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Title: Prefectures  
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For subsequent types of praefectura, see Prefect.

A prefecture (from the Latin Praefectura) is an administrative jurisdiction or subdivision in any of various countries and within some international church structures, and in antiquity a Roman district governed by an appointed prefect.

Literal prefectures


Prefecture most commonly refers to a self-governing body or area since the tetrarchy when Emperor Diocletian divided the Roman Empire into four districts (each divided into dioceses, grouped under a Vicarius (a number of Roman provinces, listed under that article), although he maintained two pretorian prefectures as an administrative level above the also surviving dioceses (a few of which were split).


As canon law is strongly inspired by Roman law, it is not surprising that the Catholic Church has several offices under a prefect. That term occurs also in otherwise styled offices, such as the head of a congregation or department of the Roman Curia. Various ecclesiastical areas, too small for a diocese, are termed prefects.

Analogous prefectures

Brazilian equivalent of prefecture

In Brazil, the prefecture (prefeitura or prefeitura municipal in Portuguese) is the executive branch of the government of each Brazilian municipality (município in Portuguese). The term also refers to the office of the mayor (prefeito in Portuguese).

Greek equivalent of prefecture

Main article: Prefectures of Greece

Modern Greece, under its 1975 Constitution, is divided into 51 nomoi (Greek: νομοί) which form the units of local government. These are most commonly translated into English as prefectures or "Counties".

Each nomos is headed by a prefect (nomarch), who was until recently a ministerial appointee but is nowadays elected by direct popular vote. Municipal elections in Greece are held every four years and voting for the election of nomarchs and mayors is carried out concurrently but with separate ballots.

Kallikratis Reform Law N.3852/2010 substitutes the term 'Prefecture' with 'Regional Unit' (see Regional units of Greece). Region becomes the second degree of Decentralisation instead of Prefecture that it used to be.

Chinese equivalents of prefecture

Main article: Prefecture (China)

The ancient sense

Xian (县/縣)
Main article: Counties of the People's Republic of China § History

When used in the context of Chinese history, especially China before the Tang Dynasty, the word "prefecture" is used to translate xian (县/縣). This unit of administration is translated as "county" when used in a contemporary context. That's because of the increase of the number of "xian" and the decrease of their sizes over time in the Chinese history.


In the context of Chinese history during or after the Tang Dynasty, the word "prefecture" is used to translate zhou (Wade-Giles chou (州), another ancient unit of administration in China, equivalent to the modern province.

The modern sense

In modern-day People's Republic of China, the prefecture (地区; pinyin: dìqū) is an administrative division found in the second level of the administrative hierarchy. In addition to prefectures, this level also includes autonomous prefectures, leagues, and prefecture-level cities. The prefecture level comes under the province level, and in turn oversees the county level.

Italian prefettura

In Italy a prefettura is the office of prefetto; like in France he is the representative of the Government in each provincia.

French préfecture

Main article: Prefectures in France

In France, a préfecture is the capital city of a département. As there are 100 départements in France, there are 100 préfectures in France. A préfecture de région is the capital city of a région. This is the city where the préfet - the appointed government representative - resides.

Japanese sense of prefecture

Main article: Prefectures of Japan

In English, "prefecture" is used as the translation for todōfuken (都道府県?), which are the main subdivisions of Japan, consisting of 47 prefectures, or 1 to, 1 , 2 fu, and 43 ken.

Korean equivalents of prefecture

Until 1894, prefecture was an administrative division in the administrative district system. "Hyeon("현"; 縣)" was an administrative division in the lowest level, being minor to "Gun(군, 郡; "county")", of the administrative hierarchy; it can be translated into "Petty Prefecture" in a modern sense.

"Dohobu("도호부"; 都護府)" was an administrative division in a high level, being higher than "Gun(군, 郡; "county")", of the administrative hierarchy, and can be translated into "Protectorate General", "Greater Prefecture", "Metropolitan Prefecture", or "Martial Prefecture" in a modern sense. The capital, Hanyang (Seoul), can sometimes be translated as "Hanseong Prefecture".

In 1895, "Hyeon" and "Dohobu" were abolished. From 1910 to 1949, the term "prefecture" was used for "Bu"(부; 府). Since then, both the terms "Hyeon", "Bu" and the English translation "prefecture" are no longer used in the current administrative district division system both in South Korea and North Korea until now.

Mongolian equivalent

Mongolian prefectures (Aimags) were adopted during Qing Dynasty's rule. Today these are usually translated as "provinces".

Moroccan Préfecture

In Morocco, the 61 second-level administrative subdivisions are 13 prefectures and 48 provinces. They are subdivisions of the 16 regions of Morocco. Each prefecture and province are subdivided in their turn into districts (cercles, sing. cercle), municipalities (communes, sing. commune) or urban municipalities (communes urbaines, sing. commune urbaine), and arrondissements in some metropolitan areas.

Venezuelan equivalent

Traditionally the prefecture as being the City Hall and the prefect as being the equivalent of a mayor and commissioner until recently; now the prefectures and prefect are analogous with the figure of Town Clerk.

Moscow, Russia


See also

Template:Types of administrative country subdivision

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