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The Number of Countries in the World

By Most Accounts, There Are 196 Countries in the World

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United Nations NYC

The flags of the countries that are members of the United Nations fly outside U.N. headquarters in New York City.

Bill Losh/The Image Bank/Getty Images

A very frequent geographical question is "How many countries are in the world?" Different numbers pop up when one inquires or reads about the number of countries in the world. Each source you use often yields a different answer. Ultimately, the best answer is that there are 196 countries in the world.

 

United Nations

There are 193 members of the United Nations. Unfortunately, the number 193 is too often used to represent the number of countries in the world. Although this number represents almost all of the countries in the world, there are still independent countries such as the Vatican City and Kosovo, that are independent and are not members of the U.N. so 193 is not the number of countries in the world.

U.S. Department of State

The United States' State Department recognizes 195 independent countries around the world. Their list of 195 countries reflects the political agenda of the United States of America and its allies. Missing from the State Department's list is one entity that may or may not be considered a country, depending on who you talk to.

The One Outsider

Taiwan meets the requirements of independent country or state status. However, due to political reasons, it fails to be recognized by the international community as independent. Nonetheless, it should be considered as independent.

Taiwan was actually a member of the United Nations (and even the Security Council) until 1971, when mainland China replaced Taiwan in the organization. Taiwan continues to press for full recognition by other countries, to become "part of the club" and fully recognized worldwide but China claims that Taiwan is simply a province of China.

Thus...

Your Guide considers there to be 196 countries in the world, which is probably the best current answer to the question, "How many countries are in the world?"

However...

Recognize that there are dozens of territories and colonies that are sometimes erroneously called "countries" but don't count at all - they're governed by other countries. Places commonly confused as being countries include Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Greenland, Palestine, Western Sahara, and even the components of the United Kingdom (such as Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England - they're not fully independent countries, states, or nation-states).

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