Definition for SHIRE

SHIRE, n. [Sax. scir, scire, scyre, a division, from sciran, to divide. See Share and Shear. It is pronounced in compound words, shir, as in Hampshire, Berkshire.]

In England, a division of territory, otherwise called a county. The shire was originally a division of the kingdom under the jurisdiction of an earl or count, whose authority was intrusted to the sherif, [shire-reeve.] On this officer the government ultimately devolved. In the United States, the corresponding division of a state is called a county, but we retain shire in the compound half-shire; as when the county court is held in two towns in the same county alternately, we call one of the divisions a half-shire. In some states, shire is used as the constituent part of the name of a county, as Berkshire, Hampshire, in Massachusetts. These being the names established by law, we say, the county of Berkshire, and we can not with propriety say, the county of Berks, for there is no county in Massachusetts thus named.

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