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The contiguous United States or officially the conterminous United States, also known as the Lower 48, consists of the 48 adjoining
U.S. state In the , a state is a , of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a , each state holds al jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory where it shares its with the . Due to this shared sovereignty, are both of t ...
s and the
District of Columbia ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscape ...
on the
continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of th ...

continent
of
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

North America
. The terms exclude the non-contiguous states of
Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, Anáaski) is a U.S. state in the Western United States, on the northwest extremity of the country's West Coast of the United State ...

Alaska
and
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
and all other offshore
insular area In the law of the United States The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according ...
s, such as
American Samoa American Samoa ( sm, Amerika Sāmoa, ; also ' or ') is an unincorporated territory of the United States Under United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a countr ...

American Samoa
,
Guam Guam (; ch, Guåhan ) is an in the subregion of the western . It is the and territory of the United States (reckoned from the ); in , it is the largest and southernmost of the and the largest island in Micronesia. Guam's capital is , and t ...

Guam
, the
Northern Mariana Islands The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI; ch, Sankattan Siha Na Islas Mariånas; cal, Commonwealth Téél Falúw kka Efáng llól Marianas), is an unincorporated territories of the Unit ...

Northern Mariana Islands
,
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (; abbreviated PR; tnq, Boriken, ''Borinquen''), officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ( es, link=yes, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, lit=Free Associated State of Puerto Rico) is a Caribbean island and Unincorporated ...

Puerto Rico
, and the
U.S. Virgin Islands The United States Virgin Islands, officially the Virgin Islands of the United States,Also called the ''American Virgin Islands'' are a group of Caribbean islands and an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States The U ...
. These differ from the related term continental United States, which includes Alaska (also on the North American continent but separated from the 48 states by
British Columbia ( en, Splendour without diminishment) , image_map = British Columbia in Canada 2.svg , Label_map = yes , coordinates = , official_lang = None , Slogan = Beautiful British C ...

British Columbia
and
Yukon Yukon ( ; ; formerly called Yukon Territory and sometimes referred to as The Yukon) is the smallest and westernmost of Canada's three territories. It also is the least populated province or territory in Canada, with a population of 35,874 peo ...

Yukon
of Canada) but excludes the
Hawaiian Islands The Hawaiian Islands ( haw, Mokupuni o Hawai‘i) are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and seamounts in the Pacific Ocean, North Pacific Ocean, extending some from the Hawaii (island), island o ...
and all
U.S. territories The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all ...
in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The greatest distance (on a great-circle route) entirely within the 48 contiguous states is 2,802 miles (4,509 km) between
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geor ...

Florida
and the
State of Washington Washington (), officially the State of Washington, is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the Western United States The Western United States (also called the American West, the Far West, and the West) is the List of regions of t ...
; the greatest north–south line is 1,650 miles (2,660 km). Together, the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia occupy an area of . Of this area, is contiguous land, composing 83.65% of total U.S. land area, similar to the area of
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
. Officially, of the contiguous United States is water area, composing 62.66% of the nation's total water area. The contiguous United States would be placed fifth on the
list of countries and dependencies by area This is a list of the world's countries and their dependent territories A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence upright=1.0, Pedro I of Brazil, Pedro surr ...
. The total area of the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, ranks third or fourth. In land area only, the country ranks fourth, ahead of
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 mill ...

Brazil
, and
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
but behind
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of . There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly because th ...

Russia
,
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific and northward into the Arctic Oce ...

Canada
and
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different countries, the in the world after . Covering an area of ap ...

China
.
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 mill ...

Brazil
is larger than the contiguous United States, but smaller than the entire United States, while Russia, Canada, and maybe China are the only countries larger than both. The 2020 census population of this area was 328,571,074, comprising 99.13% of the nation's population, and a density of 111.04 inhabitants/sq mi (42.872/km2), compared to 93.844/sq mi (36.233/km2) for the nation as a whole.


Other terms

While ''conterminous U.S.'' has the precise meaning of ''contiguous U.S.'' (both adjectives meaning "sharing a common boundary"), other terms commonly used to describe the 48 contiguous states have a greater degree of ambiguity.


Continental and Mainland United States

Because
Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, Anáaski) is a U.S. state in the Western United States, on the northwest extremity of the country's West Coast of the United State ...

