Origin of State Names

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff
Alabama From the Alabama or Alibamu people, though the river was named first. Alabama comes from the Choctaw for "vegetation pickers," in reference to local farming practices.
Alaska A corruption of the Aleut word for "mainland", alaxsxaq (lit. "that which the sea breaks against").
Arizona Likely from an O'odham phrase meaning "little spring," in reference to a particular mining area.
Arkansas Likely from a French version of the Illinois name for the local Quapaw people.
California From an adventure book, Las Sergas de Esplandián, by Garcia Ordóñez de Montalvo, c. 1500
Colorado From the Spanish for "ruddy" or "red" (lit. "colored") in reference to color of the Colorado River.
Connecticut From an Algonquian word (Quinnehtukqut) meaning "beside the long tidal river"
Delaware From Delaware River and Bay; named in turn for Sir Thomas West, Baron De La Warr
Florida From the Spanish Pascua Florida, meaning "feast of flowers" (Easter)
Georgia In honor of George II of England
Hawaii Uncertain. The islands may have been named by Hawaii Loa, their traditional discoverer. Or they may have been named after Hawaii or Hawaiki, the traditional home of the Polynesians.
Idaho An invented name whose meaning is unknown. The man who named it claimed it was from a Shoshone word, but later said it was made up.
Illinois French version of an Algonquian word referring either to "men" in general, or a particular group known as the Illinois. 
Indiana Meaning "land of Indians" using a traditional Latin suffix.
Iowa From the Iowa River which was named after the Ioway, or Báxoǰe.
Kansas From a local word—used by the Dakota, Omaha, Kaw, and others—meaning "people of the south wind."
Kentucky From an Iroquoian word "Ken-tah-ten" meaning "land of tomorrow"
Louisiana In honor of Louis XIV of France
Maine First used to distinguish the mainland from the offshore islands. It has been considered a compliment to Henrietta Maria, queen of Charles I of England. She was said to have owned the province of Mayne in France.
Maryland In honor of Henrietta Maria (queen of Charles I of England)
Massachusetts From the Massachusett people, whose endonym means "people of the great hills"
Michigan From an Ojibwe word, "mishigamaa" meaning "great or large lake"
Minnesota From a Dakota word meaning "sky-tinted water"
Mississippi From the French rendering of an Anishinaabe name for the river—"Misi-ziibi" meaning "Great River."
Missouri Named after the local Missouri people. "Missouri" means "town of the large canoes."
Montana From the Spanish montaña, meaning "mountain"
Nebraska From an Oto word meaning "flat water."
Nevada Spanish for "snowy" or "snow-capped," in reference to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
New Hampshire From the English county of Hampshire
New Jersey From the Channel Isle of Jersey
New Mexico From Mexico, itself named for the Mexica people. Their endonym is believed to reference Mexitli, a Nahua deity.
New York In honor of the Duke of York
North Carolina In honor of Charles I of England
North Dakota From the Dakota peoples. 
Ohio From a Seneca word meaning "great river"
Oklahoma From the Choctaw words for "red people," reportedly named by a Choctaw leader following the Trail of Tears.
Oregon Unknown. However, it is generally accepted that the name, first used by Jonathan Carver in 1778, was taken from the writings of Maj. Robert Rogers, an English army officer.
Pennsylvania In honor of Adm. Sir William Penn, father of William Penn. It means "Penn's Woodland"
Rhode Island From the Greek Island of Rhodes
South Carolina In honor of Charles I of England
South Dakota From the Dakota peoples. 
Tennessee The origin of the name is unknown, though it possibly comes from a Cherokee rendering of a Yuchi word.
Texas From a Caddo word meaning "allies," used by the Spanish to describe the Caddo and the region they lived in. 
Utah From the Ute people, meaning "people of the mountains"
Vermont From the French "vert mont" meaning "green mountain"
Virginia In honor of Elizabeth "Virgin Queen" of England
Washington In honor of George Washington
West Virginia In honor of Elizabeth, "Virgin Queen" of England
Wisconsin French corruption of, possibly, a Miami word meaning "it lies red" in reference to the bed of the Wisconsin River.
Wyoming Competing interpretations place it as from a Delaware word, a Munsee word, or an Algonquian word. THe most popular holds that it is from a Delaware word for "mountains and valleys alternating"; the same as the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania


State Nicknames States Names of State Residents


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