A nation state is a state in which a great majority shares the same culture and is conscious of it. The nation state is an ideal in which cultural boundaries match up with political boundaries.[1] According to one definition, "a nation state is a sovereign state of which most of its subjects are united also by factors which defined a nation such as language or common descent."[2] It is a more precise concept than "country", since a country does not need to have a predominant ethnic group.

A nation, in the sense of a common ethnicity, may include a diaspora or refugees who live outside the nation state; some nations of this sense do not have a state where that ethnicity predominates. In a more general sense, a nation state is simply a large, politically sovereign country or administrative territory. A nation state may be contrasted with:

  • A multinational state, where no one ethnic group dominates (such a state may also be considered a multicultural state depending on the degree of cultural assimilation of various groups).
  • A city-state which is both smaller than a "nation" in the sense of "large sovereign country" and which may or may not be dominated by all or part of a single "nation" in the sense of a common ethnicity.[3][4][5]
  • An empire, which is composed of many countries (possibly non-sovereign states) and nations under a single monarch or ruling state government.
  • A confederation, a league of sovereign states, which might or might not include nation-states.
  • A federated state which may or may not be a nation-state, and which is only partially self-governing within a larger federation (for example, the state boundaries of Bosnia and Herzegovina are drawn along ethnic lines, but those of the United States are not).

This article mainly discusses the more specific definition of a nation-state as a typically sovereign country dominated by a particular ethnicity.