State Name Histories
Robert Culpepper
ED-432





Alabama: The name Alabama is taken from the Alabama River, which was named for the Alabama, or Alibamon, people, who belonged to the Creek Confederacy (a group of Indian tribes lead by the Creek tribe).
Alaska: The name Alaska comes from an Aleut (Native American inhabitants of Alaska) word meaning “mainland.”
Arizona: The name Arizona comes from the Native American word (arizonac) which is believed to mean “place of the small spring.”
Arkansas: The name of Arkansas is taken from the Arkansas River, which was named for the Native Americans of the Arkansa tribe; the 's' was added as a plural, and the French pronunciation was retained."Arkansas."
California: The name California comes from the name of an imaginary island in a popular Spanish romance novel of the 16th century.
Colorado: The name Colorado is from the Colorado River, which was named by Spanish explorers and means “reddish colored.”
Connecticut: The name comes from an Algonquian term probably meaning “place of the long river,” referring to the Connecticut River.
Delaware: The state is named after Delaware Bay and the Delaware River which were both named for Thomas West, 3rd baron De La Warr, the first colonial governor of Virginia.
Florida: Florida was named by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. The name has two possible meanings: 'flowery' from Spanish or 'Pascua florida' meaning Easter week, which was the time of his visit to the area.
Georgia: The state of Georgia is named for George II of England.
Hawaii: The name of the state of Hawaii is from the island of Hawaii and is a Polynesian word or name of unknown meaning.
Idaho: Idaho's name was coined in 1860 by an un-successful candidate for congressional delegate named George M. Willing from the mining region of Pikes Peak. It is not certain what he was referring to but the name stuck.
Illinois: The name Illinois comes from the Illinois, or Illini, Native American Confederation.
Indiana: The name, which refers to Native Americans (Indians), was coined in the 1760s and applied to a private tract of land in Pennsylvania. The name was adopted when Indiana Territory was formed in 1800.
Iowa: 'Iowa' comes from the Iowa River, which is named for the Iowa Indians.
Kansas: The state's name is taken from the Kansas River, which took its name from the Kansa, a Sioux tribe.
Kentucky: The name is from the Kentucky River, which comes from an Iroquoian term for “meadowland.”
Louisiana: The name Louisiana comes from the former French territory lying west of the Mississippi River, which was named Louisiane for King Louis XIV by French explorer Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle.
Maine: The name Maine most likely originated as the term used by English explorers to refer to the mainland; it may also come from the province and region of Maine in northwestern France.
Maryland: Maryland is named for Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I of England.
Massachusetts: The name Massachusetts probably comes from an Algonquian Indian village and may mean “place of big hills.”
Michigan: The state's name is from Lake Michigan, which is derived from an Algonquian term meaning “big water.”
Minnesota: The name is taken from the Minnesota River and is a Sioux phrase meaning "cloudy water".
Mississippi: Mississippi is taken from the Mississippi River, who's name comes from an Algonquian term meaning “big river.”
Missouri: The name is from the Missouri River and is the Algonquian name for a group of Indians that lived near the mouth of the river.
Montana: The name Montana comes from a Spanish word meaning mountainous. It was first given to the territory in 1864.
Nebraska: The name Nebraska comes from a Siouan expression meaning "flat or broad water," referring to the Platte River.
Nevada: The state's name Navada is taken from the Sierra Nevada. Nevada is Spanish for “snow covered.”
New Hampshire: The name New Hampshire is taken from the English county of Hampshire, in southern England.
New Jersey: The state's name is from the Isle of Jersey, in the English Channel, where Sir George Carteret the part owner of the land was born.
New Mexico: The name New Mexico comes from the region being named Nuevo Mexico by a Spanish explorer in the 1560's. The name was translated and given to the U.S. territory when it was organized in 1850.
New York: New York was named in the 1660s for the duke of York, who later became James II of England.
North Carolina: The state of North Carolina is named for Charles I and Charles II of England.
North Dakota: The name of the state is derived from a Sioux term for a member of the Santee branch.
Ohio: The state's name is from the Ohio River, the name of which is from an Iroquoian term for “fine [or good] river.”
Oklahoma: The name of the state is derived from two Choctaw Indian words and means "red people". It was originally proposed by a Choctaw chief in the 1860s.
Oregon: The origin of Oregon's name is in dispute. Many believe it to mean "hurricane" from the French word 'ouragan'. Others believe it to be a Native American name who's meaning has been lost through time.
Pennsylvania: The name was probably coined by Charles II of England. It combines the surname of Admiral William Penn, the father of William Penn, to whom the king granted the colony in 1681, and sylva (Latin, wood).: The state named for Elizabeth I of England, known as the Virgin Queen.
Rhode Island: The name refers to the island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea.
South Carolina: The state of North Carolina is named for Charles I and Charles II of England.
South Dakota: The name Dakota is derived from a Sioux term for a member of the Santee branch of the Sioux Nation.
Tennessee: The state's name is from the Tennessee River, who's name is derived from a Cherokee village near the river.
Texas: The state of Texas's name comes from 'tejas', the mid-16th-century Spanish rendering of a Caddo Native American term meaning "friends". The spelling Texas was adopted when the area was organized as the Republic of Texas in 1836, the year it became independent of Mexico.
Utah: The state of Utah is named for the Ute American Indians of the region.
Vermont: The name Vermont is derived from the French words vert (“green”) and mont (“mountain”).
Washington: The state is named for America's first President, George Washington.
West Virginia: The name West Virginia refers to the state's creation from the western area of Virginia.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin is named for the Wisconsin River, which is derived from the French version of an Ojibwa Indian term that may mean “gathering of the waters” or “place of the beaver.”
Wyoming: The name Wyoming is taken from the Wyoming Valley of northeastern Pennsylvania. It is an English mispronunciation of a Delaware term meaning “place of the big plain.”



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