Raleigh is known as the "City of Oaks" for its many oak trees, which line the streets in the heart of the city. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, its 2012 estimated population was 423,179, over an area of 142.8 square miles, making Raleigh the 42nd most populous city in the United States. It is also one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. The city of Raleigh is named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who established the lost Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island in present-day Dare County, North Carolina.
Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University and is part of the Research Triangle area, together with Durham (home of Duke University) and Chapel Hill (home of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The "Triangle" nickname originated after the 1959 creation of the Research Triangle Park, located in Durham County partway between the three cities and their universities. The Research Triangle region encompasses the U.S. Census Bureau's Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area (CSA), which had an estimated population of 1,998,808 in 2012. The Raleigh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) had an estimated population of 1,188,564 in 2012.
Most of Raleigh is located within Wake County, with a very small portion extending into Durham County. The towns of Cary, Morrisville, Garner, Clayton, Wake Forest, Apex, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Knightdale, Wendell, Zebulon, and Rolesville are some of Raleigh's primary nearby suburbs and satellite towns.
Raleigh is an early example in the United States of a planned city, chosen as the site of the state capital in 1788 and incorporated in 1792. The city was originally laid out in a grid pattern with the North Carolina State Capitol in Union Square at the center.