Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, is the capital of the United States, situated within the District of Columbia (abbreviated as "D.C."). The city and the district are located on the banks of the Potomac River and bordered by the states of Virginia (to the west) and Maryland (to the north, east and south). The city was planned and developed in the late 18th century to serve as the permanent national capital; the federal district was formed to keep the national capital distinct from the states. The city was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States. Columbia in this context is an early poetic name for the United States, a reference to Christopher Columbus, an early European explorer of the Americas.
The centers of all three branches of the U.S. government are in the District. Also situated in the city are the headquarters for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, and other national and international institutions including labor unions and professional associations. Washington is the frequent location of political demonstrations and protests, large and small, particularly on the National Mall. A center of American history and culture, Washington is a popular destination for tourists, the site of numerous national landmarks and monuments, the world's largest museum complex (the Smithsonian Institution), galleries, universities, cathedrals, performing arts centers and institutions, and native music scenes.
The District of Columbia and the city of Washington are governed by a single municipal government and for most practical purposes, are considered to be the same entity. This has not always been the case - until 1871, when Georgetown ceased to be a separate city, there were multiple jurisdictions within the District. Although there is a municipal government and a Mayor, Congress has the supreme authority over the city and district, which results in citizens having less self-governance than residents of the states. The District has a non-voting at-large Congressional representative. In the financial year 2004, federal tax collections were $16.9 billion while federal spending in the District was $37.6 billion.
The population of the District of Columbia--mostly blacks--is about 700,000 persons (as of 2022). The Washington Metropolitan Area is the eighth largest in the United States with 5,434,000 residents (as of 2022), and the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area has a population of 9,973,383. If Washington, D.C., were a state, it would rank last in area (behind Rhode Island), 50th in population (ahead of Wyoming), first in population density, and 35th in gross state product.