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Merriam defines it generically as:

the chiefly northerly sections of a state

But in their examples, every single one can be traced back to New York. For example:

By 2017, Lopez, after earning her GED and briefly attending college upstate, was living with an aunt in Brooklyn.

If I'm in, say, Duluth, is that "Upstate Minnesota"?

In more general terms --

Did the phrase come about just because Not New York City needed to be differentiated from New York City?

Does the phenomenon apply anywhere else?

For example, almost all of the humans in Nebraska live in the Omaha-Lincoln metro on the extreme eastern side of the state. There are something like eight hours of driving west to Colorado without much in it. I think they refer to that area as "Western Nebraska," which means, essentially, "Not Omaha Or Lincoln."

Is there some name for this "exclusionary reference"?

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  • Wikipedia has entries for Upstate California and Upstate South Carolina. I'm sure minimal research will find other examples: there are plenty Google hits for "Upstate Washington".
    – Stuart F
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 13:22
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    There are 50 states in the United States. Most of them have regions that are denoted as "upstate" or "downstate", though there are local peculiarities. Michigan has "UP" for "Upper Peninsula" instead of generic "upstate". Illinois has "downstate" but no "upstate". Missouri, with large cities on both sides, has "outstate", meaning not in the Kansas City or St. Louis area. And so it goes. Local terminology is, as I keep saying, local. Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 13:56
  • Please see Upstate New York and Downstate New York. Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 13:57
  • @StuartF, while the Wikipedia article on 'upstate California' shows that the phrase is sometimes used, it also shows that it is not at all analogous to upstate New York. It appears only in some highly specialised contexts, and is not a general-purpose, widely understood term for a part of the state.
    – jsw29
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 17:01

2 Answers 2

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In a comment, John Lawler wrote:

There are 50 states in the United States. Most of them have regions that are denoted as "upstate" or "downstate", though there are local peculiarities. Michigan has "UP" for "Upper Peninsula" instead of generic "upstate". Illinois has "downstate" but no "upstate". Missouri, with large cities on both sides, has "outstate", meaning not in the Kansas City or St. Louis area. And so it goes. Local terminology is, as I keep saying, local.

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    It needs to be acknowledged, though, that while upstate applied to a state other than New York, is likely to be used and understood only by those who live in that state or have regular dealings with it; upstate New York is a part of the vocabulary of quite a few people who have no particular connection with the region
    – jsw29
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 16:55
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    Sure. And so is downstate Illinois, meaning not close to Chicago, etc. Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 18:20
  • What I find funny about 'upstate New York' is that people there define it by 'anything north of the Bronx'. That is, there's no sort of neither upstate nor downstate.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 20:05
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If you are in Duluth, you would be outstate. Basically anywhere in Minnesota other than the Twin Cities (aka The Cities) would be considered outstate.

Local discussion of term https://www.city-data.com/forum/minnesota/1216134-outstate-11.html

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