Alaska
is also a part of
North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continen ...

North America
, the term continental United States also includes that state, so the term is qualified with the explicit inclusion of Alaska to resolve any ambiguity. On May 14, 1959, the
United States Board on Geographic Names The United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) is a federal Federal or foederal (archaic) may refer to: Politics General *Federal monarchy, a federation of monarchies *Federation, or ''Federal state'' (federal system), a type of government cha ...
issued the following definitions based partially on the reference in the Alaska Omnibus Bill, which defined the continental United States as "the 49 States on the North American Continent and the District of Columbia..." The Board reaffirmed these definitions on May 13, 1999. However, even before Alaska became a state, it was properly included within the continental U.S. due to being an
incorporated territory Incorporated may refer to: * Incorporated community A municipality is usually a single administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, firs ...
. The term ''mainland United States'' is sometimes used synonymously with ''continental United States'', but technically refers only to those parts of states connected to the landmass of North America, thereby excluding not only
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
and overseas
insular area In the law of the United States The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according ...
s, but also islands which are part of continental states but separated from the mainland, such as the
Aleutian Islands The Aleutian Islands (; ; ale, Unangam Tanaa, literally "Land of the s", possibly from ''aliat'', "island"), also called the Aleut Islands or Aleutic Islands and known before 1867 as the Catherine Archipelago, are a chain of 14 large volcanic ...
(
Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, Anáaski) is a U.S. state in the Western United States, on the northwest extremity of the country's West Coast of the United State ...

Alaska
),
San Juan Islands The San Juan Islands are an archipelago An archipelago ( ), sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounde ...
(
Washington Washington commonly refers to: * Washington (state), United States * Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States ** Federal government of the United States (metonym) ** Washington metropolitan area, the metropolitan area centered on Washingt ...
), the
Channel Islands The Channel Islands ( nrf, Îles d'la Manche; french: îles Anglo-Normandes or ''îles de la Manche'') are an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two Crown Dependencies: the Jersey, Bailiwick of ...
(
California California is a U.S. state, state in the Western United States. With over 39.3million residents across a total area of approximately , it is the List of states and territories of the United States by population, most populous and the List of ...

California
), the Keys (
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geor ...

Florida
), the
barrier islands Barrier islands are coastal landforms and a type of dune system that are exceptionally flat or lumpy areas of sand that form by wave and tidal action parallel to the mainland coast. They usually occur in chains, consisting of anything from a fe ...
(
Gulf A gulf is a large inlet from the ocean into the landmass, typically with a narrower opening than a bay (geography), bay, but that is not observable in all geographic areas so named. The term gulf was traditionally used for large highly-indented ...
and
East Coast East Coast may refer to: Entertainment * East Coast hip hop, a subgenre of hip hop * East Coast (ASAP Ferg song), "East Coast" (ASAP Ferg song), 2017 * East Coast (Saves the Day song), "East Coast" (Saves the Day song), 2004 * East Coast FM, a rad ...
states), and
Long Island Long Island is a densely populated island in the southeast part of the U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous Unit ...
(New York).


CONUS and OCONUS

''CONUS'', a technical term used by the
U.S. Department of Defense The United States Department of Defense (DoD, USDOD or DOD) is an executive branch department of the federal government charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government directly related to national secur ...
,
General Services Administration The General Services Administration (GSA) is an Independent agencies of the United States government, independent agency of the United States government established in 1949 to help manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies. G ...
, NOAA/National Weather Service, and others, has been defined both as the continental United States, and as the 48 contiguous states. "CONUS" seems to be used primarily by the American military and the Federal government and those doing business with them. 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 Continental United States (OCONUS).


The lower 48

The term ''lower 48'' is also used to refer to the conterminous United States. The ''
National Geographic ''National Geographic'' (formerly the ''National Geographic Magazine'', sometimes branded as NAT GEO) is an American monthly magazine published by the National Geographic Society The National Geographic Society (NGS), headquartered in Was ...
'' 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. Almost all of Hawaii is in fact south of the southernmost point of the conterminous United States, in Florida.


