Continents are Earth’s primary land divisions. However, the exact number of continents on Earth is not universally agreed upon. Many nations use a system that divides the world into seven continents, which are (from largest to smallest in terms of land area): Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia/Oceania. But some countries use other systems, which divide the world into fewer continents. For example, some combine North and South America into a single continent called simply "The Americas," or merge Europe and Asia into "Eurasia." Some lists also exclude Antarctica because it has no countries, nor even any permanent human residents. (Note: This article observes a seven-continent system.)
The exact number of countries in the world is an even more hotly debated subject. A country is defined as a nation or sovereign state with its own independent government or as an area of land that forms an independent political unit with its own government. As of November 2021, the United Nations recognizes 195 countries in the world. 193 of these countries are members of the United Nations (UN) and two countries are not: Vatican City/Holy See and the State of Palestine, both of which are classified as non-member observer states.
However, U.N. membership is not the last word on the subject of nationhood. There also exist dozens of "territories" which are technically not countries because they are ruled by another nation. Some of these territories are largely independent, but still part of another country—for instance, Greenland is actually part of Denmark, and Puerto Rico is officially part of the United States (though not a state).
Even more confusingly, some would-be countries have declared their independence, but haven't yet been officially recognized by enough members of the United Nations (U.N.), and so are technically still considered territories, not countries. For example, Kosovo is treated as its own independent country by some U.N. members but still treated as part of Serbia by others. Another example is Taiwan (also known as the Republic of China), which was its own sovereign state until it was subsumed by mainland China, which prevents any attempt by the United Nations to reinstate Taiwan's full country status.
Many territories of all types will be included on this list but will be marked to distinguish them from the U.N.-recognized countries.
One final point regarding this particular list of countries per continent: A few countries bridge the gap between two continents, such as Russia (Europe/Asia), Cyprus (Europe/Asia), and Egypt (Africa/Asia). These transcontinental countries will be tallied with whatever continent the U.N. considers them.
Africa has a total of 54 countries, the most of any continent. The most populous of these countries is Nigeria, which has more than 211 million people. The largest country by land area in Africa is Algeria, which spans over 919,595 mi² (2,381,741 km²). Africa also has one of the world's best-known transcontinental countries, Egypt, whose northeastern corner extends into Asia. Below are the 54 countries in Africa in alphabetical order:
Asia has the second-highest number of countries of any continent, but exactly how many that is can be tricky to determine. The United Nations recognizes 49 countries in Asia, which is the most widely accepted number. However, depending upon which territories one recognizes and which intercontinental countries one includes, Asia could be said to have as few as 45 or as many as 53 countries.
The most populous country in Asia (and the world) is China, which has more than 1.4 billion people. The largest country by land area is Russia, which is 6.6 million square miles (17.125 million square kilometers)—however, because 78% of its people live in the European part of the country, Russia is generally considered to be a European country.
In fact, Asia is the continent with the largest number of transcontinental countries, including Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, and (surprisingly to many) Egypt, some of which are counted as Asian and some of which are not. Similarly, Cyprus is geographically located close to Asia's Middle East region but is widely considered a European country.
Finally, Asia also includes several partially recognized and/or disputed territories, such as Taiwan (claimed by China), Palestine (disputed territory), and China's two "Special Administrative Regions," Hong Kong and Macau. Below are all of the countries and territories in Asia, listed alphabetically:
Europe has 51 independent U.N.-recognized states. The largest country by both population and land area is Russia with 145.93 million people and spanning over 6.6 million square miles (17.125 million square kilometers). Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey are considered to be transcontinental countries, meaning that they are considered to be parts of both Asia and Europe. Europe’s countries are listed below in alphabetical order:
North America is made up of 23 countries and nearly as many territories. The most populated of these countries is the United States, which has a population of 329.9 million people. The largest country in North America by land area is Canada, which spans over 3.855 million square miles (9,984,670 square kilometers). Canada and the United States together occupy 79% of the continent’s total land area.
North America also has 22 territories, including some of the world's most compelling non-countries. For instance, Greenland is a vast island territory many times the size of its "parent" country, Denmark, and many smaller island territories in North America are sought-after vacation destinations, including Aruba, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In alphabetical order, North America’s 23 countries are as follows:
Oceania has 14 countries and many overseas dependent territories. The largest country by population and land area is Australia, which is home to 25.63 million people and has 2.97 million square miles (7,692,024 square kilometers) of area. Oceania also boasts a large number of territories, many of which are controlled by the United States.
South America has 12 independent nations and a handful of dependent territories. The largest country in South America by population and land area is Brazil, which has about 211 million people and spans over 3.288 million square miles (8,515,7767 square kilometers). Brazil is also the country that contains the largest portion of the Amazon rainforest.
There are technically no countries on the continent of Antarctica. However, seven sovereign states have territorial claims in Antarctica, resulting in the following territories:
Additionally, the United States, Russia, Peru, and South Africa have all reserved their right to claim territory in Antarctica in the future if they so desire. Similarly, Brazil currently has a "zone of interest" but does not have an actual claim.
|Central African Republic||Africa|
|Republic of the Congo||Africa|
|Sao Tome and Principe||Africa|
|United Arab Emirates||Asia|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Europe|
|Isle of Man||Europe|
|Antigua and Barbuda||North America|
|British Virgin Islands||North America|
|Cayman Islands||North America|
|Costa Rica||North America|
|Dominican Republic||North America|
|El Salvador||North America|
|Puerto Rico||North America|
|Saint Barthelemy||North America|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||North America|
|Saint Lucia||North America|
|Saint Martin||North America|
|Saint Pierre and Miquelon||North America|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||North America|
|Sint Maarten||North America|
|Trinidad and Tobago||North America|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||North America|
|United States||North America|
|United States Virgin Islands||North America|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Oceania|
|Papua New Guinea||Oceania|
|Wallis and Futuna||Oceania|
|Falkland Islands||South America|
|French Guiana||South America|
Africa includes 54 countries, Europe includes 51 countries, Asia includes 49 countries, North America includes 23 countries, South America includes 12 countries and Oceania includes 14 countries.