Economics Index and Qualifications
By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics
Former Instructor St. John's University, New York City

What Does D.C. mean in Washington D.C.

In one of those videos where they highlight the ignorance of the American people, particularly on geography, they asked what does the D.C. in Washington D.C. stand for. The answer they were looking for was no doubt, District of Columbia. But this phrase District of Columbia can be a little confusing, why do we call it that?

Columbia today is a country in South America, but in the first century of America's history, Columbia was another name for the United States of America. Three songs competed for the title, the National Anthem, "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean," "Hail Columbia," and the song that was selected "The Star Spangled Banner." Two of these songs have Columbia in the title, none have America. In the last hundred years, we have mostly stopped calling America, Columbia, which makes the name of our nation's capital, Washington D.C., somewhat confusing.

Washington D.C. is between Virginia and Maryland. It is not part of any state, it is a special district where the American government has its capital. So we might say the phrase District of Columbia roughtly means, the capital district of the United States of America.

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Last updated September 25, 2014