COUNTRY (from the Mid. Eng. contre or contrie, and O. Fr. cuntrée; Late Lat. contrata, showing the derivation from contra, opposite, over against, thus the tract of land which fronts the sight, cf. Ger. Gegend, neighbourhood), an extent of land without definite limits, or such a region with some peculiar character, as the "black country," the "fen country" and the like. The extension from such descriptive limitation to the limitation of occupation by particular owners or races is easy; this gives the common use of the word for the land inhabited by a particular nation or race. Another meaning is that part of the land not occupied by towns, "rural" as opposed to "urban" districts; this appears too in "country-house" and "country town"; so too "countryman" is used both for a rustic and for the native of a particular land. The word appears in many phrases, in the sense of the whole population of a country, and especially of the general body of electors, as in the expression "go to the country," for the dissolution of parliament preparatory to a general election.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)