Roman tenant farmer.
The terminology is taken from architectural analogy, where a column pillar is beneath the (often stylized) head capital, which is also a biological analog of the body as subservient beneath the controlling head (with 'capital' coming from the Latin word caput, meaning 'head'). So colonies are not independently self-controlled, but rather are controlled from a separate entity that serves the capital function.
Roman colonies first appeared when the Romans conquered neighbouring Italic peoples. These were small farming settlements that appeared when the Romans had subdued an enemy in war. Though a colony could take many forms, as a trade outpost or a military base in enemy territory, such have not been inherently colonies. Its original definition as a settlement created by people migrating from a central region to an outlying one became the modern definition.
Settlements that began as Roman colonia include cities from Cologne (which retains this history in its name), Belgrade to York. A tell-tale sign of a settlement within the Roman sphere of influence once being a Roman colony is a city centre with a grid pattern.
Further information: Colonies in antiquity
See also: Timeline of national independence
The Special Committee on Decolonization maintains the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, which identifies areas the United Nations (though not without controversy) believes are colonies. Given that dependent territories have varying degrees of autonomy and political power in the affairs of the controlling state, there is disagreement over the classification of "colony".
1. [...] a country or an area that is governed by people from another, more powerful, country