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Nation

  • By: George W. White
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

The term nation has multiple meanings. It is frequently employed to refer to a country, as in sentences such as “France is a nation” and “Snow is falling across the nation's midsection.” It also is used as a synonym for large social groups such as the French, Arabs, or Cherokees. The term nation generally refers to large social groups; however, it is also used interchangeably with terms for other large social formations such as ethnic groups, nationalities, races, and tribes. These concepts also overlap as many nations are multiethnic, multiracial, and multitribal. Despite similarities in meanings, nation has its own distinct meanings and origins. It derives from the Latin nationem, meaning “breed or race,” which itself stems from nasci, “to be born.” When the word ...

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