The term ("شعبية") in Arabic can mean both "popularity" or "That that is of the people" or more simply "pertaining to the people". The second meaning was used by the Libyan government to refer to the districts of Libya, in tandem with the general ideology of the state. Sha'biyat in Libya are the highest administrative level. A lower level, equivalent to a county, exists and divides each Shabiyah into smaller entities.
The term is new and exclusive to Libya, in line with exclusive terms for republic (jamahiriya), ministry (amanah) and embassy (people's-bureau)—all of which are different from what is used throughout Arabic-speaking countries, including even Libya itself before its adoption of the neology.