contiguous United States refers to the 48
U.S. states located on the North American continent south of the U.S.
border with Canada, plus the District of Columbia.The term excludes the states of Alaska and Hawaii, and all
off-shore U.S. territories
and possessions, such as Puerto Rico.
continental, adj., "being the part of the United
States on the North American continent; also : being the
part of the United States comprising the lower 48 states"
Together, the 48 contiguous states and D.C. have an area of
3,119,884.69 square miles (8,080,464.25 km²). Of this, 2,959,064.44
sq mi (7,663,941.71 km²) is land, comprising 83.65% of U.S. land
area. Officially, 160,820.25 sq mi (416,522.38 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
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 map below shows the contiguous United States and, in an inset
box in the lower left, the two states that are not
While coterminous U.S.
have the same precise meaning as contiguous
, some other terms are commonly used to describe the
48 contiguous states, but each may have some degree of
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
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), and may or may not exclude Hawaii (which is the
southern-most U.S. state). Also, although "lower" is often used to
mean "more southerly," in geographic use, it often means downhill
or downstream. 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.
is a technical term used by the U.S.
Military which is specifically defined as the 48 contiguous states
but is silent on the District of Columbia.
Terms used in the non-contiguous states
Both Alaska and Hawaii, because of their own location relative to
the contiguous United States, have their own unique labels for it.
American territories, for instance, the terms "the
Mainland" or "U.S.
" are used to refer to the continental
In Alaska, given the ambiguity surrounding the usage of
, 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. Most Americans
are familiar with the term "Lower 48
", which for
many years was the most common Alaskan equivalent for "contiguous
United States". However, since the 1980s Alaskans have increasingly
adopted the term Outside
to refer to the rest of
the United States. Alaskans will speak of going Outside to vacation
or will refer to being born Outside."
- These maps show the contiguous 48 states and D.C., but not
Alaska and Hawaii. * "Continental United States Population Map" * Military Bases in the Continental United States
* Indian Reservations in the Continental United
States * Railroads of the Continental United States
- "CONUS" seems to be used primarily by the American military and
the Federal government and those doing business with them. *'CONUS
- "Continental United States." CONUS refers to the 48 contiguous
states.' U.S. Navy Style Guide
- *"The continental United States comprises the 48 plus
Alaska." National Geographic Style Manual *"Continental
United States: The 48 adjoining states, Alaska and District of
Columbia." UnitedCargo glossary
- * * * * *
- *'… the term "United States mainland" means the continental
United States (not including Alaska).' Internal Revenue Code (2007) *'Such subsection
is further amended by striking out "continental United States
(including Alaska)" …' United States Code Annotated (1927) *"… for the
states and territories Outside of the Continental United States.
(Includes Alaska, …) …" National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster
*"OCONUS: Abbreviation for Outside the Continental United States.
Includes Alaska and Hawaii." Glossary of Army Terms *"… outside the continental
United States (includes Alaska and Hawaii, as well as Canada and
all foreign countries) …" Equimax candidate listing
- "… merchandise to foreign countries from continental United
states, Puerto Rico, and the territories of Alaska and Hawaii."
United States Foreign Trade (1950-1953)
- "In the absence of any such statement, Alaska probably would be
regarded as a part of the continental United States." Inland Marine and Transportation Insurance
- [http://alaskaanswers.com/alaska/?p=98 Alaska Answers
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