AskDefine | Define Delaware

Dictionary Definition



1 a river that rises in the Catskills in southeastern New York and flows southward along the border of Pennsylvania with New York and New Jersey to northern Delaware where it empties into Delaware Bay [syn: Delaware River]
2 a member of an Algonquian people formerly living in New Jersey and New York and parts of Delaware and Pennsylvania
3 one of the British colonies that formed the United States
4 a Mid-Atlantic state; one of the original 13 colonies [syn: Diamond State, First State, DE]
5 the Algonquian language spoken by the Delaware people

User Contributed Dictionary



Proper noun

  1. A Capital: Dover.


See also

External links

Extensive Definition

Delaware () is a state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The state is named after Delaware Bay and River, which were named for Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr (1577–1618). Population estimates by the Census Bureau for 2005 place the population of Delaware at 843,524. Delaware is the seventh most densely populated state, with a population density of 320 more people per square mile than the national average, ranking ahead of states such as Florida, California, and Texas. Limited by its small area, it ranks 45th in population.

State symbols

The state's motto, "Liberty and Independence" is inscribed on the coat of arms, which is incorporated into both the state seal and the state flag. The state's official nickname, "The First State" commemorates the fact that on December 7, 1787, Delaware became the first of the 13 original states to ratify the United States Constitution. Commemorating Delaware's ratification, Constitution Park features a four-foot cube upon which is inscribed the entire document as it has evolved. Delaware has also been called the "Blue Hen State", referring to the official state bird, the Blue Hen Chicken, which was carried with the Delaware Revolutionary War soldiers for cockfighting, and the "Diamond State". The ferocity of the Blue Hen Chickens carried by Captain Jonathan Caldwell's men in the Revolutionary Army and the prowess of his company led to the nickname of "Caldwell's Gamecocks." It also led to the University of Delaware's adopting the nickname of "Fightin' Blue Hens". Along with traditional symbols such as an official state tree (the American holly) and flower (the peach blossom), the legislature adopted the Delaware Diamond, the first star on the International Star Registry to be registered to an American state.


Delaware is 96 miles long and ranges from 9 to 35 miles across, totaling 1,954 square miles and making it the second-smallest state in the United States after Rhode Island. Delaware is bounded to the north by Pennsylvania; to the east by the Delaware River, Delaware Bay, New Jersey and the Atlantic Ocean; and to the west and south by Maryland. Small portions of Delaware are also situated on the far, or eastern, side of the Delaware River estuary. These parcels share land boundaries with New Jersey. The state of Delaware, together with the Eastern Shore counties of Maryland and two counties of Virginia, form the Delmarva Peninsula, which stretches south down the Mid-Atlantic Coast.
The definition of the northern boundary of the state is highly unusual. Most of the boundary between Delaware and Pennsylvania is defined by an arc extending 12 miles (19 km) from the cupola of the courthouse in New Castle. It is referred to as the Twelve-Mile Circle. This is the only true-arc political boundary in the United States. This border extends all the way east to the low-tide mark on the New Jersey shore, then continues south along the shoreline until it again reaches the twelve-mile arc in the south; then the boundary continues in a more conventional way in the middle of the main channel (thalweg) of the Delaware River Estuary. To the west, a portion of the arc extends past the easternmost edge of Maryland. The remaining western border runs slightly east of due south from its intersection with the arc. The Wedge of land between the northwest part of the arc and the Maryland border was claimed by both Delaware and Pennsylvania until 1921, when Delaware's claim was confirmed.
Delaware is subdivided into three counties: from north to south, New Castle, Kent County and Sussex.See also: List of counties in Delaware


Delaware is on a level plain; the highest elevation, located at Ebright Azimuth, near Concord High School, Wilmington, does not rise fully 450 feet above sea level. The northern part is associated with the Appalachian Piedmont and is full of hills with rolling surfaces. South of Newark and Wilmington, the state follows the Atlantic Coastal Plain with flat, sandy, and, in some parts, swampy ground. A ridge about 75 to 80 feet in altitude extends along the western boundary of the state and is the drainage divide between the two major water bodies of the Delaware River and several streams flowing into Chesapeake Bay in the west.


