About Arlington

History of Arlington

Arlington County is a jurisdiction of about 26 square miles, located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The County was originally part of the 10-mile square surveyed in 1791 for the nation’s capital. From 1801–1847, what are now Arlington and a portion of the City of Alexandria were known as Alexandria County, District of Columbia. In 1847, at the request of the residents, Congress retroceded Alexandria County to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In 1870, Alexandria County and the City of Alexandria were formally separated, and regular elections were held by a post-Civil War government. Subsequently, in 1920, Alexandria County was renamed Arlington County to eliminate the confusion between these two adjacent jurisdictions.

Learn more about the history of Arlington.


Arlington County

By law, there are no cities or towns located within the boundaries of the County. In 1922, the Virginia Supreme Court held that Arlington is a continuous, contiguous and homogeneous entity which cannot be subdivided, nor can any portion be annexed by neighboring jurisdictions. The Arlington County government exercises both city and county functions, one of the country's few urban unitary forms of government.


Arlington Neighborhoods

Although there are no cities located within Arlington, thoughtfully planned neighborhoods divide the County. There is often confusion surrounding this for visitors and locals alike, as two of Arlington’s neighborhoods, Pentagon City and Crystal City, have the word “city” in their names, sometimes tricking people into believing they are, in fact, cities... but don’t be fooled, they are simply two of the many neighborhoods within Arlington County.


Arlington Major Statistics (2020)

Total Population 228,400
Households 108,000
Average Household Size 2.18
Median Household Income $117,374
Per Capita Personal Income (BEA) $95,198
Unemployment Rate 1.9%

More Arlington Statistics


Terms to Know


NOVA is a term often used to refer to “Northern Virginia”. NOVA is composed of those Virginia cities and counties located within the greater Washington, D.C. region. Specifically, NOVA consists of the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, as well as the independent cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church.


Sure, you’ve heard this one before… but it’s not what you think! DMV is a common acronym used to group ­D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Although we still use the term to refer to the Department of Motor Vehicles, more likely than not it’ll be referring to the localities that make up the D.C. region.


The Washington Metrorail system, simply referred to as “the Metro” by locals, is the rail-based rapid transit system of the D.C. region. Although it may remind you of New York’s famous Subway, be sure not to refer to it as such.

"Walk left,
stand right"

If you know anything about the D.C. Metro system, this should be it. When using the escalators into or out of the Metro ALWAYS use the left side of the escalator to walk and the right side to stand. Doing anything else will flag you as a tourist and probably get you some unfriendly looks from busy commuters.

The Hill

“The Hill” is the standard way Washingtonians refer to Capitol Hill. “I work on the Hill” is something you’ll hear on repeat at those after-work happy hours.

The Mall

The National Mall, usually referred to as “the Mall” in the D.C. area, is the national park containing the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol grounds. This can often get confusing as the D.C. region has a number of shopping malls, context will be important in determining which the speaker is referring to.