Zone of the Interior

During
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, the first four
numbered Air Force A Numbered Air Force (NAF) is a type of organization in the United States Air Force that is subordinate to a List of Major Commands of the United States Air Force, major command (MAJCOM) and has assigned to it operational units such as wings, squa ...
s of the
United States Army Air Forces The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF or AAF) was the major land-based aerial warfare Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft A military aircraft is any fixed-wing A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air flying machi ...
(USAAF) were said to be assigned to the ''
Zone of the Interior The American Theater was a theater Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually actor, actors or actresses, to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience ...

Zone of the Interior
'' by the American military organizations of the time—the future states of
Alaska Alaska (; ale, Alax̂sxax̂; ; ems, Alas'kaaq; Central Alaskan Yup'ik language, Yup'ik: ''Alaskaq''; tli, Anáaski) is a U.S. state in the Western United States, on the northwest extremity of the country's West Coast of the United State ...

Alaska
and
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
, then each only organized incorporated territories of the Union, were respectively covered by the
Eleventh Air Force The Eleventh Air Force (11 AF) is a Numbered Air Force of the United States Air Force The United States Air Force (USAF) is the Atmosphere of Earth, air military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of t ...

Eleventh Air Force
and
Seventh Air Force The Seventh Air Force (Air Forces Korea) (7 AF) is a Numbered Air Force A Numbered Air Force (NAF) is a type of organization in the United States Air Force that is subordinate to a List of Major Commands of the United States Air Force, major c ...

Seventh Air Force
during the war.


Terms used in the non-contiguous U.S. jurisdictions

Residents of Alaska, Hawaii and off-shore
U.S. territories The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country primarily located in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all ...
have unique labels for the contiguous United States because of their own locations relative to them.


Alaska

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 West Coast The West Coast of the United States, also known as the Pacific Coast, Pacific states, and the western seaboard, is the coastline along which the Western United States The Western United States (also called the American West, the Far West, and th ...
by the
Canadian province The provinces and territories of Canada () are sub-national divisions within the geographical areas of Canada under the jurisdiction of the Constitution of Canada, Canadian Constitution. In the 1867 Canadian Confederation, three provinces of Br ...
of
British Columbia ( en, Splendour without diminishment) , image_map = British Columbia in Canada 2.svg , Label_map = yes , coordinates = , official_lang = None , Slogan = Beautiful British C ...

British Columbia
. The term ''Lower 48'' has, for many years, been a common Alaskan equivalent for "contiguous United States"; today, many Alaskans use the term "Outside", though a few persons may use "Outside" to refer to ''any'' location not within Alaska.


Hawaii

Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
(consisting of nearly all the
Hawaiian Islands The Hawaiian Islands ( haw, Mokupuni o Hawai‘i) are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and seamounts in the Pacific Ocean, North Pacific Ocean, extending some from the Hawaii (island), island o ...
) became the 50th state of the United States on August 21, 1959. It is the southernmost and so far, the latest state to join the Union. Not part of any continent, Hawaii is located in the
Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's five oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to Antarctica) in the south and is bounded by the continents o ...

Pacific Ocean
, about from North America and almost halfway to
Asia Asia () is 's largest and most populous , located primarily in the and . It shares the continental of with the continent of and the continental landmass of with both Europe and . Asia covers an area of , about 30% of Earth's total lan ...

Asia
. In Hawaii and overseas American territories, for instance, the terms ''the Mainland'' or ''U.S. Mainland'' are often used to refer to the 49 states in North America.


Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is an
unincorporated territory Under United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Wash ...
of the United States located in the northeast
Caribbean Sea The Caribbean Sea ( es, Mar Caribe; french: Mer des Caraïbes; ht, Lamè Karayib; jam, Kiaribiyan Sii; nl, Caraïbische Zee; pap, Laman Karibe) is an Americas, American Mediterranean sea (oceanography), mediterranean sea of the Atlantic Ocean ...
, approximately southeast of
Miami Miami (), officially the City of Miami, is a coast, coastal metropolis located in Miami-Dade County, Florida, Miami-Dade County in southeastern Florida, United States. With a population of 467,963 as of the 2020 United States census, 2020 censu ...

Miami
,
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geor ...

Florida
. Puerto Ricans born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens and are free to move to the mainland United States. The term
Stateside Puerto Rican Stateside Puerto Ricans ( es, link=no, Puertorriqueños de Estados Unidos), also ambiguously Puerto Rican Americans ( es, link=no, puertorriqueño-americanos, ), or Puerto Ricans in the United States, are Puerto Ricans in the United States prope ...
refers to residents of a U.S. state or the District of Columbia, who were born in or trace family ancestry to Puerto Rico.