Since almost all of Delaware is a part of the Atlantic Coastal Plain, the climate is moderated by the effects of the ocean. The state is somewhat of a transitional zone between a humid subtropical climate and a continental climate. Despite its small size (roughly 100 miles from its northernmost to southernmost points), there is significant variation in mean temperature and amount of snowfall between Sussex County and New Castle County. The southern portion of the state has a somewhat milder climate and a longer growing season than the northern portion of the State. The transitional climate of Delaware supports a surprising variety of vegetation. At Trap Pond State Park in Sussex County, bald cypress grow -- this is thought to be one of the northernmost stands of such trees. The vegetation in New Castle County, on the other hand, is more typical of that of the northeastern United States. All parts of Delaware have relatively hot, humid summers. While Sussex and Kent Counties are considered to fall in the humid subtropical climate zone, there is some debate about whether northern New Castle County falls in the humid subtropical climate zone or warm continental climate.


Native Americans

Before Delaware was settled by European colonists, the area was home to the Eastern Algonquian tribes known as the Unami Lenape or Delaware throughout the Delaware valley, and the Nanticoke along the rivers leading into the Chesapeake Bay. The Unami Lenape in the Delaware Valley were closely related to Munsee Lenape tribes along the Hudson River. They had a settled hunting and agricultural society, and they rapidly became middlemen in an increasingly frantic fur trade with their ancient enemy, the Minqua or Susquehannock. With the loss of their lands on the Delaware River and the destruction of the Minqua by the Iroquois of the Five Nations in the 1670s, the remnants of the Lenape left the region and moved over the Alleghany Mountains by the mid-18th century.

Colonial Delaware

The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle in present-day Delaware by establishing a trading post at Zwaanendael, near the site of Lewes in 1631. Within a year all the settlers were killed in a dispute with area Indian tribes. In 1638, a Swedish trading post and colony was established at Fort Christina (now in Wilmington) by Dutchman Peter Minuit at the head of a group of Swedes, Finns and Dutch. Thirteen years later, the Dutch, reinvigorated by the leadership of Peter Stuyvesant, established a new fort in 1651 at present-day New Castle, and in 1655 they took over the entire Swedish colony, incorporating it into the Dutch New Netherland.
Only nine years later, in 1664, the Dutch were themselves forcibly removed by a British expedition under the direction of James, the Duke of York. Fighting off a prior claim by Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, Proprietor of Maryland, the Duke passed his somewhat dubious ownership on to William Penn in 1682. Penn strongly desired access to the sea for his Pennsylvania province and leased what then came to be known as the "Lower Counties on the Delaware" from the Duke.
Penn established representative government and briefly combined his two possessions under one General Assembly in 1682. However, by 1704 the Province of Pennsylvania had grown so large that their representatives wanted to make decisions without the assent of the Lower Counties and the two groups of representatives began meeting on their own, one at Philadelphia, and the other at New Castle. Penn and his heirs remained proprietors of both and always appointed the same person Governor for their Province of Pennsylvania and their territory of the Lower Counties. The fact that Delaware and Pennsylvania shared the same governor was not unique. During much of the colonial period, New York and New Jersey shared a governor, as did Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Dependent in early years on indentured labor, Delaware imported more slaves as the number of English immigrants decreased with better economic conditions in England. The colony became a slave society and cultivated tobacco as a cash crop. Before the Revolution, it had begun to shift to mixed agriculture.

