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A district into which a state is divided. The United States, with the exception of Louisana which calls such divisions a 'parish,' are generally divided into counties; counties are divided into townships, buroughs, towns, etc.

In Pennsylvania the division of the province into three Counties, viz. Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester, was one of the earliest acts of William Penn, the original proprietary. There is no printed record of this division or of the original boundaries of these counties.

In some states a county is considered as a corporation, in others it is only a quasi corporation. Frequent difficulties arise on the division of a county.

In the English law this word signifies the same as shire, county being derived from the French and shire from the Saxon. Both these words signify a circuit or portion of the realm, into which the whole land is divided for the better government thereof, and for easier administration of justice. There is no part of England that is not within some county, and the shire-reve (sheriff), originally a yearly officer, was the governor of the county. Four of the counties of England, viz. Lancaster, Chester, Durham and Ely, were called counties Palatine, which were jurisdictions of a peculiar nature and held by special charter from the king.