Dixie (also known as Dixieland) is a nickname for the Southern United States. Some definitions include certain areas more than others, but most include the states that seceded to form the Confederate States of America (1861–65).[5]

Dark red indicates the states almost always included in modern-day definitions of Dixie, red – sometimes included (see Southern United States for the U.S. Census definition), while pale red – occasionally included due to their historic connections to the South.[1][2][3][4]


Bayou Navigation in Dixie, engraving of a Louisiana Steamboat, 1863

As a definite geographic location within the United States, "Dixie" is usually defined as the eleven Southern states that seceded in late 1860 and early 1861 to form the new Confederate States of America: (in order of secession) South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Maryland never seceded, but many of its citizens favored the Confederacy. Many of Maryland's representatives were arrested[6] to prevent secession.[7] Both Missouri and Kentucky produced Ordinances of Secession and had governments-in-exile for the Confederacy.[8] They also remained within the Union, acting as border states. West Virginia was part of Virginia until 1863 when a Unionist government in Wheeling created a new state from 50 western counties.[9]

Although Maryland is not considered to be part of Dixie today, it is below the Mason–Dixon line. If the origin of the term Dixie is accepted as referring to the region south and west of that line, Maryland lies within Dixie. It can be argued that Maryland was part of Dixie before the Civil War, especially culturally.[10] In this sense, it would remain so into the 1970s, until an influx of people from the Northeast made the state and its culture significantly less Southern (especially Baltimore and the suburbs of Washington, DC).[11] Similarly, the character of Floridaa state which did secede in 1861 and was a member of the Confederacylost much of its Southern culture in the 20th century due to a great influx of Northerners, in particular New Yorkers[12] (although the Florida panhandle is still arguably culturally part of Dixie, and includes Dixie County).

The location and boundaries of "Dixie" have, over time, become increasingly subjective and mercurial.[13] Today, it is most often associated with parts of the Southern United States where traditions and legacies of the Confederate era and the antebellum South live most strongly.[14] The concept of "Dixie" as the location of a certain set of cultural assumptions, mind-sets, and traditions was explored in the 1981 book The Nine Nations of North America.[15]

Uses of the term

In terms of self-identification and appeal, the popularity of the word "Dixie" has been found to be declining. A 1976 study revealed that in an area of the South covering some 350,000 square miles (910,000 km2) (all Mississippi and Alabama, almost all of Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina, and around half of Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida) "Dixie" reached 25% of the popularity of "American" in names of commercial business entities.[16] A 1999 analysis found that between 1976 and 1999, in 19% of US cities sampled there was an increase of relative use of "Dixie", in 48% of cities sampled there was a decline, and no change was recorded in 32% of cities.[17] A 2010 study found that in the course of 40 years, the area in question shrank to just 40,000 square miles (100,000 km2), to the territory at the confluence of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.[18] In 1976 at some 600,000 square miles (1,600,000 km2)[lower-alpha 1] "Dixie" reached at least 6% popularity of "American"; in 2010 the corresponding area was some 500,000 square miles (1,300,000 km2).[19]

In the 21st century, concerns over glorifying the Confederacy led to various things named "Dixie" being renamed, including Dolly Parton's production "Dixie Stampede",[20] the music group Dixie Chicks,[21] and possibly Dixie State University in Utah, as their board of trustees voted unanimously in December 2020 to change the name.[22]

The term Dixieland in the context of Jazz, though originally derived from "Dixie" (i.e., implying a Southern origin for this type of music) gained a completely different set of connotations.

Origin of the name

Ten-dollar note from Banque des citoyens de la Louisiane, 1860

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origin of this nickname remains obscure. The most common theories according to A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles (1951) by Mitford M. Mathews are:

  1. The word "Dixie" originally referred to currency issued first by the Citizens State Bank in the French Quarter of New Orleans and then by other banks in Louisiana.[23] These banks issued ten-dollar notes[24] labeled Dix on the reverse side, French for "ten" (correctly pronounced [dis], DEESE). The notes were known as "Dixies" by Southerners, and the area around New Orleans and the French-speaking parts of Louisiana came to be known as "Dixieland."[5] Eventually, usage of the term broadened to refer to the Southern states in general.
  2. "Dixie" is sometimes claimed to be derived from Jeremiah Dixon, one of the surveyors of the Mason–Dixon line, which defined the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania, separating free and slave states subsequent to the Missouri Compromise.[25] This namesake is likely retroactively attributed long after it came into use, rather than being a genuine source of origin. [26]
  3. One apocryphal account claims that the word preserves the name of a Mr. Johan Dixie (sometimes spelled Dixy), a slave owner on Manhattan Island where slavery was legal until 1827. According to a story recounted in Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends (2008), Dixie's slaves were later sold in the South, where they told of better treatment while working "Dixie's Land.” There is no evidence that this story is true.[27][28]

See also

  • Bible Belt
  • Deep South
  • "Dixie" (song)
  • Dixie (Utah)
  • Dixieland Jazz
  • Dixie Alley – a nickname sometimes given to the area due to it being particularly vulnerable to strong or violent tornadoes


  1. from Eastern areas of Texas and Oklahoma to Southern areas of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia


