In the UK you have county cricket, this gives me the idea that a county in the UK is something akin to a province or a state. In the US I have heard people speak of the county coroner, which seems like a more local 'area' if you will.

So I'm interested to know the exact difference in what is considered a county in these two countries?

  • counties in the UK are to do with administrative areas. Think Shire Reeves (sheriffs). As such, I imagine that the US definition is ultimately also one of administrative districts. Note that US States are not just seperate administrative areas, but have different laws as well.
    – user19831
    Jun 6, 2018 at 10:12

1 Answer 1


In both the UK and USA a county, in political terms is a second-level unit of sub-national government. In the UK the normal hierarchy goes something like

  • National (unitary) government [Westminster]

  • possible country level government [Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland only]

  • county, unitary authority, or the London Assembly

  • possible districts or boroughs, etc.

    Meanwhile in the US it goes something like

  • National (federal) government [Washington]

  • State (unitary) government

  • Counties (48 states), Parishes (Louisiana) and Boroughs (Alaska, New York City), independent cities.

  • municipalities, unincorporated areas, etc.

In both cases, power is delegated to counties from above, and the powers, services provided, etc. vary depending on location. The biggest difference is that the US tends to treat its "things not called counties" as functionally identical, whereas there's slightly more variance in how the non-counties fit into the UK governmental structure.

You mention county cricket in your question, which brings up one complication. Due to population and political change, the UK also possesses "historic" counties, and "ceremonial" counties. The former are Norman toponyms (i.e names for places) which used to be counties exerting governmental control, but may now no longer exist (one, Middlesex has a cricket team, despite its land having been taken up into modern London) while the latter represents the domains of the Lord Lieutenants, the avatars of the monarch in each region, who once held real political power, but are now just titles.

  • A single municipality may have multiple boroughs (obviously not in Alaska). New York city is made up of five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island). Some municipal functions are devolved/delegated to borough government.
    – Flydog57
    Jun 6, 2018 at 23:03

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