District of Columbia


Senior Member
‘Too many times. If you include the District of Columbia then Indiana is tied for sixteenth place out of fifty-one in terms of homicide deaths per capita.

Source: One Shot by Lee Child

Context: Emerson, PD, is speaking to Reacher.

Is District of Columbia another name for Washington DC? It is a state? A capital city? Excuse my ignorance but I could not figure out from Wikipedia.

Thank you.
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Washington, District of Columbia (DC) is the same as the District of Columbia. It is a city and the District of Columbia is autonomous and is not part of any state. It is the capital of the United States of America.

    Sparky Malarky

    English - US
    The reason this says "If you include the District of Columbia then Indiana is tied for sixteenth place out of fifty-one" is that there are fifty states.

    You can find lots of lists on the internet with things like "favorite food" or "most popular book" in each state. Often these lists will include the District of Columbia as though it was a separate state. It is not, but it is not part of any of the fifty states either. So the speaker here is pointing out that there are fifty-one (not fifty) places on his list.


    Senior Member
    And a little more detail: in Washington, District of Columbia (or "Washington, D.C.," or simply "D.C." or "Washington"), "Washington" is in honor of George Washington (the first president) and "Columbia" is in honor of Christopher Columbus, a figure of patriotic reference during the revolutionary war. Originally, the idea was that the City of Washington was located in the territory of Columbia; later the name became formally "Washington, District of Columbia," indicating that it was not a "state."
    And just a bit more detail on the why the above happened:

    It was rightly felt at that time that if the capital of this new country called the United States were to be located in just one of the then-recognized-thirteen states, the citizens of all the other states might feel politically threatened and vulnerable with too much power gravitating unequally towards what might have become a permanent "capital state of power."

    To avoid that reasonable fear, two states, Maryland and Virginia, in cooperation with the others, legislatively ceded portions of their mutual territories to create and carve out a politically neutral new district or zone belonging to all.
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    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Adding to what Dale said, the portion of Virginia that was in the District was later given back to Virginia, and is now Arlington County and the older parts of the city of Alexandria. It should also be noted that the city of Washington and the District of Columbia were not originally coterminous. Georgetown and Washington were originally separate cities in the District, and the area outside the line of what is now Florida Avenue was called Washington County, and was part of neither city. The Organic Act of 1871 unified all the territory in the District of Columbia as part of the city of Washington, and since that time "D.C." and "Washington" have been synonymous.


    Senior Member
    Thank you for this intriguing insight.

    < Outside the scope of our language forum. Cagey, moderator >
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