  1. Oh, Soo. "Which states do you think belong in the South?". Vox. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
  2. Wilson, Charles & William Ferris Encyclopedia of Southern Culture ISBN 978-0-8078-1823-7; Univ. of Pennsylvania Telsur Project Telsur Map of Southern Dialect
  3. Vance, Rupert Bayless, Regionalism and the South: Selected Papers of Rupert Vance, University of North Carolina Press, 1982, p. 166 ISBN 0-8078-1513-6 "West Virginia is found to have its closest attachment to the Southeast on the basis of agriculture and population."
  4. David Williamson (June 2, 1999). "UNC-CH surveys reveal where the 'real' South lies". Retrieved 22 Feb 2007.
  5. "Dixie". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  6. United States. War Department (1894). The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 2. 1. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 684. ...all members of the Maryland Legislature assembled at Frederick City on the 17th instant known or suspected to be disloyal in their relations to the Government have been arrested.
  7. "The Southern Literary Messenger". Vol. 38 no. 1. Richmond: Wedderburn & Alfriend. 1864. p. 198. The passage of any act of secession by the Legislature of Maryland must be prevented. If necessary all or any part of the members must be arrested. Exercise your own judgment as to the time and manner, but do the work effectively. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  8. "Ordinances of Secession". Historical Text Archive. Archived from the original on November 23, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2017.
  9. Curry, Richard Orr, A House Divided, A Study of Statehood Politics and the Copperhead Movement in West Virginia, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1964, pg. 49
  10. "The General Assembly Moves to Frederick, 1861". Retrieved 25 Oct 2017.
  11. Rasmussen, Frederick (March 28, 2010). "Are we Northern? Southern? Yes". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on May 11, 2018. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
  12. According to the New York Times, 8% of Floridians were born in New York (as of 2012) Gregor Aisch; Robert Gebeloff (15 Aug 2014). "Mapping Migration in the United States". New York Times.
  13. There is such a multitude of threads to the fabric called Dixie that official organizations draw boundaries enclosing anywhere from nine to seventeen states and call the place "the South."Joel Garreau (1981). The Nine Nations of North America. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 132. ISBN 0-395-29124-0.
  14. Ottenhoff, Patrick (January 28, 2011). "Where Does the South Begin?". The Atlantic.
  15. Joel Garreau (1981). The Nine Nations of North America. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-29124-0.
  16. John Shelton Reed, "The Heart of Dixie: An Essay in Folk Geography", [in:] "Social Forces" 54/4 (1976), pp. 925-939
  17. Derek H. Alderman, Robert Maxwell Beavers, "Heart of Dixie Revisited: an Update on the Geography of Naming in the American South", [in:] "Southeastern Geographer" XXXlX/2 (1999), p. 196
  18. Christopher A. Cooper, H. Gibbs Knotts, "Declining Dixie: Regional Identification in the Modern American South", [in:] "Social Forces" 88/3 (2010), pp. 1083-1101
  19. Cooper, Gibbs Knotts 2010, p. 1090
  20. Freeman, Jon (11 January 2018). "Dolly Parton's Civil War-Themed 'Dixie Stampede' Attraction to Change Name". Rolling Stone.
  21. Shaffer, Claire (25 June 2020). "Dixie Chicks Change Name to 'The Chicks,' Drop Protest Song". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  22. Cortez, Marjorie (December 14, 2020). "Trustees vote to drop 'Dixie' from Dixie State University name". Deseret News. Retrieved 2020-12-16.
  23. "Dixie" Originated From Name "Dix" An Old Currency - New Orleans American May 29 1916, Vol. 2 No. 150, Page 3 Col. 1 Archived 2011-08-07 at the Wayback Machine Louisiana Works Progress Administration (WPA), Louisiana Digital Library
  24. Ten Dollar Note Archived 2012-03-20 at the Wayback Machine George Francois Mugnier Collection, Louisiana Digital Library
  25. John Mackenzie, "A brief history of the Mason-Dixon Line Archived 2018-07-17 at the Wayback Machine", APEC/CANR, University of Delaware; accessed 2017.01.05.
  26. A much more promising line of inquiry relates Dixie to the Mason-Dixon line, the demarcation between northern and southern states named after the surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the 1770s. Jonathan Lighter, the editor of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang, pieced together evidence that connects the Mason-Dixon line to Dixie via an unexpected intermediary: a children’s game played in New York City. Zimmer, Ben (2020-06-26). "What 'Dixie' Really Means". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-07-03.
  27. Wilton, David (2008). Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends. Oxford University Press. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-1953-7557-2.
  28. Campanella, Richard (2010). "Appendix A: Western River Commerce in the Early 1800s" (PDF). Lincoln in New Orleans: The 1828-1831 Flatboat Voyages and Their Place in History. University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press. p. 276, n. 99. ISBN 978-1-9357-5402-2.

Further reading

  • Reed, John Shelton (with J. Kohl and C. Hanchette) (1990). The Shrinking South and the Dissolution of Dixie. Social Forces. pp. 69, 221–233.
  • Sacks, Howard L. and Judith Rose. Way Up North In Dixie. (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993)

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