What does the name "Hoosier" mean?
The word "Hoosier" has been associated with the state of Indiana and its inhabitants
since the 1830s. Although the origin of the word is still up for
debate, there is no shortage of theories.
According to the Indiana
Historical Bureau, the term gained popularity in the state
after the Indianapolis Journal published "The
Hoosier's Nest"—a poem by John Finley, of Virginia—in 1833. Written
uses of the word date back at least as far as 1827; how long it was
used orally before then is unknown.
One popular theory about the word's origin is that when
Indiana's first settlers responded to a knock on their cabin door they
would say "Who's yere?" And from that Indiana became the "Who's yere
State" or "Hoosier State."
The Indiana Historical Bureau states that
...by all odds the most serious student of the matter was
Jacob Piatt Dunn, Jr., Indiana historian and longtime secretary of
the Indiana Historical Society. Dunn noted that "hoosier" was
frequently used in many parts of the South in the 19th century for
woodsmen or rough hill people. He traced the word back to "hoozer,"
in the Cumberland dialect of England. This derives from the
Anglo-Saxon word "hoo" meaning high or hill. In the Cumberland
dialect, the word "hoozer" meant anything unusually large,
presumably like a hill. It is not hard to see how this word was
attached to a hill dweller or highlander. Immigrants from
Cumberland, England, settled in the southern mountains (Cumberland
Mountains, Cumberland River, Cumberland Gap, etc.). Their
descendents brought the name with them when they settled in the
hills of southern Indiana.
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