The study of quasi-states has been marred by an unfortunate terminological confusion. Sometimes, this term is taken to mean recognized states that fail to develop the necessary state structures to function as fully fledged, ‘real’ states. At other times, ‘quasi-states’ is a designation given to regions that secede from another state, gain de facto control over the territory they lay claim to, but fail to achieve international recognition. The author proposes that, in order to clear up this confusion, recognized but ineffectual states ought to be referred as ‘failed states’, while the term ‘quasi-states’ ought to be reserved for unrecognized, de facto states. Since quasi-states are not supported by international recognition, they must be sustained by something else. In contrast to researchers who maintain that the majority of these quasi-states are quite strong, this article argues that their modal tendency is weak economy and weak state structures. The main reasons why these states nevertheless have not collapsed seem to be that they have managed to build up internal support from the local population through propaganda and identity-building; channel a disproportionately large part of their meager resources into military defense; enjoy the support of a strong patron; and, in most cases, have seceded from a state that is itself very weak.