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Mainland is defined as "relating to or forming the main part of a country or continent, not including the islands around it [regardless of status under territorial jurisdiction by an entity]." The term is often politically, economically and/or demographically more significant than politically associated remote territories, such as exclaves or oceanic islands situated outside the continental shelf.
In geography, "mainland" can denote the continental (i.e. non-insular) part of any polity or the main island within an island nation. In geopolitics, "mainland" is sometimes used interchangeably with terms like Metropole as an antonym to overseas territories. In the sense of "heartland", mainland is the opposite of periphery.
The term is relative - in Tasmania, continental Australia is the mainland, while to residents of Flinders Island, the main island of Tasmania is also "the mainland", although the geological Australian continent includes all the former plus the island of New Guinea and all the smaller islands (e.g. the Torres Strait Islands) in between.
Prominent usages of the term mainland
This list denotes prominent usages of the term "mainland" to distinguish the islands of a continent from the mainland of a continent through a geopolitical lens.
- Mainland Africa, from the perspectives of Cape Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Seychelles, as well as Mayotte (France) and Réunion (France)
- Mainland Asia, from the perspectives of Bahrain, Brunei, Cyprus (inc. Akrotiri and Dhekelia and Northern Cyprus), East Timor, Indonesia, Japan (inc. Okinawa Prefecture), the Maldives, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan (inc. Kinmen, the Matsu Islands, and Penghu), as well as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India), Christmas Island (Australia), the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Australia), Coloane+Taipa (Macau), East Malaysia (Malaysia), Hainan (China), Hong Kong Island (Hong Kong), Islands District (Hong Kong), Jeju Island (South Korea), Lakshadweep (India), and Sakhalin Oblast (Russia)
- Mainland Europe, from the perspective of Cyprus, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, the United Kingdom (inc. Guernsey, the Isle of Man, and Jersey), as well as the Åland Islands (Finland), the Faroe Islands (Denmark), Jan Mayen (Norway), and Svalbard (Norway)
- Mainland Europe, from the perspective of Scandinavia, a peninsula
- Mainland Southeast Asia, from the perspective of Maritime Southeast Asia
This list denotes prominent usages of the term "mainland" to distinguish between distinct regions within a single country based on an "islands-to-mainland" relationship. Note that the "mainland" can sometimes consist of a large island rather than a continental landmass.
- Mainland Argentina, as opposed to Tierra del Fuego Province (including Argentinian Antarctic claims), as well as other islands of Argentina
- Mainland Australia, as opposed to the island of Tasmania and other Australian islands, especially those not part of Australia proper.
- Mainland Brazil, as opposed to Abrolhos, Fernando de Noronha, Ilhabela, Saint Peter and Saint Paul and Trindade and Martim Vaz.
- Mainland Canada, as opposed to Canadian Islands, particularly those in the Maritimes or in the Arctic
- the Mainland Colony was the mainland part of British Columbia, prior to its merger with Vancouver Island; today, the term "Lower Mainland" refers the southernmost part of the coast of British Columbia
- the continental part of Nova Scotia, as opposed to Cape Breton Island and other Nova Scotian islands
- Mainland Chile, as opposed to remote islands of the Chilean Sea, Tierra Del Fuego and Chilean Antarctic claims, as well as offshore islands of Chile such as the Chiloé Archipelago
- the Cuban Mainland, as opposed to the Canarreos Archipelago and other islands of Cuba
- Mainland Denmark, as opposed to overseas parts of the Danish Realm; geographically, Denmark proper consists of a continental portion called Jutland and nearby Danish Isles
- Mainland Ecuador, as opposed to the Galapagos Islands and other islands of Ecuador
- Mainland Equatorial Guinea, as opposed to the non-continental parts of the country
- Mainland Estonia, as opposed to the West Estonian archipelago with two of the fifteen counties and other islands of Estonia
- Mainland Finland, as opposed to the Åland Islands; historically, Finland proper made up the southwestern portion of the mainland
- Mainland France, as opposed to Corsica and other islands within European France; also used loosely as an antonym of Overseas France, despite the fact that the term Metropolitan France is more apt
- the main island of Iceland, as opposed to other islands of Iceland
- Mainland India, as opposed to its insular union territories or any other islands of India
- Mainland Italy, as opposed to its Insular Regions or any other islands of Italy
- Mainland Japan, as opposed to the other Home Islands, or to remote islands of Japan, such as the Nanpō Islands
- the main island of Madagascar, as opposed to other islands of Madagascar
- Mainland Malaysia as opposed to East Malaysia or to any islands of Malaysia
- Mainland Malta, as opposed to Gozo and other islands of Malta
- Mainland Netherlands as opposed to the Dutch Caribbean; the Netherlands proper contains numerous offshore islands
- Mainland New Zealand, is the two islands, the north and south islands. The South Island of New Zealand is sometimes jokingly called the Mainland or the main island, especially by South Islanders themselves. Though it has a far smaller population, it is larger than the North Island. "Mainland New Zealand" more commonly refers to the archipelago made up of the North and South Island and smaller nearby islands, often excluding more outlying islands such as the Chatham Islands, and always excluding remote insular parts of the Realm of New Zealand.
