A U.S. state is any one of the fifty subnational entities of the United States (although four states use the official title commonwealth). The separate state governments and the federal government share sovereignty, in that an "American" is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of residence. However, state citizenship is very flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states (with the exception of convicts on parole).

The United States Constitution allocates power between the two levels of government in general terms. By ratifying the Constitution, each state transfers certain sovereign powers to the federal government and agrees to share other powers. Under the Tenth Amendment, all powers not explicitly transferred or shared are retained by the states and the people. Historically, the tasks of public education, public health, transportation and other infrastructure have been considered primarily state responsibilities, although all have significant federal funding and regulation as well.

Over time, the Constitution has been amended, and the interpretation and application of its provisions have changed. The general tendency has been toward centralization, with the federal government playing a much larger role than it once did. There is a continuing debate over "states' rights," which concerns the extent and nature of the powers that the states have given to the federal government.

List of states

The following sortable table lists each of the 50 states of the United States of America with the following information:

The 50 United States of America
State Official Name USPS Date Population Capital Most Populous City Flag
Alabama State of Alabama AL 181912141819-12-14 04,599,030 Montgomery Birmingham Flag of Alabama.svg
Alaska State of Alaska AK 195901031959-01-03 00,670,053 Juneau Anchorage Flag of Alaska.svg
Arizona State of Arizona AZ 191202141912-02-14 06,166,318 Phoenix Phoenix Flag of Arizona.svg
Arkansas State of Arkansas AR 183606151836-06-15 02,810,872 Little Rock Little Rock Flag of Arkansas.svg
California State of California CA 185009091850-09-09 36,457,549 Sacramento Los Angeles Flag of California.svg
Colorado State of Colorado CO 187608011876-08-01 04,753,377 Denver Denver Flag of Colorado.svg
Connecticut State of Connecticut CT 178801091788-01-09 03,504,809 Hartford Bridgeport[4] Flag of Connecticut.svg
Delaware State of Delaware DE 178712071787-12-07 00,853,476 Dover Wilmington Flag of Delaware.svg
Florida State of Florida FL 184503031845-03-03 18,089,888 Tallahassee Jacksonville[5] Flag of Florida.svg
Georgia State of Georgia GA 178801021788-01-02 09,363,941 Atlanta Atlanta Flag of Georgia (U.S. state).svg
Hawaii State of Hawai`i
Moku`a-ina o Hawai`i
HI 195908211959-08-21 01,285,498 Honolulu Honolulu Flag of Hawaii.svg
Idaho State of Idaho ID 189007031890-07-03 01,466,465 Boise Boise Flag of Idaho.svg
Illinois State of Illinois IL 181812031818-12-03 12,831,970 Springfield Chicago Flag of Illinois.svg
Indiana State of Indiana IN 181612111816-12-11 06,313,520 Indianapolis Indianapolis Flag of Indiana.svg
Iowa State of Iowa IA 184612281846-12-28 02,982,085 Des Moines Des Moines Flag of Iowa.svg
Kansas State of Kansas KS 186101291861-01-29 02,764,075 Topeka Wichita Flag of Kansas.svg
Kentucky Commonwealth of Kentucky KY 179206011792-06-01 04,206,074 Frankfort Louisville Flag of Kentucky.svg
Louisiana State of Louisiana
État de Louisiane
LA 181204301812-04-30 04,287,768 Baton Rouge New Orleans[6] Flag of Louisiana.svg
Maine State of Maine ME 182003151820-03-15 01,321,574 Augusta Portland Flag of Maine.svg
Maryland State of Maryland MD 178804281788-04-28 05,615,727 Annapolis Baltimore[7] Flag of Maryland.svg
Massachusetts Commonwealth of Massachusetts MA 178802061788-02-06 06,437,193 Boston Boston Flag of Massachusetts.svg
Michigan State of Michigan MI 183701261837-01-26 10,095,643 Lansing Detroit Flag of Michigan.svg
Minnesota State of Minnesota MN 185805111858-05-11 05,167,101 Saint Paul Minneapolis Flag of Minnesota.svg
Mississippi State of Mississippi MS 181712101817-12-10 02,910,540 Jackson Jackson Flag of Mississippi.svg
Missouri State of Missouri MO 182108101821-08-10 05,842,713 Jefferson City Kansas City[8] Flag of Missouri.svg
Montana State of Montana MT 188911081889-11-08 00,944,632 Helena Billings Flag of Montana.svg
Nebraska State of Nebraska NE 186703011867-03-01 01,768,331 Lincoln Omaha Flag of Nebraska.svg
Nevada State of Nevada NV 186410311864-10-31 02,495,529 Carson City Las Vegas Flag of Nevada.svg
New Hampshire State of New Hampshire NH 178806211788-06-21 01,314,895 Concord Manchester[9] Flag of New Hampshire.svg
New Jersey State of New Jersey NJ 178712181787-12-18 08,724,560 Trenton Newark[10] Flag of New Jersey.svg
New Mexico State of New Mexico
Estado de Nuevo México
NM 191201061912-01-06 01,954,599 Santa Fe Albuquerque Flag of New Mexico.svg
New York State of New York NY 178807261788-07-26 19,306,183 Albany New York Flag of New York.svg
North Carolina State of North Carolina NC 178911211789-11-21 08,856,505 Raleigh Charlotte Flag of North Carolina.svg
North Dakota State of North Dakota ND 188911021889-11-02 00,635,867 Bismarck Fargo Flag of North Dakota.svg
Ohio State of Ohio OH 180303011803-03-01 11,478,006 Columbus Columbus[11] Flag of Ohio.svg
Oklahoma State of Oklahoma OK 190711161907-11-16 03,579,212 Oklahoma City Oklahoma City Flag of Oklahoma.svg
Oregon State of Oregon OR 185902141859-02-14 03,700,758 Salem Portland Flag of Oregon.svg
Pennsylvania Commonwealth of Pennsylvania PA 178712121787-12-12 12,440,621 Harrisburg Philadelphia Flag of Pennsylvania.svg
Rhode Island State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations RI 179005291790-05-29 01,067,610 Providence Providence Flag of Rhode Island.svg
South Carolina State of South Carolina SC 178805231788-05-23 04,321,249 Columbia Columbia[12] Flag of South Carolina.svg
South Dakota State of South Dakota SD 188911021889-11-02 00,781,919 Pierre Sioux Falls Flag of South Dakota.svg
Tennessee State of Tennessee TN 179606011796-06-01 06,038,803 Nashville Memphis[13] Flag of Tennessee.svg
Texas State of Texas TX 184512291845-12-29 23,507,783 Austin Houston[14] Flag of Texas.svg
Utah State of Utah UT 189601041896-01-04 02,550,063 Salt Lake City Salt Lake City Flag of Utah.svg
Vermont State of Vermont VT 179103041791-03-04 00,623,908 Montpelier Burlington Flag of Vermont.svg
Virginia Commonwealth of Virginia VA 178806251788-06-25 07,642,884 Richmond Virginia Beach[15] Flag of Virginia.svg
Washington State of Washington WA 188911111889-11-11 06,395,798 Olympia Seattle Flag of Washington.svg
West Virginia State of West Virginia WV 186306201863-06-20 01,818,470 Charleston Charleston Flag of West Virginia.svg
Wisconsin State of Wisconsin WI 184805291848-05-29 05,556,506 Madison Milwaukee Flag of Wisconsin.svg
Wyoming State of Wyoming WY 189007101890-07-10 00,515,004 Cheyenne Cheyenne Flag of Wyoming.svg

