U.S. States, Their Capitals, and Nicknames

colorful map of the US

Everyone learns the capitals of the 50 states and their region in elementary school. But over the years, that kind of information can get lost in the mist of memory. Postal abbreviations are important to know for addresses, while state nicknames are just for fun. Here's a list of all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. so you can brush up on your state facts.

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    Alabama, in the heart of Dixie, is in the southeast region of the United States.  In fact, Heart of Dixie is its very appropriate nickname. Its capital is Montgomery, and its abbreviation is AL. It's famous for football and school desegregation conflicts during the mid-20th century.

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    Alaska became the 49th state in January 1959, and it's still got a reputation for being the frontier. It has a small population amid a huge area of wilderness and is physically separated from what's called the Lower 48. The capital is Juneau, and its abbreviation is  AK. It's also called the Land of the Midnight Sun for its long hours of daylight in the summer.


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    Arizona is a state of many geographies, but it is most famous for the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona, so it is fitting that it's called the Grand Canyon State. The capital of this Southwestern state is in Phoenix, which is also its largest city. The abbreviation is AZ.

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     Arkansas, known as the Natural State, is in the South Central region. Sort of Southern but not a part of the Deep South. Its capital is Little Rock and its most famous descendant is President Bill Clinton. The abbreviation for Arkansas is AR.

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    California is well-known as the Golden State, named for the Gold Rush of the mid-19th century that drew so many settlers and adventurers to this state on the Pacific Coast. Its capital is in Sacramento, and it is abbreviated as CA. Los Angeles claims the title as its biggest city, while San Francisco, long known for its Golden Gate Bridge and artsy lifestyle, is home to the booming tech industry.

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    Colorado, with feet in both the Great Plains and the Mountain West, became a state in 1876, and for that reason, it's nicknamed the Centennial State. Its capital is Denver, and that also has a nickname: the Mile-High City. The magnificent Rocky Mountains dominate the Colorado scene and lifestyle, with skiing and hiking as favorite activities. Colorado is abbreviated as CO.

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    Connecticut was one of the original 13 colonies and its nickname, the Constitution State, harks back to that history. This tiny state in the Northeast is part of the metropolitan New York City Tri-State Area, and many who live in Connecticut work in NYC. Its capital is in Hartford, and it is abbreviated as CT.

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    Delaware proudly calls itself the First State because it was the first of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution in December 1787. The capital of this small Mid-Atlantic state is Dover, and its abbreviation is DE.

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    District of Columbia

    Washington, D.C. (for District of Columbia), is, of course, the nation's capital and not a state, but it is a separate jurisdiction not inside any state boundaries. It's commonly called D.C. or The District and was named for George Washington, the general who won the Revolutionary War and was the nation's first president.

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    Florida is known as the Sunshine State for a reason: It's where Americans from northern parts of the country go to get some warmth and sun in the winter. It fulfills that promise, with tropical weather all year long in Miami, Naples, and the Florida Keys. The capital is in Tallahassee in the northern part of the state, and its abbreviation is FL. 

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    Georgia is affectionately known as the Peach State, and that's not surprising. Georgia designated the peach its state fruit in 1995, and anyone who eats these tasty summertime fruits knows they are some of the best eating around. Its capital, Atlanta, is called the New York of the South because of its expanding cultural and business opportunities. It has another claim to fame: It's the birthplace of Coca-Cola. The abbreviation for Georgia is GA.

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    Hawaii was the last state to enter the Union, in August 1959. It's separated from the mainland by almost 2,500 miles of Pacific Ocean, and it feels like a different country, with a strikingly different climate and culture from the rest of the United States. It's called the Aloha State, for the greeting and farewell Hawaiians use. It's abbreviated as HI, and its capital is Honolulu.

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    Idaho, part of the Mountain West, is called the Gem State. Its capital, Boise, often makes the list of the most livable cities in the United States, and the so-called City of Trees has a lot more sophistication than you might expect in this sparsely populated state. It is abbreviated as ID.

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    Illinois, in the heart of the Midwest, is nicknamed the Prairie State, but it calls itself the Land of Lincoln. That's because Abraham Lincoln came of age as a lawyer and legislator in Springfield, the capital of Illinois. Illinois also owns Chicago, called the City of the Big Shoulders by Carl Sandburg in his iconic poem named for the city. The abbreviation for Illinois is IL.

