The Biggest Countries in the World

Largest Nations in Terms of Population, Landmass, and Economy

Moscow Red Square
Red Square in Moscow. Athanasios Gioumpasis / Getty Images

In terms of geography, demography (the study of populations) and economics, there are a number of ways countries around the world are deemed "the biggest" or "largest" or "most populous" —somewhat arbitrary superlatives to rank countries from first to 196th.

When observing landmass, for instance, Russia is the largest country in the world at 6,592,771 square miles with Canada's 3,854,082 square miles placing it well behind Russia in second, and the United States at just under that with 3,717,727 square miles of landmass to its name.

However, landmass is not the best way to measure the strength or even size of a country, the gross domestic product -- or amount of monetary value it produces and possesses—and the population of the country are much more indicative tools to measure size.

10 Largest Countries by Size

Although the land mass owned by many of these countries fluctuate year to year because of new acquisitions or successions, the below list ranks the world's largest countries by land mass according to data from a 2015 report.

  1. Russia:  17,075,200 km2 (6,592,771 mi 2)
  2. Canada: 9,984,670 km2 (3,854,082 mi2)
  3. United States: 9,631,418 km2 (3,717,727 mi2)
  4. China: 9,596,960 km2 (3,704,426 mi2)
  5. Brazil: 8,511,965 km2 (3,285,618 mi2)
  6. Australia: 7,686,850 km2 (2,967,124 mi2)
  7. India: 3,287,590 km2 (1,269,009 mi2)
  8. Argentina: 2,766,890 km2 (1,068,019 mi2)
  9. Kazakhstan: 2,717,300 km2 (1,048,877 mi2)
  10. Algeria: 2,381,740 km2 (919,352 mi2)

Although landmass is important in terms of geopolitical control, it isn't as important of a factor in determining the strength of a country as population or economy.

10 Biggest Countries by Population

Another way to look at which country can boast about being the biggest in the world is through countries' population sizes, especially compared to their population densities (the number of people per square mile or kilometer). The below list ranks the world's biggest countries by their populations as of March 2017:

  1. China: 1,388,232,693
  2. India: 1,342,512,706
  3. United States: 326,474,013
  4. Indonesia: 263,510,146
  5. Brazil: 211,243,220
  6. Pakistan: 196,744,376
  7. Nigeria: 191,835,936
  8. Bangladesh: 164,827,718
  9. Russia: 143,375,006
  10. Mexico: 130,222,815

According to World Stats, the population of India is expected to overtake the population of China in number by 2050, based on its current growth rate (between 2000 and 2017) of 33.4 percent compared to China's rate of 9.5 percent. However, mortality rates, natural disasters, international and domestic wars, and government interference all affect population size and growth rates, so this list's order could change drastically within the next 30 years.

10 Largest Countries by Gross Domestic Product

In terms of economics, the size of a country's economy is determined by measuring each country's Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. This can further be broken down by comparing economies based on their GDP with our without factoring in their purchasing power parity (PPP).

Typically, GDP (PPP) is considered more useful than just standard GDP without PPP -- also called nominal GDP. Check out the two lists below to see how countries compare by GDP and GDP(PPP). 

By Gross Domestic Product with Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) factored in:

  1. China: $23.1 trillion
  2. United States: $19.4 trillion
  3. India: $9.4 trillion
  4. Japan: $5.4 trillion
  5. Germany: $4.1 trillion
  6. Russia: $3.9 trillion
  7. Indonesia: $3.25 trillion
  8. Brazil: $3.21 trillion
  9. United Kingdom: $2.9 trillion
  10. France: $2.8 trillion

By Gross Domestic Product without PPP factored in (nominal GDP):

  1. United States: $18.5 trillion
  2. China: $11.3 trillion
  3. Japan: $4.9 trillion
  4. Germany: $3.4 trillion
  5. United Kingdom: $2.65 trillion
  6. France: $2.48 trillion
  7. India: $2.25 trillion
  8. Italy: $1.8 trillion
  9. Brazil: $1.77 trillion
  10. Canada: $1.53 trillion

In 2012, the International Monetary Fund projected that China's GDP would outpace the United States' in terms of growth as early as the end of 2017, and so far those projections have come to pass with its growth slowing to 6.1 percent in recent years.

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Rosenberg, Matt. "The Biggest Countries in the World." ThoughtCo, Jan. 29, 2018, Rosenberg, Matt. (2018, January 29). The Biggest Countries in the World. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Matt. "The Biggest Countries in the World." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 24, 2018).