Travel Blog

Etymology of the USA States

Have you ever wondered how some of the States in America came about their names? Of course you would have because I wondered and mused over names like Alabama, Idaho and even Rhodes Island to mention a few out of the whole lot. The most intriguing about these names is that they follow no single pattern. Some of these States have names that sound so British or that they have British origins e. g New York whereas some sound like the names were lifted out of a scene from Poker hunters. And worse still there are some names you cannot even place anywhere in this world; alas, those names were sent right from space.

The origins of the names could sometimes be mind-blogging as they were to me but some of these states have very straightforward origins a very typical example is the state of Washington which was named after the first president of the United States, President George Washington. Much later Washington DC, the capital of the US was also named after this notable icon. Travel all around US states and book ​cheap domestic flights with ​Mobissimo Trave​l​ Search Engine.

Alabama - (language of origin: Choctaw) - albah amo, which means "thicket-clearers" or "plant-cutters", from albah, "(medicinal) plants", and amo, "to clear". The modern Choctaw name for the tribe is Albaamu.

Alaska - (language of origin: Aleut via Russian) - alaxsxaq via Аляска, which means "mainland" (literally "the object towards which the action of the sea is directed").

Arizona - (languages of origin: Basque, O'odham via Spanish and Spanish) - ali ṣona-g via Arizonac, which means "having a little spring"; zonas áridas, which means "arid zones"; aritz ona, which means "the good oak".

Arkansas - (language of origin: Kansa, via Illinois and French) – akaansa, the word of origin was borrowed from a French spelling of an Illinois rendering of the tribal name kką:ze (see Kansas, below), which the Miami and Illinois used to refer to the Quapaw.

California - (language of origin: Spanish) – it was probably named for the fictional Island of California ruled by Queen Calafia in the 16th century novel Las sergas de Esplandián by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. Search for ​Cheap flights to California cities.

Colorado - (language of origin: Spanish) - colorado, which means "ruddy", or "red", originally referring to the Colorado River.

Connecticut - (language of origin: Eastern Algonquian) - quinnitukqut, which means from some Eastern Algonquian language of southern New England (perhaps Mahican), meaning "at the long tidal river", after the Connecticut River. The name reflects Proto-Eastern-Algonquian *kwən-, "long"; *-əhtəkw, "tidal river"; and *-ənk, the locative suffix).

Delaware - (language of origin: Eastern Algonquian) - de la Warr. After the Delaware River, which was named for Lord de la Warr (originally probably Norman French de la guerre or de la werre, "of the war"). Lord de la Warr was the first Governor-General of Jamestown.

Florida - (language of origin: Spanish) - (pascua) florida, which means "flowery (Easter) (to distinguish it from Christmastide which was also called Pascua), in honor of its discovery by the Spanish during the Easter season. Compare the state name with the English word "florid". Search for ​Cheap flights to Florida.

Georgia - (language of origin: Latin via English, ultimately from Greek) - Georgos. The feminine Latin form of "George", named after King George II of Great Britain. It was also a reference to Saint George, whose name meant in Greek "husbandman" "farmer" from ge "earth" + ergon "work".

Hawaii - (language of origin: Hawaiian) - Hawaiʻi. From Hawaiki, means legendary homeland of the Polynesians. Hawaiki is believed to mean "place of the gods". And also named for Hawaiʻiloa, legendary discoverer of the Hawaiian Islands.

Idaho - (languages of origin: English and Plains Apache) - ídaahę́, which means "enemy" from the Plains Apache and I-dah-hoe, probably made up by George M. "Doc" Willing as a practical joke; originally claimed to have been derived from a word in a Native American language that meant "Gem of the Mountains". The name was initially proposed for the state of Colorado until its origins were discovered. Years later it fell into common usage, and was proposed for the state it now names. Search for ​Cheap flights to Hawaii cities.

Illinois - (language of origin: Algonquian via French) - cf. Miami ilenweewa, Old Ottawa <ilinoüek>, Proto-Algonquian *elen-, "ordinary" and -we, "to speak"), referring to the Illiniwek (Illinois). The state is named for the French adaptation of an Algonquian language (perhaps Miami) word apparently meaning "speaks normally".

Indiana - (language of origin: Latin, ultimately from Proto-Indo-Iranian) - "Land of the Indians". The names Indians and India come, via Greek and Persian, from Proto-Indo-Iranian *sindhu-, which originally referred to the Indus River.

Iowa - (language of origin: Dakota via French) - ayúxba/ayuxwevia Aiouez, named after the Iowa tribe. The name seems to have no further known etymology, though some give it the meaning "sleepy ones".

Kansas - (language of origin: Kansa via French) - kką:ze via Cansez, named after the Kansas River, which in turn was named after the Kaw or Kansas tribe. The name seems to be connected to the idea of "wind".

Kentucky - (language of origin: Iroquoian) - Mohawk kenhtà:ke, