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County vs. City: Know the Difference

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By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
County is a larger administrative division in a state. City is a large, densely populated urban area within a county or independent.
County vs. City

Key Differences

A "county" is a territorial division within a state or country, used for administrative or political purposes. It encompasses both urban and rural areas. For example, "Fairfax County includes several towns and cities." A "city," on the other hand, is an urban area with its own government, typically more densely populated than towns or villages. An instance is, "New York City is one of the largest cities in the USA."
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Counties serve as administrative regions, potentially containing multiple cities, towns, and rural land. They often have their own set of elected officials and services. For instance, "Los Angeles County has many cities within its borders." Cities are individual municipalities with their own governing bodies, focused more on urban management, like "The city of Chicago is known for its architecture."
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In terms of governance, a "county" may have broader responsibilities, such as managing public services for a larger region. For example, "The county government manages regional parks." A "city" typically has its own mayor and city council, concentrating on urban-specific issues, such as "The city council voted on new urban development projects."
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While a county can cover a vast area including multiple types of communities, a city is a more concentrated urban center. A county might encompass various landscapes, like "The county includes both mountainous and coastal areas." A city, however, is defined by its urban characteristics, as in, "The city's skyline is dominated by skyscrapers."
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A county's scope often includes judicial functions, overseeing courts and law enforcement over a wide area. For example, "The county court handles cases from several towns." In contrast, a city focuses on providing services to its urban residents, such as "The city provides public transportation and local police services."
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Comparison Chart

Definition

Administrative division within a state
Urban area with dense population and its own government
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Scope

Includes cities, towns, and rural areas
Concentrated urban center
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Government

Broader regional administration
Local municipal government
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Area Coverage

Larger, diverse landscapes
Densely populated urban area
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Primary Focus

Regional governance and services
Urban management and services
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County and City Definitions

County

Geographical area within a state
This county is known for its natural beauty.
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City

Densely populated area
This city has over a million residents.
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County

Administrative region
The county's budget was focused on infrastructure improvements.
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City

Governed by a mayor and council
The city council will meet next week.
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County

Electorate for local elections
Voters in the county elect their sheriff.
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City

Center for commerce and culture
The city's downtown is a hub of activity.
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County

Judicial jurisdiction
The county court is known for its efficiency.
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City

Urban municipality
The city is planning a new public park.
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County

The largest administrative division of most states in the United States.
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City

A center of population, commerce, and culture; a town of significant size and importance.
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County

A territorial division exercising administrative, judicial, and political functions in Great Britain and Ireland.
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City

An incorporated municipality in the United States with definite boundaries and legal powers set forth in a charter granted by the state.
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County

The territory under the jurisdiction of a count or earl.
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City

A Canadian municipality of high rank, usually determined by population but varying by province.
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County

The people living in a county.
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City

A large incorporated town in Great Britain, usually the seat of a bishop, with its title conferred by the Crown.
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County

An administrative region of various countries, including Bhutan, Canada, China, Croatia, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and 48 of the 50 United States (excluding Alaska and Louisiana).
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City

The inhabitants of a city considered as a group.
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County

A definitive geographic region, without direct administrative functions.
Traditional county
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City

An ancient Greek city-state.
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County

A jail operated by a county government.
He can't come; he's up in the county for agg assault.
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City

(Slang) Used in combination as an intensive
The playing field was mud city after the big rain.
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County

(historical) The land ruled by a count or a countess.
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City

City The financial and commercial center of London. Used with the.
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County

Characteristic of a ‘county family’; representative of the gentry or aristocracy of a county.
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City

A large settlement, bigger than a town; sometimes with a specific legal definition, depending on the place.
São Paulo is the largest city in South America.
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County

An earldom; the domain of a count or earl.
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City

(UK) A settlement granted special status by royal charter or letters patent; traditionally, a settlement with a cathedral regardless of size.
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County

A circuit or particular portion of a state or kingdom, separated from the rest of the territory, for certain purposes in the administration of justice and public affairs; - called also a shire. See Shire.
Every county, every town, every family, was in agitation.
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City

(Australia) The central business district; downtown.
I'm going into the city today to do some shopping.
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County

A count; an earl or lord.
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City

(slang) A large amount of something used after the noun.
It’s video game city in here!
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County

A region created by territorial division for the purpose of local government;
The county has a population of 12,345 people
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City

A large town.
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County

The largest administrative district within a state;
The county plans to build a new road
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City

A corporate town; in the United States, a town or collective body of inhabitants, incorporated and governed by a mayor and aldermen or a city council consisting of a board of aldermen and a common council; in Great Britain, a town corporate, which is or has been the seat of a bishop, or the capital of his see.
A city is a town incorporated; which is, or has been, the see of a bishop; and though the bishopric has been dissolved, as at Westminster, it yet remaineth a city.
When Gorges constituted York a city, he of course meant it to be the seat of a bishop, for the word city has no other meaning in English law.
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County

Provider of regional services
The county operates several public libraries.
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City

The collective body of citizens, or inhabitants of a city.
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City

Of or pertaining to a city.
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City

A large and densely populated urban area; may include several independent administrative districts;
Ancient Troy was a great city
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City

An incorporated administrative district established by state charter;
The city raised the tax rate
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City

People living in a large densely populated municipality;
The city voted for Republicans in 1994
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City

Provider of local urban services
The city maintains a robust public transport system.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is a city independent of a county?

In some cases, cities are independent; in others, they are part of counties.
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How does a county differ from a city?

A county covers a broader area including cities and rural lands.
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What defines a city?

A large, densely populated urban area.
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Who governs a city?

A mayor and city council.
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Who governs a county?

Elected officials like commissioners or supervisors.
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What is a county?

An administrative division within a state or country.
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Can a city be bigger than a county?

Typically no, as counties encompass larger areas.
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Are there cities within counties?

Yes, many counties contain multiple cities.
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Can a county exist without cities?

Yes, some counties consist only of rural areas.
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Can you live in a city and not in a county?

In some independent cities, this is possible.
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Do city and county governments collaborate?

Yes, they often work together on regional issues and services.
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Do cities have their own police force?

Most cities have their own police departments.
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Can a place be both a city and a county?

In some rare instances, a city can also function as a county.
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Do counties have their own courts?

Yes, counties typically have their own judicial system.
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How do counties impact local governance?

Counties provide a layer of governance above cities and towns.
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Are city laws different from county laws?

Yes, cities may have ordinances specific to urban areas.
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Do counties oversee schools?

In many regions, counties manage public school systems.
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Do cities provide public transportation?

Yes, many cities operate their own public transit systems.
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How does taxation differ between city and county?

Both can impose taxes, but for different services and purposes.
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Are county services different from city services?

Yes, they often focus on broader regional needs.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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