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France (French: IPA: [f???s]) , officially the French Republic (French: République française) , is a country whose metropolitan territory is located in Western Europe and that also comprises various overseas islands and territories located in other continents.

Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. French people often refer to Metropolitan France as L'Hexagone (The "Hexagon") because of the geometric shape of its territory.

France is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra, and Spain. Due to its overseas departments, France also shares land borders with Brazil and Suriname (bordering French Guiana) , and the Netherlands Antilles (bordering Saint-Martin). France is also linked to the United Kingdom by the Channel Tunnel, which passes underneath the English Channel.

The French Republic is a democracy organised as a unitary semi-presidential republic. Its main ideals are expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. In the 18th and 19th centuries, France built one of the largest colonial empires of the time, stretching across West Africa and Southeast Asia, prominently influencing the cultures and politics of the regions. France is a developed country with the sixth-largest economy in the world. France is the most visited country in the world, receiving over 79 million foreign tourists annually (including business visitors, but excluding people staying less than 24 hours in France)

France is one of the founding members of the European Union, and has the largest land area of all members. France is also a founding member of the United Nations, and a member of the Francophonie, the G8, and the Latin Union. It is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; it is also an acknowledged nuclear power.

The name France originates from the Franks (Francs) , a Germanic tribe that occupied northern Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. More precisely, the region around Paris, called Île-de-France, was the original French royal demesne. The first King of the Franks, Clovis, is regarded as the forefather of the French kings.

Origin and history of the name

The name "France" comes from Latin Francia, which literally means "land of the Franks" or "Frankland". There are various theories as to the origin of the name of the Franks. One is that it is derived from the Proto-Germanic word frankon which translates as javelin or lance as the throwing axe of the Franks was known as a francisca.

Another proposed etymology is that in an ancient Germanic language, Frank means free as opposed to slave. This word still exists in French as franc, it is also used as the translation of "Frank" and to name the local money, until the use of the Euro in the 2000s.

However, rather than the ethnic name of the Franks coming from the word frank, it is also probable that the word is derived from the ethnic name of the Franks, the connection being that only the Franks, as the conquering class, had the status of freemen. The Merovingian kings claimed descent of their dynasty from the Sicambri, a Scythian or Cimmerian tribe, asserting that this tribe had changed their name to "Franks" in 11 BC, following their defeat and relocation by Drusus, under the leadership of a certain chieftain called Franko, although they had actually come from present day Netherlands, Lower Saxony, and possibly, ultimately Scandinavia. In German, France is still called Frankreich, which literally means "Realm of the Franks". In order to distinguish from the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne, Modern France is called Frankreich, while the Frankish Realm is called Frankenreich.

The word "Frank" had been loosely used from the fall of Rome to the Middle Ages, yet from Hugh Capet's coronation as "King of the Franks" ("Rex Francorum") it became used to strictly refer to the Kingdom of Francia, which would become France. The Capetian Kings were descended from the Robertines, who had produced two Frankish kings, and previously held the title of "Duke of the Franks" ("dux francorum"). This Frankish duchy encompassed most of modern northern France but because the royal power was sapped by regional princes the term was then applied to the royal demesne as shorthand. It was finally the name adopted for the entire Kingdom as central power was affirmed over the entire kingdom.


While Metropolitan France is located in Western Europe, France also has a number of territories in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the southern Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and Antarctica. These territories have varying forms of government ranging from overseas department to overseas collectivity.

Metropolitan France covers 547,030 square kilometres (211,209 sq mi) making it the largest country in area in the European Union, being only slightly larger than Spain. France possesses a wide variety of landscapes, from coastal plains in the north and west to mountain ranges of the Alps in the south-east, the Massif Central in the south-central and Pyrenees in the south-west. At 4,807 metres (15,770 ft) above sea-level, the highest point in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, is situated in the Alps on the border between France and Italy. Metropolitan France also has extensive river systems such as the Loire, the Garonne, the Seine and the Rhône, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean sea at the Camargue, the lowest point in France (2 m / 6.5 ft below sea level). Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast.

France's total land area, with its overseas departments and territories (excluding Adélie Land) , is 674,843 square kilometres (260,558 sq mi) , 0.45% of the total land area on Earth. However, France possesses the second-largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world, covering 11,035,000 square kilometres (4,260,000 sq mi) , approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world, just behind the United States (11,351,000 km? / 4,383,000 sq mi) and ahead of Australia (8,232,000 km? / 3,178,000 sq mi).

Metropolitan France is situated between 41° and 50° North, on the western edge of Europe and thus lies within the northern temperate zone. The north and northwest have a temperate climate, however, a combination of maritime influences, latitude and altitude produce a varied climate in the rest of Metropolitan France. In the south-east a Mediterranean climate prevails. In the west, the climate is predominantly oceanic with a high level of rainfall, mild winters and cool summers. Inland the climate becomes more continental with hot, stormy summers, colder winters and less rain. The climate of the Alps and other mountainous regions are mainly alpine in nature with the number of days with temperatures below freezing over 150 per year and snowcover lasting for up to six months.