Lapland is a sparsely populated territory in Northern Europe. A view from Saana in Finnish Lapland

A territory is an area of land, sea, or space, belonging or connected to a particular country, person, or animal.[1]

In international politics, a territory is usually a geographic area which has not been granted the powers of self-government, i.e. an area that is under the jurisdiction of a sovereign state.

As a subdivision, a territory in most countries is an organized division of an area that is controlled by a country but is not formally developed into,[1] or incorporated into, a political unit of that country, which political units are of equal status to one another and are often referred to by words such as "provinces", "regions", or "states". In its narrower sense, it is "a geographic region, such as a colonial possession, that is dependent on an external government."[2]


The origins of the word "territory" begin with the Proto-Indo-European root ters ('to dry').[3] From this emerged the Latin word terra ('earth, land') and later the Latin word territorium ('land around a town').[4][5] Territory made its debut as a word in Middle English during the 14th century. At this point the suffix -orium, which denotes place, was replaced with -ory which also expresses place.[6]


Examples for different types of territory include the following:

Capital territory

Main article: Capital districts and territories

A capital territory or federal capital territory is usually a specially designated territory where a country's seat of government is located. As such, in the federal model of government, no one state or territory takes pre-eminence because the capital lies within its borders. A capital territory can be one specific form of federal district.

Dependent territory

Main article: Dependent territory

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A dependent territory is a territory that is not an independent sovereign state, yet remains politically outside the governing state's integral area.[7][failed verification][non-primary source needed] Presently, all dependent territories are either overseas territories or non-sovereign associated states. Only four countries currently possess dependent territories: New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[citation needed][dubious ]

Examples include:

Federal territory

Main article: Federal territory

A federal territory is an area within the direct and usually exclusive jurisdiction of the central or national government within a federation.


Further information: States and territories of Australia

Australia has ten federal territories, out of which three are "internal territories" (the Australian Capital Territory, the Jervis Bay Territory, and the Northern Territory) on mainland Australia; and the other seven are "external territories" (Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, the Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Norfolk Island, and the Australian Antarctic Territory), which are offshore dependent territories.


Further information: Provinces and territories of Canada

Canada has three federal territories in addition to its 10 provinces. The territories are officially under the direct control of the federal government and are created by statute (while provinces had constitutional jurisdiction), but in practice they operate similar to provinces.

Each territory has a premier, legislative assembly, and Commissioner (who performs a similar role to a lieutenant governor).

The territories are, from west to east, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.


Overseas territory

"Overseas territories" redirects here. For the designation of EU member state territories, see Special territories of members of the European Economic Area § Overseas countries and territories.

Overseas territory is a broad designation for a territorial entity that is separated from the country that governs it by an ocean. An overseas territory may be either a constituent part of the governing state or a dependent territory.

Examples include:

See also


  1. ^ a b "territory". Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  2. ^ Territory. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Accessed 28 January 2022. Archived 29 January 2022.
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas. "*ters-". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  4. ^ Harper, Douglas. "territory". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  5. ^ Definition of TERRITORY. Retrieved 27 July 2017. ((cite encyclopedia)): |work= ignored (help)
  6. ^ Dunmore, Charles W.; Fleischer, Rita M. (2008). Studies in Etymology (Second ed.). Focus. p. 236. ISBN 9781585100125. JSTOR 288048.
  7. ^ "Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples". United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV). the United Nations General Assembly. 14 December 1960. Archived from the original on 4 May 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2019 – via Wikisource.
  8. ^ "The Overseas Territories" (PDF). Foreign and Commonwealth Office. June 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 May 2019. Retrieved 29 November 2020.