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early 15c., "land under the jurisdiction of a town, state, etc.," probably from Latin territorium "land around a town, domain, district," from terra "earth, land" (see terrain) + -orium, suffix denoting place (see -ory).
An alternative theory, somewhat supported by the vowels of the original Latin word, suggests derivation from terrere "to frighten" (see terrible); thus territorium would mean "a place from which people are warned off." Sense of "any tract of land, district, region" is first attested c.1600. Specific U.S. sense of "organized self-governing region not yet a state" is from 1799.
A geographic area occupied by a single animal, mating pair, or group. Animals usually defend their territory vigorously against intruders, especially of the same species, but the defense often takes the form of prominent, threatening displays rather than out-and-out fighting. Different animals mark off territory in different ways, as by leaving traces of their scent along the boundaries or, in the case of birds, modifying their calls to keep out intruders.
in ecology, any area defended by an organism or a group of similar organisms for such purposes as mating, nesting, roosting, or feeding. Most vertebrates and some invertebrates, such as arthropods, including insects, exhibit territorial behaviour. Possession of a territory involves aggressive behaviour and thus contrasts with the home range, which is the area in which the animal normally lives. Home range is not associated with aggressive behaviour, although parts of the home range may be defended: in this case the defended part is the territory. The type of territory varies with the social behaviour and environmental and resource requirements of the particular species and often serves more than one function, but whatever the type, the territory acts as a spacing mechanism and a means of allocating resources among a segment of the population and denying it to others. Some authorities also consider plants or animals that secrete repulsive chemicals into their immediate environments to be territorial, because the substances space individuals of the species apart from one another.