American Revolution

Like the other middle colonies, the Lower Counties on the Delaware initially showed little enthusiasm for a break with Britain. The citizenry had a good relationship with the Proprietary government, and generally were allowed more independence of action in their Colonial Assembly than in other colonies. Merchants at the port of Wilmington had trading ties with British. Nevertheless, there was strong objection to the seemingly arbitrary measures of Parliament, and leaders understood that the territory's existence as a separate entity depended upon its keeping step with its powerful neighbors, especially Pennsylvania.
So it was that New Castle lawyer Thomas McKean denounced the Stamp Act in the strongest terms, and Kent County native John Dickinson became the "Penman of the Revolution." Anticipating the Declaration of Independence, Patriot leaders Thomas McKean and Caesar Rodney convinced the Colonial Assembly to declare itself separated from British and Pennsylvania rule on June 15, 1776. The person best representing Delaware's majority, George Read, could not bring himself to vote for a Declaration of Independence. Only the dramatic overnight ride of Caesar Rodney gave the delegation the votes needed to cast Delaware's vote for independence. Once the Declaration was adopted, however, Read signed the document.
Initially led by John Haslet, Delaware provided one of the premier regiments in the Continental Army, known as the "Delaware Blues" and nicknamed the "Blue Hen Chickens." In August 1777, General Sir William Howe led a British army through Delaware on his way to a victory at the Battle of Brandywine and capture of the city of Philadelphia. The only real engagement on Delaware soil was the Battle of Cooch's Bridge, fought on September 3, 1777, at Cooch's Bridge in New Castle County. It is believed to be the first time that the Stars and Stripes was flown in battle.
Following the Battle of Brandywine, Wilmington was occupied by the British, and State President John McKinly was taken prisoner. The British remained in control of the Delaware River for much of the rest of the war, disrupting commerce and providing encouragement to an active Loyalist portion of the population, particularly in Sussex County. Because the British promised slaves of rebels freedom for fighting with them, escaped slaves flocked north to join their lines. Only the repeated military actions of State President Caesar Rodney were able to harass the British.
Following the American Revolution, statesmen from Delaware were among the leading proponents of a strong central United States with equal representation for each state. Once the Connecticut Compromise was reached—creating a U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives—the leaders in Delaware were able to easily secure ratification of the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787, making Delaware the first state to do so.

Slavery and race

Many colonial settlers came to Delaware from Maryland and Virginia, which had been experiencing a population boom. The economies of these colonies were chiefly based on tobacco culture and were increasingly dependent on slave labor for its intensive cultivation. Most of the English colonists arrived as indentured servants, hiring themselves out as laborers for a fixed period to pay for their passage. In the early years the line between indentured servants and African slaves or laborers was fluid. Most of the free African-American families in Delaware before the Revolution had migrated from Maryland to find more affordable land. They were descendants chiefly of relationships or marriages between servant white women and enslaved, servant or free African or African-American men. As the flow of indentured laborers to the colony decreased with improving economic conditions in England, more slaves were imported for labor.
At the end of the colonial period, the number of enslaved people in Delaware began to decline. Shifts in the agriculture economy from tobacco to mixed farming created less need for slaves' labor. Local Methodists and Quakers encouraged slaveholders to free their slaves following the American Revolution, and many did so in a surge of individual manumissions for idealistic reasons. Three-quarters of all blacks were free by 1810. When John Dickinson freed his slaves in 1777, he was Delaware's largest slave owner with 37 slaves. By 1860 the largest slaveholder owned only 16 slaves.
Although attempts to abolish slavery failed by narrow margins in the legislature, in practical terms, the state had mostly ended the practice. By the 1860 census 91.7 percent of the black population, or nearly 20,000 people, was free.
The oldest black church in the country was chartered in Delaware by freed slave Peter Spencer in 1813 as the "Union Church of Africans." This was renamed the African Union First Colored Methodist Protestant Church and Connection, more commonly known as the A.U.M.P. Church. Begun by Spencer in 1814, the Big August Quarterly still draws together people in a religious and cultural festival, the oldest such cultural festival in the nation.
At the onset of the American Civil War, Delaware was only nominally a slave state, and it remained in the Union. Delaware voted against secession on January 3, 1861. As the governor said, Delaware had been the first state to embrace the Union by ratifying the Constitution and would be the last to leave it. While most Delaware citizens who fought in the war served in the regiments of the state, some served in companies on the Confederate side in Maryland and Virginia Regiments. Delaware is notable for being the only slave state from which no Confederate regiments or militia groups were assembled.


The five largest ancestries in Delaware are: African American (19.2%), Irish (16.6%), German (14.3%), English (12.1%), Italian (9.3%). Delaware has the highest proportion of African-American residents of any state north of Maryland, and had the largest percentage of free blacks (17% of the state) prior to the Civil War.
The center of population of Delaware is located in New Castle County, in the town of Townsend.