Admission of states into the union

Since the establishment of the United States, the number of states has expanded from 13 to 50. The Constitution is rather laconic on the process by which new states can be added, noting only that "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union", and forbidding a new state to be created out of the territory of an existing state without the consent of both that state's legislature and of Congress.

In practice, nearly all states admitted to the union after the original thirteen have been formed from U.S. territories (that is, land under the sovereignty of the United States federal government but not part of any state) that were organized (given a measure of self-rule by Congress). Generally speaking, the organized government of a territory would make known the sentiment of its population in favor of statehood; Congress would then direct that government to organize a constitutional convention to write a state constitution. Upon acceptance of that Constitution, Congress would then admit that territory as a state. The broad outlines in this process were established by the Northwest Ordinance, which actually predated the ratification of the Constitution.

However, Congress has ultimate authority over the admission of new states, and is not bound to follow this procedure. A few U.S. states outside of the original 13 have been admitted that were never organized territories of the federal government:

  • Vermont, an unrecognized but de facto independent republic until its admission in 1791
  • Kentucky, a part of Virginia until its admission in 1792
  • Maine, a part of Massachusetts until its admission in 1820 following the Missouri Compromise
  • Texas, a recognized independent republic until its admission in 1845
  • California, created as a state (as part of the Compromise of 1850) out of the unorganized territory of the Mexican Cession in 1850 without ever having been a separate organized territory itself
  • West Virginia, created from areas of Virginia that rejoined the union in 1863, after the 1861 secession of Virginia to the Confederate States of America

Congress is also under no obligation to admit states even in those areas whose population expresses a desire for statehood. For instance, the Republic of Texas requested annexation to the United States in 1836, but fears about the conflict with Mexico that would result delayed admission for nine years. Utah Territory was denied admission to the union as a state for decades because of discomfort with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' dominance in the territory, and particularly with the Mormon elite's then-current practice of polygamy.

Naming issues: Commonwealths, republics, and states

Four of the states bear the formal title of Commonwealth: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In these cases, this is merely a name and has no legal effect. Somewhat confusingly, two U.S. territories — Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas — are also referred to as commonwealths, and do have a legal status different from the states.

