Origins of State Names (USA)

Origin of State Names

AlabamaFrom Alabama River by early European explorers and named "Alibamu" after the local Indian tribe
AlaskaCorruption of Aleut word meaning “great land” or “that which the sea breaks against”
ArizonaUncertain. Perhaps from the O'odham Indian word for “little spring”
ArkansasFrom the Quapaw Indians
CaliforniaFrom a book, Las Sergas de Esplandián, by Garcia Ordóñez de Montalvo, c. 1500
ColoradoFrom the Spanish, “ruddy” or “red”
ConnecticutFrom an Indian 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.
IllinoisAlgonquin for “tribe of superior men”
IndianaMeaning “land of Indians”
IowaFrom the Iowa River which was named after the Ioway Indian tribe
KansasFrom a Sioux word 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 Massachusett tribe of Native Americans, meaning “at or about the great hill”
MichiganFrom Indian word “Michigana” meaning “great or large lake”
MinnesotaFrom a Dakota Indian word meaning “sky-tinted water”
MississippiFrom an Indian word meaning “Father of Waters”
MissouriNamed after the Missouri Indian tribe. “Missouri” means “town of the large canoes.”
MontanaFrom the Spanish word meaning “mountain.”
NebraskaFrom an Oto Indian word meaning “flat water”
NevadaSpanish: “snowcapped”
New HampshireFrom the English county of Hampshire
New JerseyFrom the Channel Isle of Jersey
New MexicoFrom Mexico, “place of Mexitli,” an Aztec god or leader
New YorkIn honor of the Duke of York
North CarolinaIn honor of Charles I of England
North DakotaFrom the Sioux tribe, meaning “allies”
OhioFrom an Iroquoian word meaning “great river”
OklahomaFrom two Choctaw Indian words meaning “red people”
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 Sioux tribe, meaning “allies”
TennesseeOf Cherokee origin; the exact meaning is unknown
TexasFrom an Indian word meaning “friends”
UtahFrom the Ute tribe, 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 an Indian word whose meaning is disputed
WyomingFrom the Delaware Indian word, meaning “mountains and valleys alternating”; the same as the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania

Read more: Origin of State Names