In my latest novel, I have created a fantasy world and would like to create a custom map of said world.

However, I do not know how realms, kingdoms, cities, towns and villages all fit into it.

My understanding is as follows:

  • Countries contain realms;
  • Realms contain kingdoms;
  • Kingdoms contain cities;
  • Cities contain towns; and
  • Villages are independent of towns

Is this correct? Can I refer to those five bullet points above as my set-in-stone guide from here on?

If not - or even just to learn more on the topic - are there any articles or examples that can guide me here as I would really like to learn this in order for me to progress with my novel?

  • 1
    Greetings. I think your question is better suited to Worldbuilding SE. Aug 15, 2015 at 0:01
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    First, I recommend that you look up those words in a dictionary. Most of your confusion seems to stem from a lack of understanding of those terms. Second, I recommend you look at existing maps to see how these entities are represented in maps.
    – user5645
    Aug 15, 2015 at 4:58

1 Answer 1


In Tolkien-influenced high fantasy, realm is generally used in place of country, and means the same thing.

A kingdom is a country which is specifically ruled by a monarchy. An empire can be one country or a collection of countries and territories, ruled by an emperor/empress.

You can have one king or queen (or prince/princess) who rules a group of kingdoms; this will be reasonably referred to as The Five Kingdoms (if there's only one such related set) or The Three Kingdoms of Gazornenplatz (as opposed to The Three Kingdoms of Katzenjammer).

Cities, towns, and villages are all collections of people living and working, and the main difference is the size. They are independent of one another; you don't have a town inside a city. You can have neighborhoods or boroughs, which are smaller divisions of cities (Park Slope is a neighborhood in Brooklyn; Brooklyn is a borough of New York City), but those are societal and geographical sections of one larger political municipality.

You've missed state and province in your list, which are both medium-sized political divisions of countries. (They can technically be any percentage of a country.)

You can also have territory, principality, and colony, which can be anywhere from village-sized to country-sized, and can be attached to or independent of any other political entity. A city with a big enough army and enough resources can be a city-state (which is literally a country which is just the bounds of one city; think of the Vatican or Monaco).

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    In historic Britain (since we talk medieval Fantasy) a city was a town with a cathedral. City status in many parts of the world today does not signify size but certain rights and duties that towns of the same size do not have. In Europe there are many very small cities. And a kingdom is not a country.
    – user5645
    Aug 15, 2015 at 9:08
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    @what great points about cities, but why is a kingdom not a country? what's the difference? Aug 15, 2015 at 12:31
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    In the United States, there are laws that give technical legal meanings to words like city, town, and village. So, for example, a place with a hundred people might go through the legal process to be declared a city while a place with ten thousand people has not done that and so is legally something else. But that said, in normal, non-legal-technicality conversation, a city is generally understood to be bigger than a town or village. There are no hard and fast numbers about how much bigger.
    – Jay
    Aug 17, 2015 at 22:15
  • @LaurenIpsum Read the Wikipedia articles. There are countries that contain kingdoms, e.g. the UK or historic Germany. A kingdom is a realm ruled by a king. A country is some vague ethnic or political entity that has been defined in different ways in different times and circumstances.
    – user5645
    Aug 19, 2015 at 13:34

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