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Constituent country


Constituent country is a phrase used, often by official institutions, in contexts in which a country makes up a part of a larger entity or grouping. The term constituent country does not have any defined legal meaning. It can only be given its meaning in plain English: a country which is a part (i.e. a constituent) of something else, for example a federation.[1]

Use by International bodies

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is an example of a body that has used the phrase constituent countries, notably in reference to:

European institutions such as the Council of Europe sometimes use the expression in reference to the sovereign member states of the European Union.[3]

United Kingdom

It has been suggested that this article or section be mergedinto Subdivisions of the United Kingdom. (Discuss) A map of the constituent countries in the UK
Red = England
Green = Northern Ireland
Blue = Scotland
Yellow = Wales

The constituent countries of the United Kingdom are:[4]

These four constituent countries of the United Kingdom are sometimes also referred to as the Home Nations. The Parliament of the United Kingdom and the government of the United Kingdom are at Westminster in London and they deal with both reserved matters and with legislation specifically for England but not on matters which have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly.

Use of the term constituent country is sometimes regarded as inappropriate when applied to Northern Ireland because some do not regard it as a country. Instead, some regard it as a province of the UK while others regard it as part of the Province of Ulster in Ireland.

The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands are not part of the United Kingdom and are not represented in the United Kingdom Parliament. They are rather direct dependencies of the British Crown, not constituent countries.


The word country does not necessarily connote political independence, so it may, according to context, be used to refer either to the UK or one of its constituents. Thus, for example, the British Prime Minister's website refers to "countries within a country", stating "The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its full name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."[5] This article discusses the use of the phrase 'constituent countries' within that context, but it should be remembered that the phrase necessarily takes its meaning from its surrounding context which may be different.[6]

Although the term 'constituent countries' is sometimes used by official government bodies in the UK, such as the Office for National Statistics, it is rarely used otherwise. Far more frequently, they are simply referred to as countries; thus the 2001 British Census asked residents of the UK their "country of birth" with tick box options of: Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland; England; Republic of Ireland and Elsewhere;[7] and the Office for National Statistics states authoritatively in its glossary that "In the context of the UK, each of the four main subdivisions (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is referred to as a country".[8]

The British Embassy in the United States uses the word 'countries' on its website, rather than constituent countries: "The United Kingdom is made up of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."[9]

Historically, Ireland (between 1801 and 1921) and subsequently for a brief period, Southern Ireland (between 1921 and 1922) were what could be regarded today as constituent countries. However, use of the phrase constituent country is a relatively recent evolution and was not applied to those territories.

Distinctive status

All four have always had and continue to have distinctive variations in legislative and administrative status and England and Scotland were originally independent states. All four are regarded by many as possessing distinct nationalities, although they have no distinct citizenships: standard UK passports include the line "Nationality: British citizen". To varying degrees, their inhabitants may view themselves, for example, as Scottish, Welsh, English, Irish, Northern Irish, or as British by nationality; or frequently by some combination thereof.

Northern Ireland was the first part of the UK to have a devolved government, under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, until the Parliament of Northern Ireland was suspended in 1972. After a period of direct rule by the UK government and some abortive attempts at reinstating devolved government during the Troubles, the modern Northern Ireland Assembly was established in 1998, and is currently in operation following a number of periods of suspension. The complex history of Northern Ireland has led to differing views as to its status. The term "Province" is used more often by unionist and British commentators to refer to Northern Ireland, but not by nationalists.

Scotland and Wales adopted devolved governments in the 1990s, but have long been described as countries in their own right. Although England lacks a devolved government of its own, it does have its own legal system (English Law) and is almost universally[citation needed] thought of as a country and a nation.

All four constituent countries of the United Kingdom have political parties campaigning for further self-government or independence. In the case of Northern Ireland, both the desire for union with the Republic of Ireland and a small movement for independence from both the Republic and the UK have existed. There is a movement for self-government in Cornwall which has campaigned for Cornwall to be recognised as a constituent country of the UK, rather than its current status as an administrative English county. Likewise, all four countries have political parties which support, or specifically campaign for the continued maintenance of the Union.

Alternative terms

The phrase 'component countries' is also occasionally used.[10] The overlapping, but not identical, term Home Nations is also occasionally used by government bodies, but is almost exclusively used in sporting contexts, particularly rugby union; this term more frequently means England, Scotland, Ireland (as a whole), and Wales.

