ter·​ri·​to·​ry | \ˈter-ə-ˌtȯr-ē \
plural territories

Definition of territory 

1a : a geographic area belonging to or under the jurisdiction of a governmental authority

b : an administrative subdivision of a country

c : a part of the U.S. not included within any state but organized with a separate legislature

d : a geographic area (such as a colonial possession) dependent on an external government but having some degree of autonomy

2a : an indeterminate geographic area

b : a field of knowledge or interest

3a : an assigned area especially : one in which a sales representative or distributor operates

b : an area often including a nesting or denning site and a variable foraging range that is occupied and defended by an animal or group of animals

go with the territory or come with the territory

: to be a natural or unavoidable aspect or accompaniment of a particular situation, position, or field criticism goes with the territory in this job

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Synonyms for territory


habitat, home, niche, range

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Examples of territory in a Sentence

Those mountains are in Mexican territory. Guam is a U.S. territory. The birds are busy establishing territories and building nests. Male cats spray to mark territory. The goal of the expedition is to map unexplored territory.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Yamane was the son of a successful immigrant businessman in Hawaii who had arrived in the territory in total poverty. Tyrone Beason / Columnist, The Seattle Times, "Kazuo Yamane’s WWII story shows the lengths to which some must go to prove their loyalty to America," 11 Nov. 2018 Suddenly Francine, Alec, and Carole were Jews in territory controlled by the Third Reich. James Mcauley, Town & Country, "The Tragic, Fascinating History of Santo Sospir," 13 Aug. 2018 At bats and games are decided in the territory around the margins of the strike zone. Tom Verducci, SI.com, "The Star That Still Won't Shine: The Incredible, Unprecedented but Unseen Greatness of Mike Trout," 12 July 2018 Smith belongs to the same generation as pianist Robert Glasper, and he traffics in similar territory, but the former keeps a much tighter rein on his band, dispensing endless vamps and incorporating solos that go against the music’s smooth veneer. Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, "Jazz drummer Nate Smith comes into his own as a bandleader with a sleek strain of R&B and funk that showcases his improvisational elasticity," 12 July 2018 The edict is allegedly in response to a new bill brought to the Knesset by Jewish Home Party MK Bezalel Smotrich, which would allow Jews to purchase land in Area C territory in Judea and Samaria. Jewish Journal, "Mufti issues 'fatwa' forbidding Muslims to sell land to Jews," 11 July 2018 Bregman hit a ball that ricocheted off home plate, briefly rolled in foul territory and then rolled fair. Jim Reineking, USA TODAY, "Houston Astros get wild walk-off win against Oakland Athletics," 11 July 2018 Oakland catcher Jonathan Lucroy scopped up the ball in fair territory and tried to tag Bregman for an easy out, but somehow lost control of the baseball and a juking Bregman took off down the first-base line. Matt Young, Houston Chronicle, "Relive Astros' Alex Bregman's wacky walk-off in photos," 11 July 2018 Austin Hedges then popped out in foul territory behind the plate and pitcher Tyson Ross, pinch-hitting because the Padres were out of position players, struck out to leave the Padres 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position in the game. Kevin Acee, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Wil Myers' homer matters this time, Padres down Diamondbacks in 16," 8 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'territory.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of territory

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for territory

Middle English, from Latin territorium, literally, land around a town, from terra land — more at terrace entry 1

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Statistics for territory

Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for territory

The first known use of territory was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for territory



English Language Learners Definition of territory

: an area of land that belongs to or is controlled by a government

: one of the parts of the United States that is not a state

: any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into


ter·​ri·​to·​ry | \ˈter-ə-ˌtȯr-ē \
plural territories

Kids Definition of territory

1 : a geographical area belonging to or under the rule of a government

2 : a part of the United States not included within any state but organized with a separate governing body

4 : an area that is occupied and defended by an animal or group of animals


ter·​ri·​to·​ry | \ˈter-ə-ˌtōr-ē \
plural -ries

Legal Definition of territory 

1 : a geographical area belonging to or under the jurisdiction of a governmental authority

2 : a political subdivision of a country

3 : a part of the U.S. (as Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands) not included within any state but organized with a separate legislature — compare trust territory

Other Words from territory

territorial \ˌter-​ə-​ˈtōr-​ē-​əl \ adjective
territorially adverb

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Comments on territory

What made you want to look up territory? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to enclose within walls

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