List of counties in California

The U.S. state of California is divided into 58 counties.[1] The state was first divided into 27 counties on February 18, 1850. These were further sub-divided to form sixteen additional counties by 1860. Another fourteen counties were formed through further subdivision from 1861 to 1893. The most recent county to form was Imperial County, in 1907.

Counties of California

LocationState of California
  • 1850 (27 original counties)
Number58 counties
PopulationsMinimum: Alpine, 1,235
Maximum: Los Angeles, 9,829,544
AreasMinimum: San Francisco, 47 square miles (120 km2)
Maximum: San Bernardino, 20,062 square miles (51,960 km2)

California is home to San Bernardino County, the largest county in the contiguous United States, as well as Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States.

California counties are general law counties by default, but may be chartered as provided in Article XI, Section 3 of the California Constitution.[2] A charter county is granted limited home rule powers. Of the 58 counties in California, 14 are governed under a charter. They are Alameda, Butte, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Tehama.[3]

Nine counties in California are named for saints, tied with Louisiana for the largest number. This count omits Santa Cruz ("Holy Cross") County (not named for a saint), Merced County and Los Angeles County, both of whose names refer to Saint Mary, (i.e. Our Lady of Mercy (Merced) and Our Lady Queen of The Angels (Los Angeles)), and Ventura County, whose name is a shortening of the name of St. Bonaventure, the namesake of the local mission.[4]


