A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government (for example the inhabitants of a sovereign state) irrespective of their ethnic make-up.  In international relations, nation can refer to a country or sovereign state. The word nation can more specifically refer to people of North American Indians, such as the Cherokee Nation that prefer this term over the contested term tribe.
As an example of how the word natio was employed in classical Latin, the following quote from Cicero's Philippics Against Mark Antony in 44 BC contrasts the external, inferior nationes ("races of people") with the Roman civitas ("community"):
An early example of the use of the word "nation" (in conjunction with language and territory) was provided in 968 by Liutprand (the bishop of Cremona) who, while confronting the Byzantine emperor, Nicephorus II, on behalf of his patron Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, declared:
See main article: Nation (university).
A significant early use of the term nation, as natio, occurred at mediaeval universities to describe the colleagues in a college or students, above all at the University of Paris, who were all born within a pays, spoke the same language and expected to be ruled by their own familiar law. In 1383 and 1384, while studying theology at Paris, Jean Gerson was elected twice as a procurator for the French natio. The University of Prague adopted the division of students into nationes: from its opening in 1349 the studium generale which consisted of Bohemian, Bavarian, Saxon and Polish nations.
In a similar way, the nationes were segregated by the Knights Hospitaller of Jerusalem, who maintained at Rhodes the hostels from which they took their name "where foreigners eat and have their places of meeting, each nation apart from the others, and a Knight has charge of each one of these hostels, and provides for the necessities of the inmates according to their religion", as the Spanish traveller Pedro Tafur noted in 1436.