The contiguous United States are the 48 U.S. states on the continent of North America that are south of 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.
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 density was 94.484 inhabitants/sq mi (36.480/km²), compared to 79.555/sq mi (30.716/km²) for the nation as a whole.
While coterminous U.S. and conterminous U.S. have the same precise meaning as contiguous U.S., other terms commonly used to describe the 48 contiguous states have a greater degree of ambiguity.
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 "Continental US".
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