- Mainland Norway, as opposed to Svalbard and other islands of Norway, including its overseas dependencies
- the mainland part of Papua New Guinea, as opposed to the Islands Region or to any other islands of Papua New Guinea
- Mainland Portugal, as opposed to its insular regions, or more broadly to any islands of Portugal; until 1975, the term "mainland" was used loosely as an antonym of overseas Portugal
- Mainland Spain as opposed to the Balearic and Canary Islands and other lands under Spanish sovereignty; cf. the colonial-era term peninsulares
- the main island of Sri Lanka, as opposed to other islands of Sri Lanka
- Mainland United States, as opposed to nearby islands belonging to a certain U.S. state, the Hawaiian Islands, and to U.S. island territories in the Pacific or Caribbean. The terms "contiguous United States" (48 adjoining states in the continent of North America which does not include Alaska) or "continental United States" (any U.S. state that is part of the North American continent which includes Alaska) are widely used instead, despite including adjacent islands on the continental shelf in both definitions.
- Main or Big Land—in Russia—as opposed to Minor Land, islands, or other isolated territories that are connected by water or air travel but not by paved road.
This list denotes prominent internal usages of the term "mainland" that are disputed.
- the main island of Taiwan, as opposed to Kinmen, Matsu, Penghu, and other islands of Taiwan
- the core part of Ukraine, as opposed to Crimea, which is nonetheless geographically part of the European mainland.
- the British mainland, as opposed to Northern Ireland and the many smaller islands that make up the UK. The use of the term 'mainland' in the context of Northern Ireland and Great Britain is a subject of controversy. The largest islands within the Northern Isles are called Orkney Mainland and Shetland Mainland, respectively.
This list denotes prominent usages of the term "mainland" to distinguish between distinct regions within an irredentist region.
- Mainland China, a term that usually refers to all territories, irrespective of geography, that are administered by the People's Republic of China (China or PRC), aside from Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR, which are both administered by the PRC as semi-independent special administrative regions
- Note: In English usage, the Republic of China (Taiwan or ROC), a de facto independent state from the PRC, is usually considered to be distinct from mainland China whilst also a part of Greater China. China maintains an irredentist claim to the territory of Taiwan and does not recognise the separate government that administers Taiwan.
- Note: In Chinese (PRC) usage, Taiwan is formally considered to be a de jure region of mainland China, which, ironically, conflicts with the very common English usage of "mainland China" to distinguish PRC-controlled territories (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) from Taiwan. In defiance of China's national policy, Chinese state media often refers to Taiwan as the "Taiwan Area", rather than as "Taiwan Province, People's Republic of China", due to Taiwan's de facto independence from China.
- Mainland Greece (including and the island of Euboia), as opposed to the Greek Islands and the Greek part of Cyprus
- the mainland part of Ireland, as opposed to its offshore islands
- Mainland Korea as opposed to Jejudo and other islands of North or South Korea
- "Mainland province", the southern portion of the Spanish Main
- Etymology of the toponym "Maine"
- Cartographic generalization
- Omission of Taiwan from maps of China
- Omission of Tasmania from maps of Australia
- "MAINLAND | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary". Archived from the original on 2019-06-21.
- Edles, Laura Desfor (2003). "'Race,' 'Ethnicity,' and 'Culture' in Hawai'i: The Myth of the 'Model Minority' State". In Loretta I. Winters and Herman L. DeBose (ed.) New Faces in a Changing America: Multiracial Identity in the 21st Century. SAGE Publications. p. 241. ISBN 9780761923008.
- "United Airlines". Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
- (in Ukrainian) Crimean channel ATR resumes broadcasting in mainland Ukraine, Ukrayinska Pravda (4 June 2015)