I forgot this one. When a country breaks away to gain independence, what is the word to describe it?

  • What do you mean by 'country breaking away from another country'? I don't understand your question. Do you mean separatism when a group of people in a single country wants to start a new country with its own government? – user11470 Dec 16 '14 at 4:38
  • I think this question is incorrect. How is it possible when one country belongs to another country in the modern world? Maybe OP means the world in ancient times or colonialism? – user11470 Dec 16 '14 at 4:51
  • Errr... I meant to say territory. One territory breaking away to become its own country. Maybe I should edit it. – Raymond Park Dec 16 '14 at 4:58
  • @Humbulani, far from ancient times, see Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia – paulkayuk Dec 16 '14 at 13:37

Noun: Secession

Verb: Secede

Sometimes: Treason.

  • @RaymondPark If that is what you are looking for, please mark it as the correct answer with the checkmark. – LyricWulf Dec 16 '14 at 5:09
  • Sorry. New to stackexchange. – Raymond Park Dec 16 '14 at 5:09
  • 5
    @RaymondPark You do not have to mark an answer with the 'check mark' until you want to. It is often best to wait even a day or more, so that you allow time for more answers that you might that you prefer. – user6951 Dec 16 '14 at 5:39
  • While I generally agree with @CarSmack, there's also nothing to say that you can't immediately accept an answer, if it answers your question perfectly. – Jon Story Dec 16 '14 at 15:21

The terminology will vary somewhat depending on the political status of the original and successor entities, the process whereby the breaking away is recognized, and the degree of independence won or conferred— and of course, on your overall political views of the situation.

The process of separation could represent partition, dissolution, decolonization, secession, or devolution depending on how it comes about.

The new entity could have won sovereignty, independence, autonomy, or self-governance in decreasing order of separation, all in the name of self-determination.

The advocates for separation are, depending on who you ask, separatists, secessionists, or national liberationists, among others. As with revolutionary movements, they may be terrorists or freedom fighters, traitors or patriots, rebels or counterrevolutionaries or many other things, all dependent on your point of view.

In the English news media, the terminology used varies. Secession, a movement by secessionists to secede, refers to the withdrawal of a unit from a larger one in a legal or political sense. For example, people may write of Kosovo seceding from Serbia and Crimea seceding from Ukraine, or the efforts of antebellum slave states to secede from the United States. Whereas secession is associated with political division, separatism is a larger concept, often tied to nationalism or other identity-based movements, where the separation need not fall along geographic or cultural boundaries.

Secessionist and separatist can have slightly negative connotations due to the labeling of violent groups like ETA, the PKK, the BKI, and others as separatist groups. Second, the concept of secession is one of breaking away from a larger whole. Advocates for secession, particularly at the national level, are more likely to call for independence, and to describe themselves as an independence movement or independence activists; compare, for example, references to Scottish independence as opposed to Scottish secession and you'll find far more references to the former.

But secession is not applicable to many political situations. Israel never formally annexed the West Bank and Gaza, for example, or otherwise integrated them politically, so the formation of a state in those territories would not constitute secession from Israel. Indeed, as Palestinian groups and allied governments generally reject the state of Israel as a legitimate entity, there is no legitimate nation to be detached from. Here, advocacy for Palestinian independence is likely to be labeled as Palestinian nationalism.


Based on the legal terminology, there are two legal definitions for a territory where a group of people declared independence from a country and started a new country with its own government.

1) A de jure sovereign state 2) A de facto sovereign state

A de jure sovereign state means the newly independent country that was recognized as a sovereign state by the community of nations.

A de facto sovereign state means the newly independent country that was not recognized as a sovereign state by the community of nations.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.