Origins of US State Names

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The 50 states in the United States have taken there names from a wide range of languages and cultures throughout the world.  Of these names many are from indigenous words and some are named in honor of a King, Queen, or Duke from the old world. A few states meaning are entirely unknown and one may have even been a practical joke.

To find the Origins of the each state's name simply use the Map and click on any state or scroll below to see an alphabetical list of US States.



Alabama State Info Alabama ~ From Alabama River by early European explorers and named "Alibamu" after the local Indian tribe

Alaska State Info Alaska ~ Corruption of Aleut word meaning “great land” or “that which the sea breaks against”

Arizona State Info Arizona ~ Uncertain. Perhaps from the O'odham Indian word for “little spring”

Arkansas State Info Arkansas ~ From the Quapaw Indians

California State Info California ~ From a book, Las Sergas de Esplandián by Garcia Ordóñez de Montalvo

Colorado State Info Colorado ~ From the Spanish, “ruddy” or “red”

Connecticut State Info Connecticut ~ From an Indian word (Quinnehtukqut) meaning “beside the long tidal river”

Delaware State Info Delaware ~ From Delaware River and Bay; named in turn for Sir Thomas West, Baron De La Warr

Florida State Info Florida ~ From the Spanish Pascua Florida, meaning “feast of flowers”

Georgia State Info Georgia ~ In honor of George II of England

Hawaii State Info 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 State Info Idaho ~ An invented name which the meaning is unknown. (Practical Joke Possibly)

Illinois State Info Illinois ~ Algonquin for “tribe of superior men”

Indiana State Info Indiana ~ Meaning “land of Indians”

Iowa State Info Iowa ~ From the Iowa River which was named after the Ioway Indian tribe

Kansas State Info Kansas ~ From a Sioux word meaning “people of the south wind”

Kentucky State Info Kentucky ~ From an Iroquoian word “Ken-tah-ten” meaning “land of tomorrow”

Louisiana State Info Louisiana ~ In honor of Louis XIV of France

Maine State Info 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 State Info Maryland ~ In honor of Henrietta Maria (queen of Charles I of England)

Massachusetts State Info Massachusetts ~ From Massachusett tribe of Native Americans, meaning “at or about the great hill”

Michigan State Info Michigan ~ From Indian word “Michigana” meaning “great or large lake”

Minnesota State Info Minnesota ~ From a Dakota Indian word meaning “sky-tinted water”

Mississippi State Info Mississippi ~ From an Indian word meaning “Father of Waters”

Missouri State Info Missouri ~ Named after the Missouri Indian tribe. “Missouri” means “town of the large canoes.”

Montana State Info Montana ~ From the Spanish word meaning “mountain.”

Nebraska State Info Nebraska ~ From an Oto Indian word meaning “flat water”

Nevada State Info Nevada ~ Spanish Translation: “snowcapped”

New Hampshire State Info New Hampshire ~ From the English county of Hampshire

New Jersey State Info New Jersey ~ From the Channel Isle of Jersey

New Mexico State Info New Mexico ~ From Mexico, “place of Mexitli,” an Aztec god or leader

New York State Info New York ~ In honor of the Duke of York

North Carolina State Info North Carolina ~ In honor of Charles I of England

North Dakota State Info North Dakota ~ From the Sioux tribe, meaning “allies”

Ohio State Info Ohio ~ From an Iroquoian word meaning “great river”

Oklahoma State Info Oklahoma ~ From two Choctaw Indian words meaning “red people”

Oregon State Info 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 State Info Pennsylvania ~ In honor of Adm. Sir William Penn, father of William Penn. It means “Penn's Woodland.”

Rhode Island State Info Rhode Island ~ From the Greek Island of Rhodes

South Carolina State Info South Carolina ~ In honor of Charles I of England

South Dakota State Info South Dakota ~ From the Sioux tribe, meaning “allies”

Tennessee State Info Tennessee ~ Of Cherokee origin; the meaning is unknown

Texas State Info Texas ~ From an Indian word meaning “friends”

Utah State Info Utah ~ From the Ute tribe, meaning “people of the mountains”

Vermont State Info Vermont ~ From the French “vert mont,” meaning “green mountain”

Virginia State Info Virginia ~ In honor of Elizabeth “Virgin Queen” of England

Washington State Info Washington ~ In honor of George Washington

West Virginia State Info West Virginia ~ In honor of Elizabeth, “Virgin Queen” of England

Wisconsin State Info Wisconsin ~ French corruption of an Indian word whose meaning is disputed

Wyoming State Info Wyoming ~ From the Delaware Indian word, meaning “mountains and valleys alternating”