The name "Virginia" is the oldest designation for English lands in North America. At first the term applied to the entire coast of North America initially claimed by England, from th 34th parallel (near Cape Fear) north to the 48th parallel, thus including all the Shorelines of Acadia, and a large portion of inland Canada. A charter for the settlement of the coast was originally granted to the London Company and Plymouth Company (the two branches of the Virginia Company) in 1606. The first settlements were at Jamestown Settlement in 1607 and at the Popham Colony.
Of the two, only the Jamestown Settlement took root. In 1609, with the abandonment of the Plymouth Company settlement, the Virginia charter was adjusted to include the territory north of the 34th parallel and south of the 39th parallel, with its original coastal grant extended "from sea to sea". In 1620, the portion of Virginia north of the 39th parallel became known as New England.
Until 1763, the colony was bounded on the west by the Appalachian Mountains, which roughly marked the border with New France. After 1763 British territory was extended to the Mississippi River, resulting in extended claims by many of the original coastal colonies. Based on the 1609 "from sea to sea" charter, Virginia laid claim to all new land west of the Appalachians and north of the 36th parallel. This included the present day states of West Virginia and Kentucky, as well as all the land of the Northwest Territory. Most of this land was also claimed by other coastal colonies. Virginia organized the county of Illinois in 1779 to adminster the Northwest Territory. It ceded its claim to the Northwest Territory in 1784. Kentucky was a county of Virginia until it separated and became a state in 1792. West Virginia separated in 1861.
Virginia was one of the Southern Colonies.
Charles II gave Virginia the title of "Old Dominion" in gratitude of Virginia's loyalty to the crown during the English Civil War. During the colonial era, Virginia was known as the Colony and Dominion of Virginia, and maintains "Old Dominion" as its state nickname.
The colony became the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1776.