A territory is an administrative division, usually an area that is under the jurisdiction of a sovereign state. In most countries, a territory 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 the country that is of equal status to other political units that may often be referred to by words such as "provinces" or "regions" or "states". In international politics, a territory is usually either the total area from which a state may extract power resources[2] or any non-sovereign geographic area which has come under the authority of another government; which has not been granted the powers of self-government normally devolved to secondary territorial divisions; or both.

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


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

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

Dependent territory is a designation for 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

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

Federal territories include:

Overseas territory

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. "territory". Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  2. Hickman, John (2016). Space is Power: The Seven Rules of Territory. London: Lexington Books. pp. 57–67. ISBN 978-1-4985-1289-3.
  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". Merriam Webster Dictionary. merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  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. Retrieved 23 September 2019 via Wikisource.
  8. "The Overseas Territories" (PDF). Foreign and Commonwealth Office. June 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2020.