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    Indiana, the Hoosier State, is known for its core Midwestern values and landscape. It's home to the Indianapolis 500 and the world's largest car racetrack and loyal sports fans. It's abbreviated as IN.

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    When you think of Iowa, you might think of tall corn and blue skies. Residents of this deeply Midwestern state might think of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes, who give the state its nickname: the Hawkeye State. The capital is in Des Moines, and the abbreviation is IA.

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    Kansas is the Sunflower State, and if you've ever been there in summer, you know why. These huge and colorful flowers spread their cheer across the state. Kansas is often thought of as a Midwestern state, but it also is where the Great Plains begin. Topeka is the capital, and the abbreviation is KS.

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    The Bluegrass State is famous for bourbon, horses, and, yes, bluegrass. Its rolling landscape is dotted with horse farms, and its cities exude a Southern charm and sensibility that fit with its location as a south-central state. Frankfort is the capital, and the state abbreviation is KY.

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    You might think Louisiana would be named for its strong connection to Mardi Gras, but you would be wrong. It's named in a bow to its many wild areas and called the Pelican State. The capital is Baton Rouge, but its most famous city is New Orleans, the home of jazz, blues, and fine Cajun and Creole cooking. Louisiana is abbreviated as LA.

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    Maine is called the Pine Tree State, and yes, this New England state is covered with these beautiful evergreens. The capital is in Augusta, a bit inland from its famous Atlantic coast. Maine is the northernmost state in the country and shares a boundary with Canada. Its abbreviation is ME.

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    The charming colonial town of Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy, is also the capital of Maryland. This Mid-Atlantic state is famous for crab cakes and the Chesapeake Bay. It's nicknamed the Old Line State and is abbreviated as MD.​


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    Massachusetts is famous for many things, chief among them as the place where the Pilgrims landed in 1620 and its central role in colonial America and the American Revolution. But its nickname does not allude to those points of pride; instead, it is called the Bay State. It is abbreviated as MA.

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    Michigan is the Great Lakes State, and that makes sense since the state is surrounded by them. Lansing is the capital, but Detroit is famous for cars and Motown music and is called the Motor City. Michigan is abbreviated as MI.

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    It's no surprise that the nickname for Minnesota, in the northern Midwest, is the North Star State. The capital is in St. Paul, part of the Twin Cities area it shares with Minneapolis. The abbreviation is MN.

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    The Magnolia State is stunning when its namesake flowers are in bloom. Jackson is the capital of this mostly rural state in the Deep South bordered by the river of the same name, and its abbreviation is MS.

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    Missouri calls itself the Show-Me State, and its four regions are a microcosm of the United States, with the East, West, North, and South all represented in geography and attitude. The capital is in Jefferson City, named for the president who brought the Missouri Territory into U.S. possession with the Louisiana Purchase. This state is abbreviated as MO.

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    Montana lives up to its nickname as Big Sky Country, and this state in the northern Mountain West includes both soaring mountains and endless plains.The capital is in Helena, and it is abbreviated as MT.

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    The Cornhusker State is named for its beloved University of Nebraska sports teams, and the locals are ardent supporters. The capital of this Plains state is in Lincoln, and the abbreviation is NE.

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    Nevada is called the Silver State as a reference to all the mining that happened here in the 19th century. But it also resonates with its current identity as a mecca for gambling. The capital of this Mountain West state is Carson City, and it is abbreviated as NV. 

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    New Hampshire

    New Hampshire is the Granite State, and it is home to Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast at 6,289 feet. And you can be sure it contains a lot of granite. Concord is the capital, and the abbreviation of this scenic New England state is NH.


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    New Jersey

    New Jersey's official nickname is the Garden State, but most people just call it Jersey. The northern portion is part of the Tri-State Area of the New York Metropolitan Area, while the southern part, where Atlantic City is located, is near Philadelphia. The capital is Trenton and the abbreviation is NJ.

