How many countries are there in the world? Estimates to this question can vary. Before you start counting them on the map, it is important to consider another question. What is a country?
A country is a sovereign nation that occupies a specified territory, is a place with its own self-ruling government, and is a land area (and may include territorial waters) that is subject to no other government but its own. Many territories are designated as countries, but do not have full sovereignty. Examples include England, Wales, Scotland and Greenland. England, Wales, and Scotland are constituents of the United Kingdom, and Greenland is a constituent of the Kingdom of Denmark. According to the strict definition of sovereignty, there are 196 sovereign nations, or 196 countries.
Despite this sovereignty criteria, the United Nations (UN) recognizes 195 sovereign countries. The UN does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation, and 21 nations recognize Taiwan as a part of the Republic of China. However, Taiwan is not ruled by China and operates as an independent country.
Therefore, based on the sovereignty criteria there are 196 countries, or 195 countries according to the UN.