[ter-i-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee]
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noun, plural ter·ri·to·ries.
  1. any tract of land; region or district.
  2. the land and waters belonging to or under the jurisdiction of a state, sovereign, etc.
  3. any separate tract of land belonging to a state.
  4. (often initial capital letter) Government.
    1. a region or district of the U.S. not admitted to the Union as a state but having its own legislature, with a governor and other officers appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
    2. some similar district elsewhere, as in Canada and Australia.
  5. a field or sphere of action, thought, etc.; domain or province of something.
  6. the region or district assigned to a representative, agent, or the like, as for making sales.
  7. the area that an animal defends against intruders, especially of the same species.

Origin of territory

1400–50; late Middle English < Latin territōrium land round a town, district, equivalent to terr(a) land + -i- -i- + -tōrium -tory2
Related formssub·ter·ri·to·ry, noun, plural sub·ter·ri·to·ries.

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for territory


noun plural -ries
  1. any tract of land; district
  2. the geographical domain under the jurisdiction of a political unit, esp of a sovereign state
  3. the district for which an agent, etc, is responsiblea salesman's territory
  4. an area inhabited and defended by an individual animal or a breeding group of animals
  5. an area of knowledgescience isn't my territory
  6. (in football, hockey, etc) the area defended by a team
  7. (often capital) a region of a country, esp of a federal state, that enjoys less autonomy and a lower status than most constituent parts of the state
  8. (often capital) a protectorate or other dependency of a country

Word Origin for territory

C15: from Latin territōrium land surrounding a town, from terra land


  1. the Territory Australian See Northern Territory
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for territory

early 15c., "land under the jurisdiction of a town, state, etc.," probably from Latin territorium "land around a town, domain, district," from terra "earth, land" (see terrain) + -orium, suffix denoting place (see -ory).

An alternative theory, somewhat supported by the vowels of the original Latin word, suggests derivation from terrere "to frighten" (see terrible); thus territorium would mean "a place from which people are warned off." Sense of "any tract of land, district, region" is first attested c.1600. Specific U.S. sense of "organized self-governing region not yet a state" is from 1799.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

territory in Science


  1. A geographic area occupied by a single animal, mating pair, or group. Animals usually defend their territory vigorously against intruders, especially of the same species, but the defense often takes the form of prominent, threatening displays rather than out-and-out fighting. Different animals mark off territory in different ways, as by leaving traces of their scent along the boundaries or, in the case of birds, modifying their calls to keep out intruders.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with territory


see come with the territory; cover the field (territory).

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.