As of 2000, 90.5% of Delaware residents age 5 and older speak only English at home; 4.7% speak Spanish. French is the third most spoken language at 0.7%, followed by Chinese at 0.5% and German at 0.5%.
Legislation has been proposed by both the House and the Senate in Delaware to designate English as the official language.


The religious affiliations of the people of Delaware are:
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington and the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware oversee the parishes within their denominations. The A.U.M.P. Church, the oldest African-American denomination in the nation, was founded in Wilmington. It still has a substantial presence in the state. Reflecting new immigrant populations, an Islamic mosque has been built in the Ogletown area, and a Hindu temple in Hockessin.
Delaware's population includes approximately 20,000 Jewish Americans, who are served by the Jewish Community Center in Brandywine (near Wilmington) and by a number of educational, social and cultural agencies supported by the Jewish Federation of Delaware. Synagogues include Congregation Beth Emeth (Reform) in Wilmington, Congregation Beth El (Reconstructionist) in Newark, Congregation Beth Shalom (Conservative) in Wilmington, Congregation Beth Sholom (Conservative) in Dover, and Adas Kodesh Shel Emeth (Traditional) in Wilmington. There is also a Lubavitcher community center and synagogue in Brandywine Hundred.


The gross state product of Delaware in 2003 was $49 billion. The per capita personal income was $34,199, ranking 9th in the nation. In 2005, the average weekly wage was $937, ranking 7th in the nation.
Delaware's agricultural output consists of poultry, nursery stock, soybeans, dairy products and corn. Its industrial outputs include chemical products, processed foods, paper products, and rubber and plastic products. Delaware's economy generally outperforms the national economy of the United States.
The state's largest employers are:
Dover Air Force Base, located in the state capital of Dover, is one of the largest Air Force bases in the country and is a major employer in Delaware. In addition to its other responsibilities, the base serves as the entry point and mortuary for American military persons (and some U.S. government civilians) who die overseas.
Delaware has 6 different income tax brackets, ranging from 2.2% to 5.95%. The state does not assess sales tax on consumers. The state does, however, impose a tax on the gross receipts of most businesses. Business and occupational license tax rates range from 0.096% to 1.92%, depending on the category of business activity.
Delaware does not assess a state-level tax on real or personal property. Real estate is subject to county property taxes, school district property taxes, vocational school district taxes, and, if located within an incorporated area, municipal property taxes.
Title 4, chapter 7 of the Delaware Code stipulates that alcoholic liquor only be sold in specifically licensed establishments, and only between 9:00 AM and 1:00 AM.


The transportation system in Delaware is under the governance and supervision of the Delaware Department of Transportation, also known as "DelDOT". DelDOT manages programs such as a Delaware Adopt-a-Highway program, major road route snow removal, traffic control infrastructure (signs and signals), toll road management, Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles, the Delaware Transit Corporation (branded as "DART First State", the state government public transportation organization), among others. Almost ninety percent of the state's public roadway miles are under the direct maintenance of DelDOT which far exceeds the United States national average of twenty percent for state department of transportation maintenance responsibility; the remaining public road miles are under the supervision of individual municipalities.


One major branch of the U.S. Interstate Highway System, Interstate 95, crosses Delaware southwest-to-northeast across New Castle County. In addition to I-95, there are six U.S. highways that serve Delaware: U.S. Route 9, U.S. Route 13, U.S. Route 40, U.S. Route 113, U.S. Route 202, and U.S. Route 301. There are also several state highways that cross the state of Delaware; a few of them include Delaware Route 1, Delaware Route 9, and Delaware Route 404. U.S. 13 and DE Rt. 1 are primary north-south highways connecting Wilmington and Pennsylvania with Maryland, with DE 1 serving as the main route between Wilmington and the Delaware beaches. DE Rt. 9 is a north-south highway connecting Dover and Wilmington via a scenic route along the Delaware Bay. U.S. 40, is a primary east-west route, connecting Maryland with New Jersey. DE Rt. 404 is another primary east-west highway connecting the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland with the Delaware beaches. The state also operates two toll highways, the Delaware Turnpike, which is Interstate 95 between Maryland and New Castle and the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway, which is DE Rt. 1 between Dover and Interstate 95 between Wilmington and Newark.
A bicycle route, Delaware Bicycle Route 1, spans the north-south length of the state from the Maryland border in Fenwick Island to the Pennsylvania border north of Montchanin. It is the first of several signed bike routes planned in Delaware.
Delaware has around 1,450 bridges, of which ninety-five percent are under the supervision of DelDOT. About thirty percent of all Delaware bridges were built prior to 1950 and about sixty percent of the number are included in the National Bridge Inventory. Some bridges not under DelDOT supervision includes the four bridges on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, which are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which is under the bi-state Delaware River and Bay Authority.


