The Directory of States

Current information on the directory of states, the definition of a state, official abbreviations and the number of continents

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental association. It currently lists 193 states as UN member states. In addition to these, a number of other states, nations, countries or territories are not considered states in international law.

According to traditional international law, a state is defined as an entity with:

  • a permanent population
  • a defined territory (i.e a geographically definable part of the earth’s surface) and
  • a government (a stable government exercising effective power)

Below you can find a list of UN member states (along with the Vatican City State), their official abbreviations and a link to information about that state provided by the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (BMEIA).

Instructions

First, please choose one of the seven continents. An A-Z list will then appear. 

Determining the number of continents

For the purposes of this list, countries have been divided into seven continents according to the list in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

In ancient times, the historian and geographer Herodotus of Halicarnassus divided the world into three continents: Europe, Asia and Libya (today’s Africa). This division remained in place throughout antiquity. It was only after Amerigo Vespucci’s sea voyage that it was proved that America had to be a new continent of its own - the "New World." Since North and South America were then considered one continent, there were four continents until Australia was discovered. Only at the end of the 18th century did Australia come to be considered as a continent of its own. After the end of World War II, America was divided into North and South America, and Antarctica was recognised as a separate continent.

Today, continents can be counted in a number of different ways. Depending on the method used, the number of continents can vary between four and eight.

Certified Translation
Last update: 30 March 2021

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