State of California
Golden State[1]
Anthem: "I Love You, California"
Map of the United States with California highlighted
Map of the United States with California highlighted
CountryUnited States
Before statehoodMexican Cession unorganized territory
Admitted to the UnionSeptember 9, 1850 (31st)
Largest cityLos Angeles
Largest metroGreater Los Angeles
 • GovernorGavin Newsom (D)
 • Lieutenant GovernorEleni Kounalakis (D)
LegislatureState Legislature
 • Upper houseState Senate
 • Lower houseState Assembly
JudiciarySupreme Court of California
U.S. senatorsDianne Feinstein (D)
Alex Padilla (D)
U.S. House delegation
  • 42 Democrats
  • 11 Republicans
 • Total163,696 sq mi (423,970 km2)
 • Land155,959 sq mi (403,932 km2)
 • Water7,737 sq mi (20,047 km2)  4.7%
Area rank3rd
 • Length770 mi (1,240 km)
 • Width250 mi (400 km)
2,900 ft (880 m)
Highest elevation14,505 ft (4,421.0 m)
Lowest elevation−279 ft (−85.0 m)
 • Total39,538,223[8]
 • Rank1st
 • Density253.6/sq mi (97.9/km2)
 • Density rank11th
 • Median household income
$71,228 (2,018)[9]
 • Income rank
 • Official languageEnglish
 • Spoken language
Time zoneUTC−08:00 (PST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−07:00 (PDT)
USPS abbreviation
ISO 3166 codeUS-CA
Traditional abbreviationCalif., Cal.
Latitude32°32′ N to 42° N
Longitude114°8′ W to 124°26′ W
California state symbols
Flag of California.svg
Great Seal of California.svg
Living insignia
AmphibianCalifornia red-legged frog
BirdCalifornia quail
FlowerCalifornia poppy
GrassPurple needlegrass
InsectCalifornia dogface butterfly
ReptileDesert tortoise
TreeCoast redwood & giant sequoia[11]
Inanimate insignia
ColorsBlue & gold[12]
DanceWest Coast Swing
Folk danceSquare dance
FossilSabre-toothed cat
MineralNative gold
SoilSan Joaquin
TartanCalifornia state tartan
State route marker
California state route marker
State quarter
California quarter dollar coin
Released in 2005
Lists of United States state symbols

California is a state in the Western United States. With over 39.5 million residents across a total area of approximately 163,696 square miles (423,970 km2), it is the most populous and the third-largest U.S. state by area. It is also the most populated subnational entity in North America and the 34th most populous in the world. The Greater Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second and fifth most populous urban regions respectively, with the former having more than 18.7 million residents and the latter having over 9.6 million.[13] Sacramento is the state's capital, while Los Angeles is the most populous city in the state and the second most populous city in the country (after New York City). Los Angeles County is the country's most populous, while San Bernardino County is the largest county by area in the country. San Francisco, which is both a city and county, is the second most densely populated major city in the country (after New York City) and the fifth most densely populated county in the country, behind four of New York City's five boroughs.

The economy of California, with a gross state product of $3.2 trillion as of 2019, is the largest sub-national economy in the world.[14] If it were a country, it would be the 37th most populous country and the fifth largest economy as of 2020.[15] The Greater Los Angeles area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and third-largest urban economies ($1.0 trillion and $0.5 trillion respectively as of 2020), after the New York metropolitan area ($1.8 trillion).[16] The San Francisco Bay Area Combined Statistical Area had the nation's highest gross domestic product per capita ($106,757) among large primary statistical areas in 2018,[17] and is home to four of the world's 10 largest companies by market capitalization[18] and four of the world's 10 richest people.[19]

What is now California was first settled by various Native Californian tribes before being explored by a number of Europeans during the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish Empire then claimed and colonized it. In 1804, it was included in Alta California province within the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The area became a part of Mexico in 1821, following its successful war for independence, but was ceded to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican–American War. The western portion of Alta California was then organized and admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850, following the Compromise of 1850. The California Gold Rush started in 1848 and led to dramatic social and demographic changes, with large-scale immigration from other parts of the United States and abroad and an accompanying economic boom.

Notable contributions to popular culture, for example in entertainment, and sports, have their origins in California. The state also has made noteworthy contributions in the fields of communication, information, innovation, environmentalism, economics, and politics.[20][21][22] It is the home of Hollywood, the oldest and largest film industry in the world, which has had a profound effect on global entertainment. It is considered the origin of the hippie counterculture, beach and car culture,[not verified in body] and the personal computer,[23] among other innovations.[24][25] The San Francisco Bay Area and the Greater Los Angeles Area are widely seen as centers of the global technology and entertainment industries, respectively. California's economy is very diverse: 58% of it is based on finance, government, real estate services, technology, and professional, scientific, and technical business services.[26] Although it accounts for only 1.5% of the state's economy,[26] California's agriculture industry has the highest output of any U.S. state.[27][28][29] California's ports and harbors handle about a third of all U.S. imports, most originating in Pacific Rim international trade.

California shares a border with Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south. The state's diverse geography ranges from the Pacific Coast and metropolitan areas in the west to the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east, and from the redwood and Douglas fir forests in the northwest to the Mojave Desert in the southeast. The Central Valley, a major agricultural area, dominates the state's center. Although California is well-known for its warm Mediterranean climate and monsoon seasonal weather, the large size of the state results in climates that vary from moist temperate rainforest in the north to arid desert in the interior, as well as snowy alpine in the mountains. All these factors lead to an enormous demand for water; in total numbers, California is the largest consumer of water on the entire continent of North America. Over time, droughts and wildfires have increased in frequency, become less seasonal and more year-round, further straining California's water security.[30][31]


The Spaniards gave the name Las Californias to the peninsula of Baja California and to Alta California, the region that became the present-day state of California.

The name likely derived from the mythical island of California in the fictional story of Queen Calafia, as recorded in a 1510 work The Adventures of Esplandián by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo.[32] This work was the fifth in a popular Spanish chivalric romance series that began with Amadis de Gaula.[33][34][35] Queen Calafia's kingdom was said to be a remote land rich in gold and pearls, inhabited by beautiful black women who wore gold armor and lived like Amazons, as well as griffins and other strange beasts.[32][36][37] In the fictional paradise, the ruler Queen Calafia fought alongside Muslims and her name may have been chosen to echo the title of a Muslim leader, the Caliph. It is possible the name California was meant to imply the island was a Caliphate.[32][38]

Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great virtue. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks.

— Chapter CLVII of The Adventures of Esplandián[39]

Shortened forms of the state's name include CA, Cal, Cali, Calif, Califas, and US-CA.