There are three ferries that operate in the state of Delaware:

Rail and bus

Law and government

Delaware's fourth and current constitution, adopted in 1897, provides for executive, judicial and legislative branches.

Legislative branch

Delaware General Assembly consists of a House of Representatives with 41 members and a Senate with 21 members. It sits in Dover, the state capital. Representatives are elected to two-year terms, while senators are elected to four-year terms. The Senate confirms judicial and other nominees appointed by the governor.

Judicial branch

The Delaware Constitution establishes a number of courts:
  • The Delaware Supreme Court is the state's highest court.
  • The Superior Court of Delaware is the state's trial court of general jurisdiction.
  • The Court of Chancery deals primarily in corporate disputes.
  • The Family Court handles domestic and custody matters.
  • The Court of Common Pleas has jurisdiction over a limited class of civil and criminal matters.
Minor non-constitutional courts include the Justice of the Peace Courts and Aldermen's Courts.
Significantly, Delaware has one of the few remaining Courts of Chancery in the nation, which has jurisdiction over equity cases, the vast majority of which are corporate disputes, many relating to mergers and acquisitions. The Court of Chancery and the Supreme Court have developed a worldwide reputation for rendering concise opinions concerning corporate law which generally (but not always) grant broad discretion to corporate boards of directors and officers. In addition, the Delaware General Corporation Law, which forms the basis of the Courts' opinions, is widely regarded as giving great flexibility to corporations to manage their affairs. For these reasons, Delaware is considered to have the most business-friendly legal system in the United States; therefore a great number of companies are incorporated in Delaware, including 60% of the companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Executive branch

The executive branch is headed by the Governor of Delaware. The present governor is Ruth Ann Minner (Democrat), who was elected as the state's first female governor in 2000. The lieutenant governor is John C. Carney, Jr.. Delaware's U.S. Senators are Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (Democrat) and Thomas R. Carper (Democrat). Delaware's single U.S. Representative is Michael N. Castle (Republican). see List of Governors of Delaware
Delaware has three counties: Kent County, New Castle County, and Sussex County. Each county elects its own legislative body (known in New Castle and Sussex counties as County Council, and in Kent County as Levy Court), which deal primarily in zoning and development issues. Most functions which are handled on a county-by-county basis in other states — such as court and law enforcement — have been centralized in Delaware, leading to a significant concentration of power in the Delaware state government. The counties were historically divided into hundreds, which were used as tax reporting and voting districts until the 1960s, but now serve no administrative role, their only current official legal use being in real-estate title descriptions.
The Democratic Party holds a plurality of registrations in Delaware. Until the 2000 Presidential election, the state tended to be a Presidential bellwether, sending its three electoral votes to the winning candidate for over 50 years in a row. Bucking that trend, however, in 2000 and again in 2004 Delaware voted for the Democratic candidate. In the 2000 election Delaware voted with the winner of the popular vote, Al Gore, who subsequently lost the Electoral Vote to George W. Bush (see United States Presidential Election, 2000 for more information.) John Kerry won Delaware by eight percentage points with 53.5% of the vote in 2004.
Historically, the Republican Party had an immense influence on Delaware politics, due in large part to the wealthy du Pont family. Ralph Nader assembled a working group to investigate ties between Delaware's politicians and industrialists, resulting in a book published in 1968 entitled The Company State. As DuPont's political influence has declined, so has that of the Delaware Republican Party. The Democrats have won the past four gubernatorial elections and currently hold seven of the nine statewide elected offices (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General, and two U.S. Senators), while the Republicans hold the remaining two (the state's at-large House seat and the office of Auditor). However, this belies the fact that the Democratic Party gains most of its votes from heavily-developed New Castle County, whereas the lesser-populated Kent and Sussex Counties vote Republican.


