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"States" or "Jurisdictions"?

Updated: Feb 16

I've used the words "states" and "jurisdictions" in a way that probably makes them appear synonymous. There is overlap, but they are not the same thing.

"State" refers to a government. In its broadest sense, this includes what American English speakers think of as "countries."

"States," in the legal context in which I've been using the word, refers to the 50 states that make up the United States.

"Jurisdiction," in a broad sense, means the power of a government. This could be over a physical area, within a specified subject area (for example, probate), or certain individuals (for example, active duty military).

But when I talk about "jurisdictions" in the context in which I've been using it, it typically refers to the various constituents that make up the United States. That is, the states (which are sovereigns, not mere administrative divisions), D.C., the territories, and a bunch of very minor "others."

I'll try to keep my verbiage tight on this. If I don't know what the territories do, I'll use "states," but if it's something largely adopted across both states and the other federal administrative divisions, then I'll use "jurisdictions."

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