Counties of England are areas used for the purposes of administrative, geographical and political demarcation. For administrative purposes, England outside Greater London and the Isles of Scilly is divided into 83 counties. The counties may consist of a single district or be divided into several districts. As of April 2009, 27 of these counties are divided into districts and have a county council. Six of the counties, covering the major conurbations, are known as metropolitan counties, which do not have county councils, although some functions are organised on a county-wide basis by the lower-tier districts (or metropolitan boroughs) acting jointly.
All of England (including Greater London and the Isles of Scilly) is also divided into 48 ceremonial counties, which are also known as geographic counties. Most ceremonial counties correspond to a metropolitan or non-metropolitan county of the same name, but often with reduced boundaries.
The current arrangement is the result of incremental reform. Many of the counties have their origins in the Middle Ages, although the larger counties of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Sussex lost many or all of their administrative functions centuries ago. The geographic counties which existed before the local government reforms of 1965 and 1974 are referred to as ancient counties or historic counties. From 1889 to 1974 areas with county councils were known as administrative counties, which excluded larger town and cities known as county boroughs and included divisions of some geographic counties. From 1974 to 1996 the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties, some of which were established only in 1974, corresponded directly with the ceremonial counties.