FIPS code[5] County seat[6] Est.[6] Formed from Etymology[7]General Law or Charter
Population (2021)[8] Area[6] Map
Alameda County 001 Oakland1853Contra Costa and Santa ClaraThe oak and other trees, once abundant in the region; alameda is Spanish for "avenue shaded by trees" or "cottonwood grove".Charter 1,648,556 738 sq mi
(1,911 km2)
Alpine County 003 Markleeville1864Amador, El Dorado, Calaveras, Mono and TuolumneLocation high in the Sierra Nevada; alpine refers to the Alps or other mountains.General Law 1,235 739 sq mi
(1,914 km2)
Amador County 005 Jackson1854CalaverasJose Maria Amador (1794–1883), a soldier, rancher, and miner who, along with several Native Americans, established a successful gold mining camp near present-day Amador City in 1848General Law 41,259 606 sq mi
(1,570 km2)
Butte County 007 Oroville1850originalSutter Buttes, which were mistakenly thought to be in the county at the time of its establishmentCharter 208,309 1,640 sq mi
(4,248 km2)
Calaveras County 009 San Andreas1850originalCalaveras River; calaveras is Spanish for "skulls".General Law 46,221 1,020 sq mi
(2,642 km2)
Colusa County 011 Colusa1850originalRancho Colus land grant from MexicoGeneral Law 21,917 1,151 sq mi
(2,981 km2)
Contra Costa County 013 Martinez1850originalLocation across San Francisco Bay from San Francisco; contra costa is Spanish for "opposite coast".General Law 1,161,413 720 sq mi
(1,865 km2)
Del Norte County 015 Crescent City1857KlamathLocation along California's northern border; del norte is Spanish for "northern".General Law 28,100 1,008 sq mi
(2,611 km2)
El Dorado County 017 Placerville1850originalEl Dorado, a mythical city of gold, owing to the area's significance in the California Gold RushCharter 193,221 1,712 sq mi
(4,434 km2)
Fresno County 019 Fresno1856Mariposa, Merced and TulareThe city of Fresno; fresno is Spanish for "ash tree".Charter 1,013,581 5,963 sq mi
(15,444 km2)
Glenn County 021 Willows1891ColusaDr. Hugh J. Glenn, a California businessman and politicianGeneral Law 28,805 1,315 sq mi
(3,406 km2)
Humboldt County 023 Eureka1853TrinityAlexander von Humboldt, a German naturalist and explorerGeneral Law 136,310 3,573 sq mi
(9,254 km2)
Imperial County 025 El Centro1907San DiegoImperial Valley, named after the Imperial Land CompanyGeneral Law 179,851 4,175 sq mi
(10,813 km2)
Inyo County 027 Independence1866Mono and TulareExact etymology disputed; early settlers believed Inyo to be the native name for area mountains, but it may be the name of a Mono Indian leader.General Law 18,970 10,192 sq mi
(26,397 km2)
Kern County 029 Bakersfield1866Los Angeles and TulareEdward Kern, cartographer for John C. Fremont's 1845 expeditionGeneral Law 917,673 8,142 sq mi
(21,088 km2)
Kings County 031 Hanford1893TulareKings River; original Spanish name Rio de los Santos Reyes ("River of the Holy Kings")General Law 153,443 1,390 sq mi
(3,600 km2)
Lake County 033 Lakeport1861NapaClear LakeGeneral Law 68,766 1,258 sq mi
(3,258 km2)
Lassen County 035 Susanville1864Plumas and Shasta, and now defunct Lake County, NevadaPeter Lassen, a Danish naturalist and explorerGeneral Law 33,159 4,558 sq mi
(11,805 km2)
Los Angeles County 037 Los Angeles1850originalThe city of Los Angeles, derived from the original Spanish name El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula ("The Village of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of the River of Porziuncola")Charter 9,829,544 4,060 sq mi
(10,515 km2)
Madera County 039 Madera1893FresnoThe city of Madera, which was named for the lumber industry it was created for; madera is Spanish for "wood" or "timber".General Law 159,410 2,138 sq mi
(5,537 km2)
Marin County 041 San Rafael1850originalChief Marin, "great chief of the tribe Licatiut" (a branch of the Coast Miwok people)General Law 260,206 520 sq mi
(1,347 km2)
Mariposa County 043 Mariposa1850originalThe city of Mariposa; mariposa is Spanish for "butterfly".General Law 17,147 1,451 sq mi
(3,758 km2)
Mendocino County 045 Ukiah1850originalAntonio de Mendoza, first viceroy of New SpainGeneral Law 91,305 3,509 sq mi
(9,088 km2)
Merced County 047 Merced1855MariposaThe city of Merced, derived from the original Spanish name El Río de Nuestra Señora de la Merced ("River of Our Lady of Mercy")General Law 286,461 1,929 sq mi
(4,996 km2)
Modoc County 049 Alturas1874SiskiyouThe Modoc peopleGeneral Law 8,661 3,944 sq mi
(10,215 km2)
Mono County 051 Bridgeport1861Calaveras, Fresno and MariposaMono Lake; derived from Monachi, a Yokuts name for native peoples of the Sierra NevadaGeneral Law 13,247 3,044 sq mi
(7,884 km2)
Monterey County 053 Salinas1850originalDerived from Monterey Bay, which was named for a Viceroy of New Spain, Gaspar de Zúñiga, 5th Count of MonterreyGeneral Law 437,325 3,322 sq mi
(8,604 km2)
Napa County 055 Napa1850originalDisputed origin; possibly derived from the Patwin word napo, meaning "home"General Law 136,207 754 sq mi
(1,953 km2)
Nevada County 057 Nevada City1851YubaThe phrase Sierra Nevada; nevada is Spanish for "snow-covered," referencing the area's high elevation. The neighboring state was named after the county, which was named after Nevada City.General Law 103,487 958 sq mi
