San Mateo County is included in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is part of the San Francisco Bay Area, the nine counties bordering San Francisco Bay. It covers most of the San Francisco Peninsula. San Francisco International Airport is located at the northern end of the county, and Silicon Valley begins at the southern end. The county's built-up areas are mostly suburban with some areas being very urban, and are home to several corporate campuses.
San Mateo County was formed in 1856 after San Francisco County, one of the state's 18 original counties since California's statehood in 1850, was split apart. Until 1856, San Francisco's city limits extended west to Divisadero Street and Castro Street, and south to 20th Street. In response to the lawlessness and vigilantism that escalated rapidly between 1855 and 1856, the California government decided to divide the county. A straight line was then drawn across the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula just north of San Bruno Mountain. Everything south of the line became the new San Mateo County while everything north of the line became the new consolidated City and County of San Francisco, to date the only consolidated city-county in California. San Mateo County then annexed part of northern Santa Cruz County in 1868.
San Mateo county bears the Spanish name for Saint Matthew. As a place name, San Mateo appears as early as 1776 and several local geographic features were also designated San Mateo on early maps including variously: a settlement, an arroyo, a headland jutting into the Pacific (Point Montara), and a large land holding (Rancho San Mateo). Until about 1850, the name appeared as San Matheo.