Difference between Country and State

Key Difference: The main difference between Country and State is that the term “Country” refers to a large nation with its own government and economy, whereas the term “state” refers to a large governing area within the country. “State” can also sometimes be used to refer to the whole country as well.

When differentiating between Country and State, the trouble arises mainly because the term ‘state’ has two different and distinct meanings. A country is basically an area or region that has boundaries that separates them from other countries and also have their own governments. A state, on the other hand, can be an area within the constraints of a country, and subject to the country’s government; or it can alternately be used as a term to refer to the country as a whole.

A country is defined as an area or region of land that has borders. These borders are internationally recognized and accepted by the other countries. A country also has permanent residents with its borders, who consider themselves as a part of the nation. A country has sovereignty. Sovereignty means that the country has power over its own territory and that no other country can claim power over the territory. A country has a government in place that is responsible for law and for regulating its people. It also has an organized economic activity, which is responsible for regulating foreign and domestic trade, as well as issue currency.

Alternatively, a sovereign state is a country. The terms are synonymous. A State is a system or entity. A sovereign state is a political entity that has defined borders and has sovereignty. It also has a centralized government and a permanent population. However, commonly, the term ‘state’ is used to refer to a smaller region that is part of the country. Ideally, a country or a sovereign state is subdivided into smaller regions called states. These states as a whole make up the country. A state can have its own government, however it will still be under the power of the central government.  

While the usage of the term can be very confusing, it is easier to note the intended usage in writing rather than in the spoken tongue. When the word ‘state’ is written with the ‘s’ in lowercase, it is being used to refer to a smaller region within the whole country. Whereas, when the term ‘state’ is used with the uppercase ‘s’, it being used to refer to an independent country.

Comparison between Country and State:




Definition (Merriam-Webster)

  • An area of land that is controlled by its own government


  • The country : the people who live in a country


  • An area or region that has a particular quality or feature or is known for a particular activity.
  • One of the constituent units of a nation having a federal government <the fifty states>


  • The territory of a state


  • A government or politically organized society having a particular character <a police state> <the welfare state>


An area or region with its own governing body.

An area or a region that may have its own governing body, but is usually part of a larger region and is subject to larger region’s governing body.

Type of Government

Independent Governing Body

Independent/Dependent Governing Body

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