The United States of America, also known as the United States, the U.S., the U.S.A., the U.S. of A., the States, and America, is a country in North America. A federal republic, the United States shares land borders with Canada and Mexico, and extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Its capital is Washington, D.C.

The Statue of Liberty.

The present-day continental United States has been inhabited for at least 15,000 years by Native Americans. After 16th-century European exploration and settlement, the English established new colonies, and gained control of others, in the eastern portion of the continent in the 17th and early 18th centuries. On 4 July 1776, at war with Britain over fair governance, thirteen of these colonies declared their independence; in 1783, the war ended in British acceptance of the new nation. Since then, the country has more than quadrupled in size: it now consists of 50 states, one federal district, and a number of overseas territories.


The conterminous, or contiguous, forty-eight states - all the states but Alaska and Hawaii - are also called the continental United States. Some include Alaska in the "continental" states, because, although it is separated from the "lower forty-eight" by Canada, it is part of the North American mainland. All of these terms commonly include the District of Columbia. Hawaii, the fiftieth state, is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean.

The United States also holds several other territories, districts, and possessions, notably the federal district of the District of Columbia - which contains the nation's capital city, Washington - and several overseas insular areas, the most significant of which are American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands. Palmyra Atoll is the United States' only incorporated territory; but it is unorganized and uninhabited. In addition, since 1898, the United States Navy has leased an extensive naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

At over 3.8 million square miles (over 9.8 million km2), the U.S. is the third or fourth largest country by area, depending on the reckoning of the disputed areas of China. It is also the world's third most populous nation, with more than 327 million people.

The United States has maintained a liberal democratic political system since it adopted its Articles of Confederation on March 1, 1781. American military and economic influence increased throughout the 20th century; with the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, the nation emerged as the world's sole remaining superpower.

The flag of the United States, popularly called the American flag, is the official national flag of the United States. It consists of 13 horizontal stripes - 7 red alternating with 6 white - and, in the upper corner near the staff, a rectangular blue field containing 50 five-pointed white stars. The stripes symbolize the 13 colonies that originally constituted the United States. The stars represent the 50 states of the Union. The American flag is frequently called the Star-Spangled Banner; the Stars and Stripes; the Red, White, and Blue; and Old Glory.


Many early flags of the American colonies were adaptations of the British Union Jack. By 1776 the Continental Congress had adopted a flag that signified both colonial unity against oppression and continued union with Great Britain. The first idea was represented in the flag by 13 horizontal stripes - 7 red alternating with 6 white. The second idea was symbolized by including at the top of the flag the crosses of the British Union Jack. In 1777 Congress announced that the new nation's flag would consist of 13 stripes, alternating red and white, with 13 white stars on a blue field. When this flag was first flown has not been determined. Historical research has failed to establish a factual foundation for the traditional story that flagmaker Betsy Ross made the first American flag. Although Congress had made no rule for the arrangement of the stars, the usual arrangement was a circle. As new states joined the Union, they demanded representation in the stars and stripes of the flag. Legislation enacted in 1818 called for the addition of one star to the flag for every state admitted to the Union. The last star was added in 1960, after Hawaii became the 50th state. An executive order issued by President William Howard Taft in 1912 fixed the proportions of the flag. A joint resolution adopted by the Congress of the United States in 1942 established a uniform code for displaying the national flag. The flag is usually displayed from sunrise to sunset. It is displayed daily, weather permitting, and especially on certain holidays, on or near the main administration buildings of all public institutions. It is also displayed in or near every polling place on election days and in or near every schoolhouse during school days. The flag is supposed to be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously. No other flag or pennant is to be placed above it.

The Great Seal of the United States is the official seal of the United States government. On July 4, 1776, the same day that independence from Great Britain was declared by the thirteen states, the Continental Congress named the first committee to design a Great Seal, or national emblem, for the country. Similar to other nations, The United States of America needed an official symbol of sovereignty to formalize and seal (or sign) international treaties and transactions. It took six years, three committees, and the contributions of fourteen men before the Congress finally accepted a design (which included elements proposed by each of the three committees) in 1782. Its design was adopted by the Congress of the Confederation in 1782. The seal now appears on a variety of documents, including presidential proclamations. It is two-sided, with an obverse and a reverse.


The design on the obverse of the great seal is the national coat of arms of the United States. It is officially used on documents such as United States passports, military insignia, embassy placards, and various flags. On the obverse of the seal is an American eagle with wings spread. On its breast the eagle bears a shield with 13 vertical red and white stripes surmounted by a horizontal stripe of blue. In its beak is a scroll inscribed with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM (Latin: OUT OF MANY, ONE). A cluster of 13 five-pointed stars (mullets) appears above the eagle. From the eagle's perspective, it holds a bundle of 13 arrows in its left talon, (referring to the 13 original states), and an olive branch in its right talon, together symbolizing that the United States of America has a strong desire for peace, but will always be ready for war. The eagle has its head turned towards the olive branch, said to symbolize a preference for peace.

A pyramid is the central figure of the reverse side. The pyramid is conventionally shown as consisting of 13 layers of blocks to refer to the 13 original states. The base of the pyramid is inscribed with the date 1776 in Roman numerals. At the zenith of the pyramid appears the all-seeing eye of Divine Providence. The mottos ANNUIT COEPTIS (Latin: HE HAS APPROVED OF OUR UNDERTAKINGS) and NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM (Latin: NEW ORDER OF THE AGES) are inscribed on this side.

IN GOD WE TRUST is the national motto of the United States of America and the state motto of Florida. It was so designated by an act of Congress in 1956 and officially supersedes E PLURIBUS UNUM (Latin: OUT OF MANY, ONE) according to United States Code, Title 36, Section 302. President Eisenhower signed the resolution into law on 30 July 1956. The final stanza of THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER, written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key (and later adopted as the U.S. National Anthem), contains one of the earliest references to a variation of the phrase: "...AND THIS BE OUR MOTTO: IN GOD IS OUR TRUST."


The most common place where the motto is observed in daily life is on the money of the United States. The first United States coin to bear this national motto was the 1864 two-cent piece. It first appeared on U.S. currency on the back of Florida National Bank Notes in 1863. It wasn't until 1957 that the motto was permanently adopted for use on United States currency. IN GOD WE TRUST is also the official state motto of the state of Florida, and is found on the Seal of Florida.

THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER is the national anthem of the United States of America, with lyrics written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. Key, a 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, wrote them as a poem after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland, by British ships in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812. Set to the tune of TO ANACREON IN HEAVEN, a popular British drinking-song, it became well-known as an American patriotic song. It was recognized for official use by the United States Navy (1889) and the White House (1916), and was made the national anthem by a Congressional resolution on 3 March 1931. Although the song has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung today.


O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming!
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!