In Italian, the word for two states which share part of their border is confinante (its plural is confinanti). For example, I could use that word for Italy and France, Spain and Portugal, or France and Germany. I would not use it for Italy and Germany, since there are two other states between Italy and Germany.

Looking for a translation of that word, I find:

  • Adjoining: adiacente, contiguo, confinante, limitrofo
  • Conterminous: confinante

The first word seems too generic, as adiacente could be said also for a street; the other word seem more specific, but I am not sure it is a word currently used.

Which word should I use?

  • What do you do about pairs of states like Utah and New Mexico, or Colorado and Arizona, which meet at the Four Corners?
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 1:18
  • There is still a point that is common, between their borders.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Feb 9, 2013 at 4:11

4 Answers 4


When I first heard the term "common border", I thought of it used like this: Norway and Sweden share a common border. But, in that contexts, all bordering states would share a common border by default, so there wouldn't be a need for a special word.

So I wondered if you meant, instead, something like France and Switzerland share a common border with Italy, which would indicate that, not only are they both neighboring countries, but they both border Italy on the same side. However, you would not say the same thing about France and Austria, because, even though they both border Italy to the north, the border is not continuous.

If I'm getting the hang of this now, then two words you might consider are continuous or contiguous:

contiguous: sharing a common border; touching (from NOAD)

Edit: after reading your clarification, there are several ways you could convey that information; any of the following sound fine to me:

Italy and Austria share a common border.
Italy and Austria are neighboring states.
Italy and Austria border each other.

although there are other viable variants as well.

  • I would use confinante when speaking of Italy and France, or Italy and Austria; I would not use it for Italy and Germany, for example. The full border of a state doesn't need to be the full border of another state.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 13:48
  • 2
    @kiamlaluno Then contiguous is the word you want, by etymology "touching each other". Conterminous technically works too, but it's very rare; I don't recall seeing it more than two or three times in my life, and usually mis-spelled. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 13:53
  • Just a note: while contiguous is definitely a correct term, and a very good answer, it would not be familiar to the majority of the population. If you mentioned "contiguous states" in a casual conversation with an American on the street, you would be likely to receive a blank stare in return. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 14:07
  • 2
    @KenB: You may be right about that – or may be wrong. I was under the impression that the word was fairly well-known, at least in the context of the "contiguous 48 states" – but my hunch could well be erroneous. (Sometimes, if you've known something long enough, you start to assume it's widely known, even if that's inaccurate.) I have several friends from Alaska and Hawaii, too, which could also skew my perception.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 16:02
  • 1
    I've actually never heard that term; only "lower 48", "continental states", etc. This could certainly just be my perception, but I have never before today heard the term contiguous used in conjunction with geography. Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 19:12

There is not word in English that specifically means two states or countries (etc.) that border on each other, but there are approximates.

There are several words that seem to all work just as well for this purpose, all of the form "{descriptor} states", where {descriptor} can be:

  • neighboring - "next door" to each other (sometimes generalized to "in the same area")
  • adjacent - directly next to each other, so yes, with a shared border
  • bordering (as @bytebuster mentioned) - same deal as adjacent

Each of these can be generalized to "{descriptor} {X}", where {X} can be country, state, county, district, town, backyard, etc.


Based on this Ngram, "neighboring states" seems to be the most common of the above three, with adjacent coming in second, and "bordering" coming in third. Since "neighboring" can be a little more generalized, if you need to be understood, I would use "adjacent".

enter image description here


Bordering states may be a good variant:

State with the Most Bordering States: Missouri with 8 bordering states (Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee) and Tennessee with 8 bordering states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia)

Here's usage for a pair of...

Travel north to south, to a pair of bordering states or to international gateway cities like Chicago, St. Louis, Baton Rouge, Memphis, New Orleans, or Minneapolis / St. Paul.


"Conterminous" is an infrequently used word in English. It is used in contemporary English in technical contexts. For example, the United Stated Geological Survey's book on map projections refers to the 48 "conterminous" states of the United States, to distinguish them from Alaska and Hawaii:

The USGS uses the Equidistant Cylindrical projection for index maps of the conterminous United States, with insets of Alaska, Hawaii, and various islands on the same projection.

Most Americans use either "continental" or "contiguous" instead of "conterminous", when referring to these 48 states. "Continental" was correct until the admission of Alaska in 1959, but it is now technically incorrect to refer to the "48 continental" states of the United States. "Contiguous" is a valid alternative.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .