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Origin of State Names

AlabamaFrom 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.
AlaskaA corruption of the Aleut word for "mainland", alaxsxaq (lit. "that which the sea breaks against").
ArizonaLikely from an O'odham phrase meaning "little spring," in reference to a particular mining area.
ArkansasLikely from a French version of the Illinois name for the local Quapaw people.
CaliforniaFrom an adventure book, Las Sergas de Esplandián, by Garcia Ordóñez de Montalvo, c. 1500
ColoradoFrom the Spanish for "ruddy" or "red" (lit. "colored") in reference to color of the Colorado River.
ConnecticutFrom an Algonquian word (Quinnehtukqut) meaning "beside the long tidal river"
DelawareFrom Delaware River and Bay; named in turn for Sir Thomas West, Baron De La Warr
FloridaFrom the Spanish Pascua Florida, meaning "feast of flowers" (Easter)
GeorgiaIn honor of George II of England
HawaiiUncertain. 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.
IdahoAn 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.
IllinoisFrench version of an Algonquian word referring either to "men" in general, or a particular group known as the Illinois. 
IndianaMeaning "land of Indians" using a traditional Latin suffix.
IowaFrom the Iowa River which was named after the Ioway, or Báxoǰe.
KansasFrom a local word—used by the Dakota, Omaha, Kaw, and others—meaning "people of the south wind."
KentuckyFrom an Iroquoian word "Ken-tah-ten" meaning "land of tomorrow"
LouisianaIn honor of Louis XIV of France
MaineFirst 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.
MarylandIn honor of Henrietta Maria (queen of Charles I of England)
MassachusettsFrom the Massachusett people, whose endonym means "people of the great hills"
MichiganFrom an Ojibwe word, "mishigamaa" meaning "great or large lake"
MinnesotaFrom a Dakota word meaning "sky-tinted water"
MississippiFrom the French rendering of an Anishinaabe name for the river—"Misi-ziibi" meaning "Great River."
MissouriNamed after the local Missouri people. "Missouri" means "town of the large canoes."
MontanaFrom the Spanish montaña, meaning "mountain"
NebraskaFrom an Oto word meaning "flat water."
NevadaSpanish for "snowy" or "snow-capped," in reference to the peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
New HampshireFrom the English county of Hampshire
New JerseyFrom the Channel Isle of Jersey
New MexicoFrom Mexico, itself named for the Mexica people. Their endonym is believed to reference Mexitli, a Nahua deity.
New YorkIn honor of the Duke of York
North CarolinaIn honor of Charles I of England
North DakotaFrom the Dakota peoples. 
OhioFrom a Seneca word meaning "great river"
OklahomaFrom the Choctaw words for "red people," reportedly named by a Choctaw leader following the Trail of Tears.
OregonUnknown. 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.
PennsylvaniaIn honor of Adm. Sir William Penn, father of William Penn. It means "Penn's Woodland"
Rhode IslandFrom the Greek Island of Rhodes
South CarolinaIn honor of Charles I of England
South DakotaFrom the Dakota peoples. 
TennesseeThe origin of the name is unknown, though it possibly comes from a Cherokee rendering of a Yuchi word.
TexasFrom a Caddo word meaning "allies," used by the Spanish to describe the Caddo and the region they lived in. 
UtahFrom the Ute people, meaning "people of the mountains"
VermontFrom the French "vert mont" meaning "green mountain"
VirginiaIn honor of Elizabeth "Virgin Queen" of England
WashingtonIn honor of George Washington
West VirginiaIn honor of Elizabeth, "Virgin Queen" of England
WisconsinFrench corruption of, possibly, a Miami word meaning "it lies red" in reference to the bed of the Wisconsin River.
WyomingCompeting 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

 

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