For other uses, see Shire (disambiguation).

A shire is an administrative area of Great Britain and Australia. The first shires were created by the Anglo-Saxons in what is now England and south eastern Scotland. Shires were controlled by a royal official known as a "shire reeve" or sheriff. Historically shires were sub-divided into hundreds or wapentakes although other less common sub-divisons existed. In modern English usage shires are sub-divided into districts.


Shires in Great Britain

In Great Britain, the term "shire county" is used to refer to non-metropolitan counties.

It can also be used in a narrower sense, referring only to traditional counties ending in "shire". These counties are typically (though not always) named after their county town.

Shires in England

Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire.

Of these, all but Huntingdonshire and Yorkshire are still administrative counties. Huntingdonshire is now administered as a district of Cambridgeshire, and Yorkshire is split between East, North, South, and West Yorkshire.

The counties of Devon, Dorset, Rutland and Somerset were occasionally referred to with the "shire" suffix. This usage is now archaic.

Shires in Scotland

Aberdeenshire, Ayrshire, Banffshire, Berwickshire, Clackmannanshire, Cromartyshire, Dumfriesshire, Dunbartonshire, Inverness-shire, Kincardineshire, Kinross-shire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Lanarkshire, Morayshire, Nairnshire, Peeblesshire, Perthshire, Renfrewshire, Ross-shire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire, Stirlingshire, Wigtownshire

In Scotland four counties have alternative names with the "shire" suffix: Angus (Forfarshire), East Lothian (Haddingtonshire), Midlothian (Edinburghshire) and West Lothian (Linlithgowshire).

Sutherland is occasionally still referred to as Sutherlandshire, despite there being no town called Sutherland. Similarly Bute is sometimes called Buteshire and Argyll is sometimes called Argyllshire. Also, Morayshire is sometimes called Elginshire.

Shires in Wales

Brecknockshire, Caernarvonshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire,Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Montgomeryshire, Pembrokeshire, Radnorshire

In Wales, the counties of Merioneth and Glamorgan are occasionally referred to with the "shire" suffix. The only traditional Welsh county that never takes "shire" is Anglesey.

Non-county shires

The suffix –shire was a generalised term referring to a district. It did not acquire the strong association with county until later, though the former Hexhamshire and Winchcombeshire were considered counties. The area of Richmondshire in North Yorkshire is today a local government district. The term shire thus predates the creation of England's counties, referring originally to a more local jurisdiction.

Other than these, the term was used for several other districts. Bedlingtonshire, Norhamshire and Islandshire were exclaves of County Durham, which were incorporated into Northumberland in 1844. The suffix was also was used for many hundreds and wapentakes such as Allertonshire, Blackburnshire, Leylandshire, Powdershire, Pydenshire, Salfordshire, Triggshire, West Derbyshire and Wivelshire, counties corporate such as Hullshire, and other districts such as Applebyshire, Bamburghshire, Bunkleshire, Carlisleshire, Coldinghamshire, Coxwoldshire, Cravenshire, Halfshire, Hallamshire, Howdenshire and Yetholmshire.

The term "shire" is shared by the Germanic people: Scirii.

Shires in Australia

Shire is the most common word in Australia for the smallest local government areas by population. The states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia use shire for this unit. South Australia and Tasmania use district. A shire has the same powers as the next largest units, the town and city.

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