U.S. Virgin Islands

The
U.S. Virgin Islands The United States Virgin Islands, officially the Virgin Islands of the United States,Also called the ''American Virgin Islands'' are a group of Caribbean islands and an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States The U ...

U.S. Virgin Islands
is a U.S. territory located directly to the east of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea. The term "stateside" is used to refer to the mainland, in relation to the U.S. Virgin Islands (see
Stateside Virgin Islands Americans Stateside Virgin Islands Americans are West Indian Americans West Indian Americans or Caribbean Americans are Americans who can trace their ancestry to the Caribbean, unless they are of native descent. As of 2016, about 13 million — about ...
).


American Samoa

American Samoa American Samoa ( sm, Amerika Sāmoa, ; also ' or ') is an unincorporated territory of the United States Under United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a countr ...

American Samoa
is a U.S. territory located in the
South Pacific Ocean South is one of the cardinal directions or compass points. South is the opposite of north and is perpendicular to the east and west. Etymology The word ''south'' comes from Old English ''sūþ'', from earlier Proto-Germanic language, Proto-Germa ...
in
Polynesia Polynesia (, ; from grc, πολύς "many" and grc, νῆσος "island") ( to, Faka-Polinisia; mi, Porinihia; haw, Polenekia; fj, Kai-Polinesia; sm, Polenisia; rar, Porinetia; ty, Pōrīnetia; tvl, Polenisia; tkl, Polenihia) is a ...

Polynesia
, south of the equator — it is southwest of
Hawaii Hawaii ( ; haw, Hawaii or ) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspape ...

Hawaii
. In American Samoa, the contiguous United States is called the "mainland United States" or "the states"; those not from American Samoa are called ''palagi'' (outsiders).


Non-contiguous areas within the contiguous United States

Apart from off-shore U.S. islands, a few continental portions of the contiguous U.S. are accessible by road only by traveling through Canada.
Point Roberts, Washington Point Roberts is a Enclave and exclave#"Practical" enclaves, exclaves and inaccessible districts, pene-exclave of the United States on the southernmost tip of the Tsawwassen, British Columbia, Tsawwassen peninsula, south of Vancouver, Canada. The ...

Point Roberts, Washington
;
Elm Point, Minnesota Map of the area, including Elm Point, 350px Elm Point, Minnesota, in Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota Minnesota () is a U.S. state, state in the north central region of the United States. It is known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes". Its offi ...
; and the
Northwest Angle Northwest Angle from Landsat 8, 2015, 350px The Northwest Angle, known simply as the Angle by locals, and coextensive with Angle Township, Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, Angle Township, is a part of northern Lake of the Woods County, Minne ...
in
Minnesota Minnesota () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper ...

Minnesota
are three such places.
Alburgh, Vermont Alburgh (formerly Alburg) is a New England town, town in Grand Isle County, Vermont, Grand Isle County, Vermont, United States, founded in 1781 by Ira Allen. The population was 1,998 at the 2010 United States Census. Alburgh is on the Alburgh Tong ...
, is not directly connected by land, but is accessible by road via bridges from within Vermont and from New York. By contrast,
Hyder, Alaska Hyder is a census-designated place in Prince of Wales-Hyder Census Area, Alaska, United States. The population was 87 at the 2010 census, down from 97 in 2000. Hyder is accessible by road only from Stewart, British Columbia, Stewart, British Colum ...
is physically part of contiguous Alaska and its easternmost town, but the only practical access is by road through Canada or by seaplane.


List of contiguous U.S. states

The 48 contiguous states are: In addition, the
District of Columbia ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument The Washington Monument is an obelisk within the National Mall The National Mall is a Landscape architecture, landscape ...

District of Columbia
is within the contiguous United States.


See also

*
Extreme points of the United States This is a list of points in the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 ...
*
Mainland Mainland is defined as "relating to or forming the main part of a country or continent, not including the islands around it egardless of status under territorial jurisdiction by an entity" The term is often human geography, politically, econo ...


References


External links

* Definition o
''continental''
* Definition o
''contiguous''
* Definition o
''coterminous''
an
''conterminous''
{{United States topics Political divisions of the United States
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
Northern America