There are many ways of defining which countries are technically the smallest countries in the world. It all comes down to what variable you take into consideration when determining the smallest countries. For example, if you look solely at population size, the list of smallest countries will differ from the order that lists countries based on total area.
Population size and total area are the two most defining ways of classifying countries based on overall size, so we’ll focus on these variables. Let’s look at the smallest countries in the world from these two different angles and see what trends we can find!
Smallest Countries by Population
The population size of a country is estimated during the census that is taken every ten years. In the United States, for example, there is actually a requirement set in metaphorical stone that requires the government to take a headcount of every single person that resides in the United States at that time.
The very first US census was conducted on August 2, 1790 and has been conducted every ten years since then. In other words, the Census Bureau of the United States of America performs a decennial census. Prior to the official decennial census, there were similar acts of counting the number of people in the US and recording the population. These documents are kept safe by the National Archives and Records Administration of the USA.
To give you an idea of how population sizes can drastically change from one decade to the next, let’s take a look at the results of the United States census since 1940:
- 1940 - 132,164,569 people
- 1950 - 150,697,361 people
- 1960 - 179,323,175 people
- 1970 - 203,302,031 people
- 1980 - 226,545,805 people
- 1990 - 248,709,873 people
- 2000 - 281,421,906 people
- 2010 - 308,745,538 people
The year is currently 2019, so the next United States Census will be taken next year in 2020. So, now that we’ve covered the process of determining the population of a country, as well as discussing how often populations are usually taken, let’s look at countries based on population size on a much more global scale.
Smallest Countries in Terms of Population
What is the least populated country in the world? The smallest country in terms of population is Vatican City. Here is the most recent list of the top thirty smallest countries based on population size alone, followed by their respective current populations…
- Vatican City - 1,000
- Tuvalu - 11,192
- Nauru – 13,649
- Palau - 21,729
- San Marino - 33,400
- Liechtenstein - 38,547
- Monaco – 38,695
- Saint Kitts and Nevis – 55,345
- Marshall Islands – 58,889
- Dominica - 73,925
- Andorra - 76,965
- Seychelles - 95,843
- Antigua and Barbuda – 102,012
- The Federated States of Micronesia - 105,544
- Tonga – 108,020
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – 109,897
- Grenada - 113,003
- Kiribati – 116,398
- Saint Lucia – 182,790
- Samoa – 197,097
- Sao Tome and Principe – 215,056
- Barbados – 287,025
- Vanuatu – 299,882
- Iceland – 360,390
- Bahamas – 389,482
- Belize – 390,353
- Brunei – 433,285
- Malta – 493,559
- Maldives – 530,593
- Cape Verde – 549,935
Smallest Countries by Total Area
The total area of a country refers to how much land is encompassed by the country’s borders. Often denoted in terms of miles squared or kilometers squared, the total area of a country is a numerical value of the country’s physical size.
Oftentimes, total area and population size go hand-in-hand. The total area usually determines the population size, because you cannot make more room, but you can control how many people live in a given area. However, there is not always a reasonable ratio between total area and population size, so a country that is one of the smallest in terms of population doesn’t necessarily end up being small in terms of total area.
What is the smallest country in the world by area? The country with the smallest area is Vatican City. Here is the conclusive list of the top thirty-four smallest countries based on total area...
Smallest Countries in Terms of Total Area
- Vatican City - 0.17 square miles
- Monaco - 0.78 square miles
- Gibraltar - 23.94 square miles
- San Marino – 24 square miles
- Tokelau - 48.26 square miles
- Nauru - 84.17 square miles
- Tuvalu - 1,007.73 square miles
- Macau - 1,162.94 square miles
- Saint Martin - 2,054.06 square miles
- Bermuda - 2,093.06 square miles
- Guernsey - 3,023.18 square miles
- Anguilla - 3,527.04 square miles
- Montserrat - 3,953.3 square miles
- Jersey - 4,496.16 square miles
- Wallis and Futuna - 5,503.89 square miles
- The British Virgin Islands - 5,852.54 square miles
- Liechtenstein - 6,201.57 square miles
- Aruba - 6976.48 square miles
- Marshall Islands - 7,015.48 square miles
- American Samoa - 7,713.16 square miles
- Cook Islands - 9,147.15 square miles
- Saint Pierre and Miquelon - 9,379.58 square miles
- Niue - 100,425.17 square miles
- Saint Kitts and Nevis - 100,811.66 square miles
- Cayman Islands - 101,970.35 square miles
- Maldives - 115,875.44 square miles
- Malta - 122,055.39 square miles
- Grenada - 132,870 square miles
- The United States Virgin Islands - 134,029.19 square miles
- Mayotte - 144,457.81 square miles
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - 150,251.66 square miles
- Barbados - 166,088.02 square miles
- Antigua and Barbuda - 170,723.18 square miles
- Curacao - 171,495.38 square miles
Trends Between the Two Categories of Determining the Smallest Countries
If you look closely at the two lists, there are multiple countries that can be found on both lists of smallest countries. This finding makes a lot of sense because countries that have a total area on the smaller side will often have a smaller population. Otherwise, the severity of overcrowding would be nearly unbearable.
While there are some instances in which relocating and moving to a lesser-populated country is possible, it is not always realistic for hundreds of individuals to up and relocate to another country simply because so many people already live in their homeland. In cases such as this, there is less of a correlation between a small amount of land and a smaller population.
Another exception to the assumption that a smaller land mass means less people is that some locations are incredibly remote or they are inhabited primarily by native people, so immigration is less likely to occur in these areas of the world. The outcome that you find with places under these circumstances is that the total area is quite massive, but the population size is far smaller than you would think for an area of that magnitude.