“Travel D.C.” – What Does “D.C.” Stand For in Washington D.C.’s Official Name?

On this website, we provide information about the attractions of Washington D.C. and useful tips to enjoy this city to the fullest. However, you might be wondering about the meaning of “D.C.” in the title of this site, “Travel D.C.” So, let’s explore the story behind the “D.C.” in our title.

The Two Figures Behind the Name Washington D.C.

The statue of the first president, George Washington, located in the Washington National Cathedral.

The official name of the capital of the United States, Washington D.C., is short for “Washington District of Columbia.” The term “District of Columbia” refers to an area that does not belong to any state and is under the direct jurisdiction of the federal government. As the name implies, Washington D.C. is not part of any of the 50 states.

Now, let’s get to the main point: The name Washington D.C. has historical significance associated with two important figures. The first is “Washington,” which is derived from the name of the first President of the United States, George Washington, who chose this location for the new capital city.

The second figure is hidden within the term “Columbia District.” Can you guess who it is?

The answer lies in Christopher Columbus, the explorer who discovered the Americas in 1492. “Columbia” is a derivative of Columbus’ name. When we think of “Columbia,” we might also associate it with the South American country, Colombia. Interestingly, the country’s name also originates from Columbus.

Do Locals Call It “Washington”?

When people think of the capital of the United States, they often refer to it as “Washington.” However, this name can sometimes lead to confusion.

The United States has several places named “Washington.” One of the most well-known is the state of Washington, located in the lush and glacier-carved Pacific Northwest. Additionally, there are various counties and towns across the country with the name “Washington.” Given that the first President holds a special place of pride in the hearts of many Americans, they might associate “Washington” with their local places named after him rather than the capital city.

To address this, many Americans refer to the capital as “Washington D.C.” or simply “D.C.” Similarly, our website follows this convention by using terms like “Washington D.C.” or “D.C. travel” to avoid confusion.

As you may have already realized, the title of this website “Travel D.C.” on this site is derived from “D.C.” in Washington D.C. It signifies a website dedicated to enjoying D.C. travel to the fullest, enhancing your experience by 100 times.

The District of Columbia Once Contained Many Towns

The streetscape of Georgetown that retains the atmosphere of the colonial era.

While the District of Columbia now consists solely of Washington, D.C., did you know that it used to be home to numerous smaller towns?

Due to the presence of the Potomac River, small communities naturally formed in the area, which eventually developed into towns. Georgetown, known for its thriving tobacco trade, and Arlington across the river, as well as Alexandria to the south, are notable examples.

Although Arlington and Alexandria are now part of Virginia, they were originally part of the District of Columbia. The 1871 District of Columbia Organic Act consolidated these towns into Washington, D.C., forming a single district with a single city. Subsequently, after the return of the land west of the Potomac River to Virginia following the Civil War, Arlington and Alexandria became independent cities, leading to the current arrangement.

Washington D.C. Could Have Been a State

When the construction of the new capital began in 1790, the idea of making the capital a city within a state was proposed. There was a bill to establish the new capital city as a part of a state called “New Columbia.” However, this idea was rejected.

This decision was influenced by the notion that the capital city should remain separate from any state, as the United States aimed to have loosely connected states forming one great nation for the purpose of trade with other nations. This reasoning led to the creation of the world’s first capital city that didn’t belong to any state, setting a precedent for countries with federal systems, such as Brazil’s Brasília and Australia’s Canberra.

Now, Let’s Embark on a D.C. Journey

What did you think of these insights? The name Washington D.C. holds various historical backgrounds and is cherished by many people.

While the city is often simply referred to as “Washington,” learning about its name’s origin can enhance your appreciation and uncover new aspects of its charm when you visit.

Please note that the above translation is provided for your convenience and may not capture all the nuances of the original text.

To the city where the world's finest gather, Washington, D.C.



In 2017, inspired by a joining the inside tour of the White House as a regular tourist, we decided to create this website specifically for travelers planning a trip to Washington, D.C. Here, we provide exclusive information that can't be found elsewhere, including the charm of Washington, D.C. and insider tips to fully enjoy your journey.

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