Leicestershire takes its name from the city of Leicester (unitary authority) located at its centre and administered separately from the rest of the county. The ceremonial county (non-metropolitan county plus the city of Leicester) has a total population of just over 1 million (2016 estimate), more than half of which (c. 50%–65%) lives in 'Greater Leicester' (Leicester's built-up area).
Leicestershire was recorded in the Domesday Book in four wapentakes: Guthlaxton, Framland, Goscote and Gartree. These later became hundreds, with the division of Goscote into West Goscote and East Goscote, and the addition of Sparkenhoe hundred. In 1087, the first recorded use of the name was as Laegrecastrescir.
Leicestershire's external boundaries have changed little since the Domesday Survey. The Measham-Donisthorpe exclave of Derbyshire has been exchanged for the Netherseal area, and the urban expansion of Market Harborough has caused Little Bowden, previously in Northamptonshire to be annexed.
In 1974, the Local Government Act 1972 abolished the county borough status of Leicester city and the county status of neighbouring Rutland, converting both to administrative districts of Leicestershire. These actions were reversed on 1 April 1997, when Rutland and the City of Leicester became unitary authorities. Rutland became a distinct Ceremonial County once again, although it continues to be policed by Leicestershire Constabulary.
The symbol of the county council, Leicestershire County Cricket Club and Leicester City FC, is the fox. Leicestershire is considered to be the birthplace of fox hunting as it is known today. Hugo Meynell, who lived in Quorn, is known as the father of fox hunting. Melton Mowbray and Market Harborough have associations with fox hunting, as has neighbouring Rutland.