The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Province is a name for a secondary level, or subnational entity, of government in most countries. In some countries an alternative term is used, such as state (in Australia and the United States), prefecture (in Japan), or region (in France and Italy; the latter uses provincia as a teriary form of government, akin to a county). During the time of the British Empire, various colonies had the title of Province such as the Province of Canada and Province of South Australia.

The word was introduced by the Romans, who divided their empire into provinciae. The word is thought to have originated from the Latin word provincia (zone of influence), which is turn is thought to have derived from pro ("in front") and vincia ("linked").

In France, the expression en province means "outside of the region of Paris". Prior to the French Revolution, the country consisted of the region of Ile-de-France – the personal fiefdom of the king – and the royal provinces, which were once governed by their own feudal lords. Today, the expression is sometimes replaced with en région, as that term is now officially used for the secondary level of government.

The same expression is used in Peru, where en provincias means "outside of the city of Lima", although it is not completely accurate as Lima is also located in a province. Provinces are a tertiary unit of government in Peru, as the country is divided into twenty-five regions, which are then subdivided into 194 provinces.

In Arab countries the secondary level of government, called a muhfazah, is usually translated as a governorate. This term is also used for the historic Russian guberniyas.


Subdivisions called or translated into "province".

Country local name Number of entities
Provinces of Afghanistan from arab. wilaya 24
Provinces of Argentina span. provincia 23
Provinces of Armenia marz 11
Provinces of Belarus bela. voblast 6
Provinces of Belgium 10
Provinces of Bolivia span. provincia 112
Provinces of Bulgaria bulg. oblast 28
Provinces of Canada engl./fran. province 10
Provinces of Chile span. provincia 51
Provinces of China chin. sheng 22
Provinces of Cuba span. provincia 15
Provinces of Ecuador span. provincia 22
Provinces of Equatorial Guinea span. provincia 7
Provinces of Finland finn. läänit / swed. län 6
Provinces of Gabon fran. province 9
Provinces of Indonesia indo. propinsi 29
Provinces of Iran fars. ostan 30
Provinces of Ireland 4
Provinces of Italy ital. provincia 103
Provinces of Kazakhstan oblasy 14
Provinces of Kenya 8
Provinces of Kyrgyzstan oblasty 7
Provinces of Korea kore. do, to 14
Provinces of Laos lao khoueng 16
Provinces of Madagascar 6
Provinces of the Netherlands dutc. provincie 12
Provinces of Pakistan 4
Provinces of Papua New Guinea 19
Provinces of Peru span. provincia 180
Provinces of the Philippines fili.: lalawigan / probinsya 79
Provinces of Rwanda intara 12
Provinces of São Tomé and Príncipe port. 2
Provinces of Saudi Arabia arab. mintaqah 13
Provinces of the Solomon Islands 9
Provinces of South Africa 9
Provinces of Spain span. provincia 50
Provinces of Tajikistan veloyati, from arab. wilaya 3
Provinces of Thailand changwat 76
Provinces of Turkey turk. il 81
Provinces of Turkmenistan from arab. wilaya 5
Provinces of Ukraine ukra. oblast 24
Provinces of Uzbekistan from arab. wilaya 12
Provinces of Vanuatu 6
Provinces of Zambia 9
Provinces of Zimbabwe 8

The most populous province is Henan, China, pop. 93,000,000. Also very populous are several other Chinese provinces, as well as Punjab, Pakistan, pop. 85,000,000.

The largest provinces by area are Xinjiang, China (1,600,000 sq. km) and Quebec, Canada (1,500,000 sq. km).

There are also provinces in New Zealand, but the country is not seen as a "federal" country. However, the provinces do have a few duties like collecting rates and each province has its own Health Board and District Prisons Board.


The term governorate is widely used in arab countries to describe an administrative unit; it translates the Arabic word muhafazah. Some governorates combine more than one wilaya; others closely follow traditional boundaries inherited from the Ottoman Empire's vilayet system.


In historical terms, Fernand Braudel has depicted the European provinces—built up of numerous small regions called by the French pays or by the Swiss cantons, each with a local cultural identity and focused upon a market town—as the political unit of optimum size in pre-industrial Early Modern Europe and asks, "was the province not its inhabitants' true 'fatherland'?" (The Perspective of the World 1984, p. 284) Even centrally organized France, an early nation-state, could collapse into autonomous provincial worlds under pressure, such as the sustained crisis of the Wars of Religion, 1562—1598.

In the Habsburg territories, the traditional provinces are partly expressed in the Länder of 19th-century Austria-Hungary

The Ottoman Empire's provinces were characterized by the term vilayet.

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