A shire is an administrative division of Great Britain and Australia. The first shires were created by the Anglo-Saxons in what is now central and southern England. 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-divisions existed. In modern English usage shires are sub-divided into districts.
Individually, or as a suffix in Scotland and the far northeast of England, the word is (to rhyme with "fire"). As a suffix in an English or Welsh place name it is pronounced /-ʃə/ or sometimes /-ʃɪə/, a homophone of "sheer".
It can also be used in a narrower sense, referring only to ancient counties ending in "shire". These counties are typically (though not always) named after their county town.
Of these, all but Huntingdonshire and Yorkshire are also administrative counties (but with different boundaries). Huntingdonshire is now administered as a district of Cambridgeshire, and Yorkshire is split between East Riding of Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. Other northern counties include Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cumbria and County Durham.
The counties of Devon, Dorset, Rutland and Somerset were occasionally referred to with the "shire" suffix. This usage is now considered archaic, although residents are known to refer to these counties as "the Shire".
Other than these, the term was used for several other districts. Bedlingtonshire, Craikshire, Norhamshire and Islandshire were exclaves of County Durham, which were incorporated into Northumberland or Yorkshire in 1844. The suffix was also used for many hundreds, wapentakes and liberties such as Allertonshire, Blackburnshire, Halfshire, Howdenshire, Leylandshire, Powdershire, Pydarshire, Riponshire, Salfordshire, Triggshire, Tynemouthshire, West Derbyshire and Wivelshire, counties corporate such as Hullshire, and other districts such as Applebyshire, Bamburghshire, Bunkleshire, Carlisleshire, Coldinghamshire, Coxwoldshire, Cravenshire, Hallamshire, Leekshire , Mashamshire and Yetholmshire.
Shires in Scotland include 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, and 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, Argyllshire, Buteshire, Caithness-shire and Fifeshire are sometimes found. Also, Morayshire was previously called Elginshire.
Non-county shires were very common in Scotland. Kinross-shire and Clackmannanshire are probably survivals from such districts. Non-county shires in Scotland include Bunkleshire, Coldinghamshire and Yetholmshire.
In contrast; South Australia uses district and region for its rural LGA units, while Tasmania uses municipality. Shires are generally functionally indistinguishable from towns, municipalities, or cities.
These three 'Shires' could be classified as 'Cities' (by population).
Of these, five are considered still extant in essentially their same political form in Virginia as of 2006, although most boundaries have changed in the intervening centuries.