Administrative division, administrative unit, country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, constituent state, as well as many similar terms, are generic names for geographical areas into which a particular, independent sovereign state (country) is divided. Such a unit usually has an administrative authority with the power to take administrative or policy decisions for its area.
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Usually, the countries have several levels of administrative divisions. The common names for the principal (largest) administrative divisions are: states (i.e. "subnational states", rather than sovereign states), provinces, lands, oblasts, governorates, cantons, prefectures, counties, regions, departments, and emirates. These, in turn, are often subdivided into smaller administrative units known by names such as circuits, counties, comarcas, raions, județe, or districts, which are further subdivided into the municipalities, communes or communities constituting the smallest units of subdivision (the local governments).
The exact number of the levels of administrative divisions and their structure largely varies by country (and sometimes within a single country). Usually, the smaller the country is (by area or population), the fewer levels of administrative divisions it has. For example, the Vatican does not have any administrative subdivisions and Monaco has only one level, while such countries as France and Pakistan have five levels each. The United States is composed of states, possessions, territories, and a federal district, each with varying numbers of subdivisions.
The principal administrative division of a country might be called the "first-level (or first-order) administrative division" or "first administrative level". Its next subdivision might be called "second-level administrative division" or "second administrative level" and so on.
Administrative divisions are conceptually separate from dependent territories, with the former being an integral part of the state and the other being only under some lesser form of control. However, the term "administrative division" can include dependent territories as well as accepted administrative divisions (for example, in geographical databases).
Communities united in a federation under a federal government are more specifically known as federated states. A federated state may be referred to not only as a state, but also as a province, a region, a canton, a land, a governorate, an oblast, an emirate or a country.
Administrative units that are not federated or confederated but enjoy a greater degree of autonomy or self-government than other territories within the same country can be considered constituent states of that country. This relationship is by some authors called a federacy. An example is the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan within Uzbekistan.