(2,481 km2)
Orange County 059 Santa Ana1889Los AngelesOranges, to illustrate a perception of a region with a semi-tropical atmosphere to those from the eastern parts of the United StatesCharter 3,167,809 948 sq mi
(2,455 km2)
Placer County 061 Auburn1851SacramentoPlacer mining, a reference to the area being a center of the California Gold RushCharter 412,300 1,407 sq mi
(3,644 km2)
Plumas County 063 Quincy1854ButteThe Feather River; plumas is Spanish for "feathers".General Law 19,915 2,554 sq mi
(6,615 km2)
Riverside County 065 Riverside1893San Bernardino and San DiegoThe city of Riverside, named for its location on the Santa Ana RiverGeneral Law 2,458,395 7,208 sq mi
(18,669 km2)
Sacramento County 067 Sacramento1850originalThe city of Sacramento, named after the Santísimo Sacramento (Spanish for "Most Holy Sacrament")Charter 1,588,921 966 sq mi
(2,502 km2)
San Benito County 069 Hollister1874MontereySaint Benedict (Benito is a Spanish diminutive of Benedict).General Law 66,677 1,389 sq mi
(3,597 km2)
San Bernardino County 071 San Bernardino1853Los AngelesThe city of San Bernardino, named after Saint Bernardino of Siena (Spanish for Saint Bernardine)Charter 2,194,710 20,062 sq mi
(51,960 km2)
San Diego County 073 San Diego1850originalThe city of San Diego, from Mission San Diego (Spanish for Saint Didacus)Charter 3,286,069 4,204 sq mi
(10,888 km2)
San Francisco 075 San Francisco1850originalThe city of San Francisco, from Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asís, named after Saint Francis of Assisi (Spanish for Saint Francis)Charter 815,201 47 sq mi
(122 km2)
San Joaquin County 077 Stockton1850originalSpanish for Saint Joachim, father of the Virgin MaryGeneral Law 789,410 1,399 sq mi
(3,623 km2)
San Luis Obispo County 079 San Luis Obispo1850originalThe city of San Luis Obispo, from Mission San Luis Obispo, named after Saint Louis of Toulouse (Spanish for Saint Louis, the Bishop)General Law 283,159 3,304 sq mi
(8,557 km2)
San Mateo County 081 Redwood City1856San Francisco and Santa CruzSpanish for Saint MatthewCharter 737,888 449 sq mi
(1,163 km2)
Santa Barbara County 083 Santa Barbara1850originalThe city of Santa Barbara, from Mission Santa Barbara, (Spanish for Saint Barbara)General Law 446,475 2,738 sq mi
(7,091 km2)
Santa Clara County 085 San Jose1850originalCity of Santa Clara, from Mission Santa Clara de Asís, named for Saint Clare of Assisi (Spanish for Saint Clare)Charter 1,885,508 1,291 sq mi
(3,344 km2)
Santa Cruz County 087 Santa Cruz1850originalThe city of Santa Cruz, from Mission Santa Cruz (Spanish for "holy cross")General Law 267,792 446 sq mi
(1,155 km2)
Shasta County 089 Redding1850originalMount Shasta; the indigenous Shasta peopleGeneral Law 182,139 3,786 sq mi
(9,806 km2)
Sierra County 091 Downieville1852YubaSierra is Spanish for "mountain range", a reference to the area's topographyGeneral Law 3,283 953 sq mi
(2,468 km2)
Siskiyou County 093 Yreka1852Shasta and KlamathSiskiyou Mountains; exact etymology of Siskiyou is disputed.General Law 44,118 6,287 sq mi
(16,283 km2)
Solano County 095 Fairfield1850originalChief Solano of the SuisunesGeneral Law 451,716 828 sq mi
(2,145 km2)
Sonoma County 097 Santa Rosa1850originalExact etymology disputed; probably a Pomo term meaning "valley of the moon," which references a native legend about spiritual activity in the areaGeneral Law 485,887 1,576 sq mi
(4,082 km2)
Stanislaus County 099 Modesto1854TuolumneStanislaus River, named after Estanislao, a native of the area when California was under Spanish and Mexican ruleGeneral Law 552,999 1,495 sq mi
(3,872 km2)
Sutter County 101 Yuba City1850originalJohn Sutter, a Swiss pioneer of California associated with the California Gold RushGeneral Law 99,063 603 sq mi
(1,562 km2)
Tehama County 103 Red Bluff1856Butte, Colusa and ShastaThe city of Tehama, probably a native term describing its locationCharter 65,498 2,951 sq mi
(7,643 km2)
Trinity County 105 Weaverville1850originalThe city of Trinidad, Spanish for "trinity"General Law 16,060 3,179 sq mi
(8,234 km2)
Tulare County 107 Visalia1852MariposaTulare Lake, which is named after the tule rush (Schoenoplectus acutus) that grew in the marshes and sloughs along its shoresGeneral Law 477,054 4,824 sq mi
(12,494 km2)
Tuolumne County 109 Sonora1850originalExact etymology disputed; probably a corruption of the native term talmalamne, which means "cluster of stone wigwams," a reference to local cave dwelling tribesGeneral Law 55,810 2,236 sq mi
(5,791 km2)
Ventura County 111 Ventura1872Santa BarbaraThe city of Ventura, derived from Mission San Buenaventura (Spanish for St. Bonaventure)General Law 839,784 1,846 sq mi
(4,781 km2)
Yolo County 113 Woodland1850originalThe Yolan people, a local Native American tribeGeneral Law 216,986 1,012 sq mi
(2,621 km2)
Yuba County 115 Marysville1850originalNamed either by the Maidu people, a local Native American tribe who live on the banks of the Feather and Yuba Rivers, for one of their villages, or by Gabriel Moraga for the wild grapes (Vitis californica) that grow abundantly at the edge of the rivers (uva being Spanish for "grape")General Law 83,421 630 sq mi
(1,632 km2)

