The origin of all state names is a study in history and diversity. These names reflect the geography of a region or the makeup of the population in a specific area. All 50 states have colorful histories and were named in a different manner. They all have a backstory that distinguishes fact from myth regarding the origin of their names. Each state has its own unique characteristics, many of which served as a basis for its name when it was founded. Of the 50 states, the most were named for the Native American people who inhabited the region at the time. Some were named for European monarchs, others for famous people in America and some for Spanish and European explorers who were the first to visit America.
Native American influence in America
Of the 50 United States, many were named for Native American tribes. The southern state of Alabama was so named because of the tribal word Albaamaha which means, “plant gathers” be they practiced agriculture. Alabama is the anglicized word for the state.
The Illinois people named Arkansas because it was located in an area inhabited by Native Americans known as arkansa, which meant “people of the south wind”.
The Aleuts’ named Alaska from the word alaxsxaq, which means “the object toward the action of the sea”.
The Native American word alionag means, “having a little spring” and was anglicized as Arizona.
The Native American words kali forn means high hill and became the basis for the name California.
The Mohegans were the native people of what became Connecticut, which was named quinnitukqut, which means “a long river place”. It was so named because it is on the Connecticut River.
Other states named by Native American tribes include:
-Massachusetts – Masachusette
-Michigan – Ojibwa
-Minnesota – Dakota
-Missouri – Illinois
-New Mexico -Aztecs
-Ohio – Shawnee
-Nebraska – Otoe
-North and South Dakota – Sioux
-Oklahoma – Choctaw
-Oregon – Shoshone
-Wisconsin – Chippewa
-Texas – Hasaini
-Wyoming – Lenape Munsee
-Tennessee – Cherokee
-Mississippi – Ojibwa
-Utah – Utes
-Idaho – Shoshone
States named for famous people
States were named for famous people of the day including European monarchs, Spanish explorers, and the president of the United States. Washington state and Washington DC were both named for George Washington.
The origin of the names of other states include:
-Virginia and West Virginia – Queen Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen
-Delaware – Sir Thomas West, the Baron De La Warr, governor
-North and South Carolina – King Charles II, the Latin word is Carolus
-Rhode Island – Roodt Eyland – Dutch Exlorer
-New York – Once called New Amsterdam it was later changed to honor the Duke of York
-New Jersey -James, Duke of York, brother of King George II
-Louisiana – King Louis XIV
-New Hampshire – Hampshire County in England
-Maine – Comes from a French word meaning mainland.
-Vermont – French explorer Samuel de Champlain
-Florida – Ponce de Leon, an explorer
-Georgia – King George II of Great Britain
-Maryland – Maria Henrietta of France, wife of Charles I of England
-Montana – The name was chosen by J.M. Ashley and taken from the Spanish word “monta” which means mountains
-Nevada- The name was taken from Sierra Nevada. Nevada means snow cover
-Pennsylvania – Named in honor of William Penn from England
-Hawaii – The islands were discovered by Captain James Cook, but named for a mythical character named Hawaiiloa