Shire

and County. When the Saxon kings created an earl, they gave him a shire or division of land to govern. At the Norman conquest the word count superseded the title of earl, and the earldom was called a county. Even to the present hour we call the wife of an earl a countess. (Anglo-Saxon, scire, from sciran, to divide.)

He comes from the shires; has a séat in the shires,
etc.- in those English counties which terminate in “shire:” a belt running from Devonshire and Hampshire in a north-east direction. In a general way it means the midland counties.

Anglesey in Wales, and twelve counties of England, do not terminate in “shire.”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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