Defunct counties

  • Branciforte County was the original name of Santa Cruz County in 1850. The reference was to the 1797 town of Branciforte.
  • Klamath County was created in 1851 from the northern half of Trinity County. Part of the county's territory went to Del Norte County in 1857, and in 1874 the remainder was divided between Humboldt and Siskiyou counties.
  • Pautah County, California was created in 1852 out of territory which, the state of California assumed, was to be ceded to it by the United States Congress from territory in what is now the state of Nevada. When the cession never occurred, the California State Legislature officially abolished the never-organized county in 1859.[9]
  • Buena Vista County was created in 1855 by the California State Legislature out of the southeastern territory of Tulare County on the west of the Sierra Nevada but was never officially organized. The south of Tulare County was later organized as Kern County in 1866, with additions from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
  • Coso County was created in 1864 by the California State Legislature out of territory of Mono County and Tulare County on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada but was never officially organized. The region was later organized in 1866 as Inyo County with additions from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
  • Roop County, Nevada encompassed much of Lassen County, including the Honey Lake Valley and the community of Susanville, California; ambiguous organic legislation of Nevada Territory led to confusion about the geographic extent of Nevada's western border. This was later clarified, with the portions of Roop County in California being assigned to Lassen County; the remaining, sparsely portions of Roop County were eventually combined with Washoe County, Nevada.


  1. "Regions | CA Census".
  2. "California Constitution, ARTICLE XI LOCAL GOVERNMENT [SEC. 1 – SEC. 15] SEC. 3". State of California. June 2, 1970. Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  3. "County Structure & Powers". California State Association of Counties. Retrieved May 10, 2018.
  4. Kane, Joseph Nathan; Aiken, Charles Curry (2005). The American Counties: Origins of County Names, Dates of Creation, and Population Data, 1950–2000. Scarecrow Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-8108-5036-1.
  5. "EPA County FIPS Code Listing". Retrieved February 23, 2021.
  6. National Association of Counties. "NACo – Find a county". Archived from the original on June 5, 2008. Retrieved April 30, 2008.
  7. Sanchez, Nellie Van de Grift (1914). Spanish and Indian Place Names of California: Their Meaning and Their Romance. San Francisco: A. M. Robertson. ISBN 9781404750845. OCLC 4268886.
  8. "US Census Bureau". United States Census Bureau, Population Division. March 2022.
  9. "An Introduction to California Counties" (PDF). Retrieved July 22, 2022.
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