Zero Countries Start with the Letter W… But These Territories Do

Written by Samantha Stanich
Updated: July 22, 2023
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Beautiful landscape panorama of Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. UK

Many people think Wales is a country when in fact it is a constituent country within a sovereign state.

©Pajor Pawel/

There are currently no independent countries that start with the letter W. In fact, there are no countries in the world that start with the letters W or X. They are the only two letters in the entire 26 letters of the alphabet to carry this distinction.

However, there are territories and sovereign states that start with W.


Aerial view of Southerndown and Dunraven Bay on the Bristol Channel, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales

Wales has more castles than any other country. Also, K, Q, V, and Z are not in the Welsh language.

©Richard Whitcombe/

Wales is a constituent country of the United Kingdom. It gets confused as a country that starts with the letter W, but the United Nations doesn’t claim it as a member. This is why Wales isn’t included in the official totals of countries. Often called a sovereign country, however, that is false. It is not a sovereign country because the United Kingdom government still has authority when it comes to law-making.

What Is a Constitute Country?

A constituent country is an administrative division of a country that makes up a part of a larger sovereign state, or federation. Three constituent countries make up the sovereign country of the United Kingdom. They are:

Though these three are often referred to as countries. However, they are actually constituent countries within a sovereign country, the United Kingdom.

However, things are changing in Wales, and today, the constituent country has a legislature. It is responsible for making, scrutinizing, and passing laws. The Welsh government is also responsible for making most of the day-to-day decisions that affect people who live in Wales. This means that Wales has two governments: the Welsh Government and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Each of them has power and responsibility over different things.

The devolution of power is the process of moving power and responsibility. It is moving from a central UK level to a more national level in Wales. The people of Wales now have more say in certain areas of policy and law-making that affect their lives. This includes agriculture, the economy, education, the environment, health and social services, housing, local government, transport, devolved taxes, and the Welsh language.

Wake Island

Flag of Wake Island painted on grungy wood plank background

Access to Wake Atoll is strictly regulated. Visitors need proper permission to visit.


The corral atoll is located in the western Pacific Ocean. This territory that starts with the letter W isn’t as well-known as say Wales, so it isn’t confused with a country. The island is an unorganized unincorporated territory that belongs to the United States but is not a part of it. The Republic of the Marshall Islands also claims Wake Island. However, this is just based on oral legends and the United States doesn’t recognize the claim. It is one of the most isolated islands in the world with the nearest inhabited island 592 miles to the southeast, which is Utirik Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Wake Island has no permanent inhabitants, but approximately 100 people live there at any given time.

Western Sahara

Western Sahara's largest city, Laayoune.

Western Sahara’s largest city is Laayoune with




This disputed territory sits on the northwest coast and in the Maghreb region of North and West Africa, just south of Morocco. Western Sahara is the last African colonial state to declare its independence. Though it is a large territory at 103,000 square miles, it only has a population of 565,581 due to the desert landscape occupying most of the territory. The territory can get confused as a country that starts with the letter W, but multiple countries claim it as a sovereign state.

Both Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Morocco claim the territory as a sovereign state. However, it is a non-self-governing territory that claims it as its own. It is no surprise that multiple countries want Western Sahara. It offers phosphate mines, fishing grounds, and potential offshore oil and gas reserves.

The United Nations named the territory in 1975 and considers it a “non-self-governing territory.” However, Morocco and the Polisario Front contest sovereignty over Western Sahara. Therefore, its legal status remains unresolved. In fact, the territories spilled ever since the United Nations-sponsored ceasefire agreement in 1991. The Moroccan government administers two-thirds of the territory, including most of the Atlantic coastline, with tacit support from France and the United States. And the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic backed by Algeria administers the remainder of Western Sahara. The Moroccan government refers to Western Sahara only as “Moroccan Sahara,”the “Saharan provinces,” or the “Southern Provinces.”

Wallis and Futuna

Early morning and sunrise over Pacific Ocean in Mata-Utu village, the capital of Wallis and Futuna territory (Wallis et Futuna), French overseas island collectivity. Downtown is overgrown with palms.

The downtown area of Mata-Utu village is overgrown with palm trees.


This territory is a French island collectively in the South Pacific. Wallis and Futuna, or officially the Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands, sits between Tuvalu to the northwest, Fiji to the southwest, Tonga to the southeast, Samoa to the east, and Tokelau to the northeast.

Visiting the Islands

Mata-Utu is its capital and largest city, and the collectivity is geographically part of western Polynesia. The population is 11,562 with two-thirds of whom live in Wallis and one-third in Futuna. If you want to travel to the beautiful islands, they are far from the beaten track and still (mostly) undiscovered by tourists. According to official figures, around a hundred tourists visit every year. And can count the number of boats docking each year on one hand! This is vastly different from the other side of the Pacific where multiple cruise ships stop daily so passengers can visit different cities and sites for a few hours. The islands have a traditional Polynesian culture that is still vibrantly alive today. People usually don’t confuse the islands with countries that start with W due to not many people knowing they exist.

Inhabitants of both Wallis and Futunahe are devout Catholics. The islands boast a large number of magnificent churches. There aren’t grandiose five-star resorts, but instead, visitors are welcome to small and friendly family-run hotels and guesthouses. These islands are worth the visit to skip the crowds and really relax!

Western Samoa

Stunning view of wild jungle waterfall with pristine water, Sopoaga Tropical Waterfall Samoa close up, Upolu Island, Western Samoa, Oceania

Did you know that the traditional waist-to-knee tattoo in Samoa is a rite of passage for men?

©Radoslav Cajkovic/

People often confused the independent state as a country that starts with W because of its old name. Once called Western Samoa up until 1997, the island’s name changed when they amended the Constitution. However, the United Nationals always referred to the islands as Samoa since they joined in 1976. The neighboring U.S. territory of American Samoa protested the move, feeling that the change diminished its own Samoan identity. American Samoans still use the terms Western Samoa and Western Samoans.

Today, it is known as Samoa, officially theĀ Independent State of Samoa. Therefore, it is no longer a country that starts with the letter W. A group of islands in the South Pacific make up the country, and visitors go to seeĀ its many magical waterfalls and pools. They also want to experience the Polynesian culture, and view the culture’s music, dance, and visual art!


There are no countries in the world that start with the letter W. However, there are some territories, sovereign states, and constituent states that do, and are worth visiting! If you want to add the letter W to your travel list, this is a great place to start!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Richard Whitcombe/

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