Wilmington is the state's largest city and its economic hub. It is located within commuting distance of both Philadelphia and Baltimore. Despite Wilmington's size, all regions of Delaware are enjoying phenomenal growth, with Dover and the beach resorts expanding immensely. see List of Delaware municipalities


Top 10 richest places in Delaware

Ranked by per capita income
  1. Greenville: $83,223
  2. Henlopen Acres: $82,091
  3. South Bethany: $53,624
  4. Dewey Beach: $51,958
  5. Fenwick Island: $44,415
  6. Bethany Beach: $41,306
  7. Hockessin: $40,516
  8. North Star: $39,677
  9. Rehoboth Beach: $38,494
  10. Ardentown: $35,577


Delaware was the origin of Belton v. Gebhart, one of the four cases which was combined into Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court of the United States decision that led to the end of segregated public schools. Significantly, Belton was the only case in which the state court found for the plaintiffs, thereby ruling that segregation was unconstitutional.
Unlike many states, Delaware's educational system is centralized in a state Superintendent of Education, with local school boards retaining control over taxation and some curriculum decisions.
A "three-tiered diploma" system fostered by Governor Ruth Ann Minner, which awarded "basic," "standard," and "distinguished" high-school diplomas based on a student's performance in the Delaware Student Testing Program, was discontinued by the General Assembly after many Delawareans questioned its fairness.

Colleges and universities

Miscellaneous topics


There are no network broadcast-television stations operating solely in Delaware. A local PBS from Philadelphia (but licensed to Wilmington), WHYY-TV, maintains a studio and broadcasting facility in Wilmington and Dover. Philadelphia's ABC affiliate, WPVI-TV, maintains a news bureau in downtown Wilmington. The northern part of the state is served by network stations in Philadelphia and the southern part by network stations in Baltimore and Salisbury, Maryland. Salisbury's CBS affiliate, WBOC-TV, maintains bureaus in Dover and Milton.


While Delaware has no places designated as national parks, national seashores, national battlefields, national memorials, or national monuments, it does have several museums, wildlife refuges, parks, houses, lighthouses, and other historic places. Delaware also boasts the longest twin span suspension bridge in the world. The state was playfully mocked for its lack of renown as a vacation destination in the movie Wayne's World and the TV show The Simpsons.



In place of in-state professional sports teams, many Delawareans follow either Philadelphia or Baltimore teams, depending on their location within the state, with Philadelphia teams receiving the largest fan following, though before the Baltimore Ravens entered the NFL, the Washington Redskins had a significant fan base in Sussex County and the Baltimore Colts had a significant fan base in northern counties. In addition, the University of Delaware's football team has a loyal following throughout the state, with Delaware State University's team enjoying popularity on a much lesser scale.
Delaware is home to Dover International Speedway and Dover Downs. DIS, also known as the Monster Mile, hosts two NASCAR races each year. Dover Downs is a popular harness racing facility. In what may be the only co-located horse and car-racing facility in the nation, the Dover Downs track is located inside the DIS track.
Delaware has been home to professional wrestling outfit CZW, particularly the annual Tournament of Death, and ECWA, particularly the annual Super 8 Tournament.
Delaware is home to the Diamond State Games, an amateur Olympic-style sports festival. The event is open to athletes of all ages and is also open to residents beyond the borders of Delaware. The Diamond State Games were created in 2001 and participation levels average roughly 2500 per year in 12 contested sports.

Delaware Native Americans

Delaware is also the name of a Native American group (called in their own name Lenni Lenape) that was very influential in the dawning days of the United States. A band of the Nanticoke tribe of Indians still remains in Sussex County.


  • Several ships have been named USS Delaware in honor of this state.

See also


External links

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Delaware in Old English (ca. 450-1100): Delaware
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Delaware in Dimli: Delaware
Delaware in Samogitian: Delavers
Delaware in Chinese: 特拉华州
Delaware in Slovak: Delaware (štát USA)
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