The hinterland is the land or district behind a coast or the shoreline of a river. Specifically, by the doctrine of the hinterland, the word is applied to the inland region lying behind a port, claimed by the state that owns the coast. The area from which products are delivered to a port for shipping elsewhere is that port's hinterland. The term is also used to refer to the area around a city or town.

Etymology and usage

Hinterland was borrowed from German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

, where it means literally "the land behind" (a city
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

, a port, or similar), with the English cognate hind land. In English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, the term was first used in 1888 by George Chisholm
George Chisholm
George Chisholm may refer to:* George Chisholm , British geographer* George Chisholm , British trombone player and bandleader*George Chisholm...

 in his work Handbook of Commercial Geography. In German this word sometimes also describes the part of a country where only a few people live and where the infrastructure is underdeveloped; although Provinz (equal to "province") is more common. The direct analogy in English is "backcountry
A backcountry area in general terms is a geographical region that is:* isolated* remote* undeveloped* difficult to accessThe term may apply to various regions that are reasonably close to urban areas but are:* not immediately accessible by car...

" or "the countryside". See also the Bush of Alaskan and the Outback
The Outback is the vast, remote, arid area of Australia, term colloquially can refer to any lands outside the main urban areas. The term "the outback" is generally used to refer to locations that are comparatively more remote than those areas named "the bush".-Overview:The outback is home to a...

 of Australian usage.

Hinterland means a rural area surrounding the urban catchment of large cities or agglomerations. It is characterized by a less dense population and infrastructure. In shipping
Shipping has multiple meanings. It can be a physical process of transporting commodities and merchandise goods and cargo, by land, air, and sea. It also can describe the movement of objects by ship.Land or "ground" shipping can be by train or by truck...

usage, a port's hinterland is the area that it serves, both for imports and for exports. The size of a hinterland can depend on geography, but also on the ease, speed, and cost of transportation between the port and the hinterland.

By analogy, it is the area surrounding a service from which customers are attracted, also called the market area.

Hinterland was applied also to the surrounding areas of former European colonies in Africa, which, although not part of the colony itself, were influenced by the colony.

A further sense in which the term is commonly applied, especially of British politicians, is in talking about an individual's depth and breadth of knowledge of other matters (or lack thereof), specifically of cultural, academic, artistic, literary and scientific pursuits. For instance, one could say, "X has a vast hinterland", or "Y has no hinterland".
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