British Columbia

British Columbia. Province
Western-most province in Canada
Earliest known reference to this name is 1858 (Queen Victoria)
Name officially adopted in 1858
Official in BCTopo map from Canadian Geographical Names
This province appears on:
John Arrowsmith’s map BC 1859

An influx of American gold-miners prompted Great Britain to proclaim the crown colony of British Columbia in 1858. The southern part of what is now the province was known as the Columbia Department during the fur-trade era, after the Columbia River. Although the major portion of British Columbia was called New Caledonia by the fur-traders, this name (duplicated in the South Pacific) was discarded by Queen Victoria in favor of the present name.

The Colony of British Columbia did not originally include the Colony of Vancouver Island, or the regions north of the Nass River and Finlay River, or the regions east of the Rocky Mountains. The colony was enlarged in 1863 in the north and northeast up to the 60th parallel and the 120th meridian. The colony joined Canada as the sixth province in 1871.

“British Columbia / Colombie-Britannique” is among the 75 “Pan-Canadian names,” large and well-known Canadian features and areas designated in Treasury Board Circular 1983-58 to require presentation in both official languages of Canada on federal maps.


  • Arrowsmith, John [1790–1873]. Provinces of British Columbia and Vancouver Island; with portions of the United States and Hudson’s Bay Territories. 1859. UVic
  • British Columbia Geographical Names. British Columbia
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