Contiguous United States
The contiguous United States are the 48 U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

s on the continent of North America that are south of Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and north of Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, plus the District of Columbia
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

The term excludes the states of Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 and Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, and all off-shore U.S. territories
United States territory
United States territory is any extent of region under the jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters including all U.S. Naval carriers. The United States has traditionally proclaimed the sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its...

 and possessions, such as Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...


Together, the 48 contiguous states and D.C. occupy a combined area of 3119884.69 square miles (8,080,464.3 km²). Of this, 2959064.44 square miles (7,663,941.7 km²) is land, comprising 83.65% of U.S. land area. Officially, 160820.25 square miles (416,522.5 km²) is water area, comprising 62.66% of the nation's water area. Its 2000 census population was 279,583,437, comprising 99.35% of the nation's population. Its population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 was 94.484 inhabitants/sq mi (36.480/km²), compared to 79.555/sq mi (30.716/km²) for the nation as a whole. The 2010 census population was 306,675,006, comprising 99.33% of the nation's population, and a density of 103.639 inhabitants/sq mi (40.015/km²), compared to 87.264/sq mi (33.692/km²) for the nation as a whole.

Other terms

While coterminous U.S. and conterminous U.S. have the same precise meaning as contiguous U.S. (all three adjectives meaning "sharing a common boundary"), other terms commonly used to describe the 48 contiguous states have a greater degree of ambiguity.

Continental United States

Because Alaska is also on the North American continent, the term continental United States, if interpreted literally, should also include that state,
so the term is sometimes qualified with the explicit inclusion or exclusion of Alaska to resolve any ambiguity.
The term was in use prior to the admission of Alaska and Hawaii as states of the United States, and at that time usually excluded outlying territories of the U.S.
However, even before Alaska became a state, it was sometimes included within the "Continental US".


CONUS, a technical term used by the U.S. Department of Defense
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 and General Services Administration
General Services Administration
The General Services Administration is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1949 to help manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies. The GSA supplies products and communications for U.S...

, has been defined both as the continental United States, and as the 48 contiguous states.
The District of Columbia is not always specifically mentioned as being part of CONUS.

OCONUS is derived from CONUS with O for outside added, thus referring to Outside of Contiguous United States (OCONUS).

The lower 48

The term lower 48 may or may not include the District of Columbia (which is not part of any of the 48 states). The National Geographic style guide recommends the use of contiguous or conterminous United States instead of lower 48 when the 48 states are meant, unless used in the context of Alaska. Otherwise it is avoided as a misnomer
A misnomer is a term which suggests an interpretation that is known to be untrue. Such incorrect terms sometimes derive their names because of the form, action, or origin of the subject becoming named popularly or widely referenced—long before their true natures were known.- Sources of misnomers...

, because all the major islands of Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

 are farther south than the most southern point of the continental states.

Terms used in the non-contiguous states

Both Alaska and Hawaii have their own unique labels for the contiguous United States because of their own locations relative to them.


Alaska became the 49th state of the United States on January 3, 1959. Alaska is on the northwest end of the North American continent, but separated from the rest of the United States by Canada. In Alaska, given the ambiguity surrounding the usage of continental, the term "continental United States" is almost unheard of when referring to the contiguous 48 states. Several other terms have been used over the years. The term Lower 48 was for many years, and still is, the most common Alaskan equivalent for "contiguous United States". However, since the 1980s newer Alaskans (Cheechakos) have increasingly adopted the term Outside
Outside (Alaska)
In Alaska, Outside or the Outside refers to any non-Alaska location. Though commonly used by Alaskans to refer to other U.S. states, it may also refer to international locations distant from Alaska, including Canada, Great Britain and Russia...

to refer to the rest of the United States. Alaskans will speak of going Outside to vacation or will refer to being born Outside.


Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States on August 21, 1959. The Hawaiian Islands are located in Oceania
Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago...

 and are about 2200 miles (3,540.5 km) from the North American continent. In Hawaii and overseas American territories, for instance, the terms the Mainland or U.S. Mainland are used to refer to the continental United States.

Non-contiguous areas within the contiguous United States

Some parts of the contiguous United States are accessible by road only by travelling on Canadian soil. Point Roberts, Washington
Point Roberts, Washington
Point Roberts is an unincorporated community in Whatcom County, Washington, United States. It has a post office, with the ZIP code of 98281, whose ZIP Code Tabulation Area had a population of 1,314 at the 2010 census.A geopolitical oddity, Point Roberts is a part of the United States that is not...

, Elm Point, Minnesota
Elm Point, Minnesota
Elm Point, Minnesota, in Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, is a small cape and a United States practical exclave, southwest of the Northwest Angle...

, and the Northwest Angle
Northwest Angle
The Northwest Angle, known simply as the Angle by locals, and coextensive with Angle Township, is a part of northern Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, and is the only place in the United States outside Alaska that is north of the 49th parallel...

 in Minnesota are three such places. Alburgh, Vermont
Alburgh (town), Vermont
Alburgh is a town in Grand Isle County, Vermont, United States, founded in 1781 by Ira Allen. The population was 1,952 at the 2000 census...

 is not directly connected by land, but is accessible by road via bridges from New York and Vermont.

See also

  • Extreme points of the United States
    Extreme points of the United States
    This is a list of the extreme points of the United States, the points that are farther north, south, east, or west than any other location in the country. Also included are extreme points in elevation, extreme distances, and other points of peculiar geographic interest.-Northernmost:*Point Barrow,...

  • Mainland
    Mainland is a name given to a large landmass in a region , or to the largest of a group of islands in an archipelago. Sometimes its residents are called "Mainlanders"...

  • Metropole
    The metropole, from the Greek Metropolis 'mother city' was the name given to the British metropolitan centre of the British Empire, i.e. the United Kingdom itself...

  • Metropolitan France
    Metropolitan France
    Metropolitan France is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica...

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.