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    New Mexico

    The southwestern state of New Mexico is proud to call itself the Land of Enchantment, and its dramatic scenery does much to support that name. The capital, Santa Fe, is one of the oldest cities in the United States and was settled by the Spanish in 1607. Its stunning location in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and its Spanish colonial heritage make it a highlight of New Mexico, which is abbreviated NM.  

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    New York

    New York is the Empire State, and that gives you a clue as to why the building that is the iconic symbol of New York City is called the Empire State Building. The capital is in Albany, and the abbreviation is NY. 

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    North Carolina

    North Carolina is the Tar Heel State, a name it shares with the sports teams of the University of North Carolina. Its capital is Raleigh, part of the Triangle cities that include Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. This southeastern state is abbreviated as NC.

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    North Dakota

    The International Peace Garden is a park adjacent to the International Peace Garden Border Crossing between the United States and Canada on the boundary of North Dakota and Manitoba. This northern Great Plains state calls itself the Peace Garden State in its honor. The capital is in Bismarck, and the state's abbreviation is ND.

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    Ohio is the Buckeye State, another state whose nickname reflects the name of its university sports teams, this time for Ohio State University. The capital of this solidly Midwestern state is Columbus, and the abbreviation is OH.

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    Oklahoma is proud to call itself the Sooner State, and its sports teams at the University of Oklahoma use the same name. Its "Boomer Sooner" fight song is famous in the BIg 10. Sooners was a name given to early participants in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889, and it still resonates in this Southern Plains state. It is abbreviated as OK.

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    The Beaver State is synonymous with Oregon, whose capital is in Salem. Its most important city is Portland, a mecca of the Pacific Northwest lifestyle. Oregon is abbreviated as OR.

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    Pennsylvania is called the Keystone State. A keystone is the part of an arch that all other pieces depend on, and this nickname is an allusion to the importance of Pennsylvania as the birthplace of the United States in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The capital is Harrisburg, and the abbreviation is PA.

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    Rhode Island

    The tiny New England state of Rhode Island is called the Ocean State, and the coast has a major presence here. The capital is in Providence, and the state abbreviation is RI.

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    South Carolina

    South Carolina is called the Palmetto State, and that conjures up its warm and exotic ambiance. The capital is in Columbia, and the abbreviation is SC.

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    South Dakota

    South Dakota is home to the majestic and moving Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills, and it is fitting that it calls itself the Mount Rushmore State. The capital is in Pierre, and the abbreviation is SD.

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    Nashville is the capital of the Volunteer State, and both it and Memphis, on the western edge of the state, have a claim to music fame. The abbreviation for Tennessee, a south-central state, is TN.

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    Texas, as its residents want to be sure everyone knows, is the Lone Star State. It has its feet in the Southeast, the Southwest, and the Southern Plains and is the second largest state in the Union. The capital is in the hip city of Austin, and the abbreviation is TX.

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    Utah is the Beehive State and its capital is in Salt Lake City. It's known for its fantastic rock formations, mountains, and wilderness areas. The abbreviation for this Mountain West state is UT.

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    The nickname for Vermont is the Green Mountain State, a translation of the actual name of the state, which is a combination of words that mean green mountain in French. This New England state lives up to its name, with drop-dead-gorgeous mountain scenery. The capital is Montpelier, and the state's abbreviation is VT.

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    Virginia is called the Old Dominion, a reference to its early founding at Jamestown in 1607 and its prominent colonial history. Northern Virginia is part of the Capital Region, centered by Washington, while Southern Virginia maintains more of its traditional vibe.The capital is in Richmond, and the state is abbreviated as VA.

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    Washington is the Evergreen State, and their soft appearance covers this Pacific Northwest state. Seattle is its biggest city, but Olympia is the capital. The abbreviation is WA.

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    West Virginia

    West Virginia, where the Appalachians dominate the geography, is aptly called the Mountain State. It is mostly rural, and its capital is in Charleston. The state's abbreviation is WVA.

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    Wisconsin is the Cheese State, and as all cheese lovers know, great cheese comes from Wisconsin. The capital is in Madison, and the state abbreviation is WI.

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    Wyoming is a sparsely populated state in the Mountain West, and it calls itself the Equality State because of its role in establishing women's suffrage. It was the first state in the country to allow women to vote, hold public office, or serve on juries. The capital is Cheyenne, and the abbreviation is WY.