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From Middle English provynce, from Anglo-Norman province, Middle French province, from Latin prōvincia (“territory brought under Roman domination; official duty, office, charge, province”), from Proto-Indo-European *prōw- (“right judge, master”). Cognate with Gothic 𐍆𐍂𐌰𐌿𐌾𐌰 (frauja, “lord, master”), Old English frēa (“ruler, lord, king, master”).


  • (General American) IPA(key)/ˈpɹɑvɪns/
  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key)/ˈpɹɒvɪns/


province (plural provinces)

  1. A region of the earth or of a continent; a district or country. [from 14th c.]
  2. An administrative subdivision of certain countries, including Canada and China[from 14th c.]
  3. (Roman history) An area outside Italy that is administered by a Roman governor. [from 14th c.]
  4. (Christianity) An area under the jurisdiction of an archbishop, typically comprising a number of adjacent dioceses. [from 14th c.]
  5. (Roman Catholicism) An area under the jurisdiction of a provincial within a monastic order.
  6. (in the plural, chiefly with definite article) The parts of a country outside its capital city[from 17th c.]
  7. An area of activity, responsibility, or knowledge; the proper concern of a particular person or concept. [from 17th c.]

Usage notes

Province is the generic English term for such primary divisions of a country, but is not used where another official term has widespread use, such as France’s regions and departments, Switzerland’s cantons, or America’s and Australia’s states. Territories and colonies are sometimes distinguished from provinces as unorganized areas of low or foreign population, which are not considered an integral part of the country. Sovereign subdivisions of a larger whole, such as the principalities of the former Holy Roman Empire or the countries with the European Union, are likewise not usually described as provinces.

7 thoughts on “Etymology, English, Province”
  1. […] 58 AD. Senator Publius Suillius Rufus made a series of public attacks on Seneca. These attacks, reported by Tacitus and Cassius Dio, included charges that, in a mere four years of service to Nero, Seneca had acquired a vast personal fortune of three hundred million sestertii by charging high interest on loans throughout Italy and the provinces. […]

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