The Republic of Texas was an independent nation for nine years, and the Republic of Hawaiʻi, formerly the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, was also an independent nation. There is debate over whether Vermont was ever an independent nation; however it was the first future state to write its own Constitution. The so-called "California Republic" was actually a flag raised by Americans in the town of Sonoma after they expelled the local Mexican official. Ten days later the U.S. Army took over.

See also List of official names of the states of the USA.

State governments

States are free to organize their state governments any way they like, as long as they conform to the sole requirement of the U.S. Constitution that they have "a Republican Form of Government". In practice, each state has adopted a three branch system of government generally along the sames lines as that of the federal government—though this is not a requirement. There is nothing that could stop a state from adopting a parliamentary system—with a fusion of powers, as opposed to a separation of powers—if it so choses.

Origin of states' names

State names speak to the circumstances of their creation. (See the lists of U.S. state name etymologies and U.S. county name etymologies for more detail.)


Southeastern states on the Atlantic coast originated as British colonies named after British monarchs: Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland. Some northeastern states, also former British colonies, take their names from places in the British Isles: New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York. Pennsylvania, meaning "Penn's woods," in Latin, takes its name from the father of its founder, William Penn. Delaware is named after Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, an early colonist and governor of the Jamestown Colony.

Native American

Many states' names are those of Native American tribes or are from Native American languages: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, the Dakotas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and others. Additionally, the name of Idaho was presented as a Native American word by eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing, though it was later revealed that he likely made it up. Indiana means literally "land of Indians". Hawaii is a Polynesian name.


Because they are on territories previously controlled by Spain or Mexico, many states in the southeast and southwest have Spanish names. They include Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Montana, and, ultimately of Native American origin, New Mexico. California is also believed to be of Spanish origin, though this is not entirely clear (see Origin of the name California).


Because it was previously a French colony, Louisiana is named after Louis XIV (the King of France at the time). Maine may also be named after the historical French province of Maine, although another theory derives "Maine" from "mainland," differentiating it from the outlying islands. Vermont is derived from the French term for "green mountains", a reference to its mountainous but forested terrain.


Formally referred to as the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Rhode Island likely gained its name through the supposed similarity of Aquidneck Island (the body of land known as Rhode Island, which contains the city of Newport and the towns of Portsmouth and Middletown) to the Greek Isle of Rhodes. Providence Plantations, which makes reference to the mainland that surrounds Narragansett Bay, was named by its religious founders for God's divine providence. The state of Washington was named after George Washington. Arizona may come from a Basque term, or it may be of Native American origin.

Origin Unknown

The origin of Oregon is not certain, although various theories exist, but is most likely to be of Native American origin.

Grouping of the states in regions

U.S. Census Bureau regions:
The West, The Midwest, The South and The Northeast. Note that Alaska and Hawaii are shown at different scales, and that the Aleutian Islands and the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are omitted from this map.

States may be grouped in regions; there are endless variations and possible groupings, as most states are not defined by obvious geographic or cultural borders. For further discussion of regions of the U.S., see the list of regions of the United States.

State lists

External links


  1. ^ "Official USPS Abbreviations" (HTML). United States Postal Service. 1998. http://www.usps.com/ncsc/lookups/abbreviations.html. Retrieved 2007-02-26. 
  2. ^ "Table 1: Annual Estimates of the Population for the United States and States, and for Puerto Rico: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006" (CSV). 2006 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2006-12-22. http://www.census.gov/popest/states/tables/NST-EST2006-01.csv. Retrieved 2007-02-26. 
  3. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population for All Incorporated Places: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2005" (CSV). 2005 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2006-06-20. http://www.census.gov/popest/cities/files/SUB-EST2005-ip.csv. Retrieved 2007-02-26. 
  4. ^ The Hartford-West Hartford-Willimantic Combined Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in Connecticut.
  5. ^ The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in Florida.
  6. ^ The United States Census Bureau estimates that, as of 2005-07-01, the population of the City of New Orleans was 454,863 and the population of the City of Baton Rouge was 222,064. After Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, New Orleans lost a significant portion of its population while the population of Baton Rouge increased substantially.
  7. ^ Baltimore City and the 12 Maryland counties of the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia Combined Statistical Area form the most populous metropolitan region in Maryland.
  8. ^ The City of Saint Louis and the 8 Missouri counties of the St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington Combined Statistical Area form the most populous metropolitan region in Missouri.
  9. ^ The 5 southeastern New Hampshire counties of the Boston-Worcester-Manchester Combined Statistical Area form the most populous metropolitan region in New Hampshire.
  10. ^ The 13 northern New Jersey counties of the New York-Newark-Bridgeport Combined Statistical Area form the most populous metropolitan region in New Jersey.
  11. ^ The Cleveland-Akron-Elyria Combined Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in Ohio.
  12. ^ The Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson Combined Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in South Carolina.
  13. ^ The Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Columbia Combined Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in Tennessee.
  14. ^ The Dallas-Fort Worth Combined Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in Texas.
  15. ^ The 10 Virginia counties and 6 Virginia cities of the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia Combined Statistical Area form the most populous metropolitan region in Virginia.

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