A country is a distinct part of the world, such as a state, nation, or other political entity. It may be a sovereign state or make up one part of a larger state. For example, the country of Japan is an independent, sovereign state, while the country of Wales is a component of a multi-part sovereign state, the United Kingdom. A country may be a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division (such as Korea), a physical territory with a government (such as Senegal), or a geographic region associated with certain distinct political, ethnic, or cultural characteristics (such as the Basque Country).
The definition and usage of the word "country" is flexible and has changed over time. The Economist wrote in 2010 that "any attempt to find a clear definition of a country soon runs into a thicket of exceptions and anomalies." Most sovereign states, but not all countries, are members of the United Nations.
The largest country by area is Russia, while the smallest is the microstate Vatican City. The most populous is China, while the Pitcairn Islands are the least populous.