Sometimes the four countries are described as 'constituent parts'.[11][12]


All citizens, from whichever constituent country, are entitled to citizenship of the United Kingdom and citizenship of the European Union. People in Northern Ireland are also entitled to hold Irish citizenship instead of, or in addition to, British citizenship.

Kingdom of the Netherlands

The constituent countries (landen) of the Kingdom of the Netherlands are:

Distinctive status

Each of the three constituent parts has its own constitution: the Constitution of the Netherlands (Grondwet van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden), the Constitution of the Netherlands Antilles (Staatsregeling van de Nederlandse Antillen), and the Constitution of Aruba (Staatsregeling van Aruba). Each of the three constituent parts also has its own administration and parliament. Together, they form a federation under a monarch as a single head of state.


The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a member of the European Union. However the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are not considered part of the EU, but rather have the status of OCTs (overseas countries and territories; in Dutch LGO's, landen en gebiedsdelen overzee). Since citizenship is handled by the kingdom, and not distinguished for the three constituent countries, citizens from all three constituent countries are also EU citizens, although residents of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are not eligible to vote in the elections for the European Parliament.


  1. ^ Gramatically, constitutent is the adjective in phrase while country is the noun the adjective describes
  2. ^ Definition
  3. ^ example
  4. ^ countries within a country[1].
  5. ^ Number 10
  6. ^ Term used by British and Irish Governments and British media.
  7. ^ 2001 British Census.
  8. ^ Office for National Statistics.
  9. ^ British Embassy in the United States of America.
  10. ^ House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 28 Feb 2000 (pt 35)
  11. ^ "Constituent parts" used by US government.
  12. ^ "Constituent parts" used by British government.

See also

v • d • eTypes of administrative country subdivisionBoldface indicates a type used by ten or more countries. Current English terms

Autonomous area · Bailiwick · Banner (Autonomous banner) · Block · Borough (County borough · Metropolitan borough) · Cadastral division · Capital (Federal capital) · Canton · Circle · Circuit · City (Autonomous city · Chartered city · Independent city) · Colony · Commune · Community (Autonomous community · Residential community) · Condominium · Constituency · County (Administrative county · Autonomous county · Metropolitan county) · Council · Department · District (Autonomous district · Capital district · City district · Federal district · Metropolitan district · Municipal district · Subdistrict) · Division · Duchy · Eldership · Federal dependency · Governorate · Hamlet · Hundred · Insular area · Local administrative unit · Local government area · Municipality (District municipality · Regional municipality · Regional county municipality · Rural municipality) · Neighbourhood · Parish (Civil parish) · Periphery · Prefecture (Autonomous prefecture · Subprefecture) · Principality (Co-principality) · Protectorate · Province (Autonomous province) · Quarter · Regency · Region (Autonomous region · Capital region · Special administrative region) · Republic (Autonomous republic) · Reservation (Reserve) · Shire · State · Suzerainty · Territory (Autonomous territorial unit · Capital territory · Dependent territory · National territory · Union Territory) · Town · Townland · Township (Township (Scotland) · Civil township) · Urban (urbanized) area · Village · Ward

Current non-English
and loanwordterms

Amt · Arrondissement · Bakhsh · Baladiyah · Barangay · Bairro · Bezirk / Regierungsbezirk · Comarca · Comune · Daïra · Frazione · Freguesia · Gmina · Judeţ · Kommun · Liwa · Località · Oblast · Okrug · Ostān · Plasa · Powiat · Ranchería · Shabiyah · Shahr · Shahrestān · Sýsla · Taluka · Tehsil · Vingtaine · Voivodeship · Wilayah · Woreda

Defunct and historical
English terms

Agency · Barony · Diocese · Free imperial city · Imperial Circle · March · Praetorian prefecture · Presidency · Residency · Riding · Rural district · Sanitary district · Theme · Urban district · Viscountcy (Viscounty)

Defunct and historical
non-English terms

Burgh · Deme · Commote · Heerlijkheid · Naucrary · Nome · Pargana · Satrapy

See also Political division · Census division · Electoral division Categories: British Isles | Country subdivisions | Subdivisions of England | Geography of the United Kingdom | Northern Ireland | Political geography | Politics of the United Kingdom | Scotland | WalesHidden categories: Articles to be merged since April 2008 | All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements since June 2007

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