Esmeralda County is a county in the west of U.S. state of Nevada. Its county seat is Goldfield. Its 2000 census population was officially 971, making its population density 0.1045 inhabitants/km² (0.2706/sq mi), the second-lowest (to Loving County, Texas) of any county-equivalent outside of Alaska. As of 2010, the population had decreased to 783 people. Its school district has no high school.
Esmeralda County is one of the original counties in Nevada, established in 1861. Esmeralda is the Spanish and Portuguese word for "emerald". An early Nevada miner, J. M. Corey, named the Esmeralda Mining District after the gypsy dancer, Esmeralda, from Victor Hugo's novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Esmeralda has had three county seats: Aurora until 1883, Hawthorne from 1883 to 1907 and finally Goldfield. At one point, due to the disputed border with California, Aurora was simultaneously the county seat of both Mono County, California and Esmeralda County, Nevada. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) wrote about his time as a miner in the Esmeralda District in his book Roughing It.
Esmeralda grew from a gold mining boom in the first years of the 20th century. The mines were largely tapped out by the end of the 1910s and the economy and population declined afterwards.