We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

Why Is Virginia Called Old Dominion?

By Mark Wollacott
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
America Explained is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At America Explained, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The American state of Virginia is called Old Dominion because of its status as the first American colony of the British Empire and because of the domain status given to it by Charles II. Old Dominion is one of seven nicknames for the state; others include the Mother of Presidents or Statesmen, Mother of States, the Cavalier State and Down Where the South Begins. An alternative of Old Dominion is the Ancient Dominion, but it has the same meaning.

Virginia has a rightful claim to call itself Ancient or Old Dominion because it was the first colony of England in the Americas. Queen Elizabeth I asked Sir Walter Raleigh to explore and settle land north of Spanish Florida in 1583. He named the territory after her, the Virgin Queen, but in those days, the territory of Virginia ran from the Carolinas to Maine. In 1607, Virginia became the first colony to host a permanent town, which was called Jamestown.

England, and then Britain, as it became known at the beginning of the 16th century, founded its American and Caribbean colonies as private financial enterprises. This meant one or a number of commercial companies formed and founded the colony, and were not directly run by the Crown or government of Britain. Virginia was unique amongst these colonies in the fact that it was a direct crown colony and was run by the British government through a governor.

This point is crucial to the formation of Virginia’s nickname. During the English Civil War, Virginia’s Governor Sir William Berkeley adhered to King Charles I’s religious policies, but remained neutral in everything else. The Civil War greatly affected commerce and Virginia’s neutrality was designed to maximize trade.

All this changed when Charles I lost the war and was executed. Instead of acknowledging the rightful claim to governance of the democratic government of the British parliament, Virginia recognized Charles’ son, Charles II, as King of Virginia instead. The state was forced to back down in 1552, but Charles II never forgot Virginia’s loyalty.

In 1660, the newly crowned King Charles II received some silk from Virginia. The King acknowledged this gift as being from the ‘Dominion of Virginia.’ In 1663, he then gave Virginia the new motto of ‘en dat Virginia Quintum’ meaning ‘Behold, Virginia gives the fifth.’ This means that alongside the four original dominions of England, Scotland, Ireland and France, Charles II was now recognizing Virginia as the fifth dominion. He did this by also putting the arms of Virginia on his shield as one of the four quarters alongside France, Ireland and Scotland.

Virginians added the term ‘old’ to denote the state’s status as being the oldest in the Americas, to the new title of ‘dominion’ to form its nickname. Old Dominion was from the reign of Charles II onward considered equal to the other dominions and of higher status than the mere colonies that surrounded it.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.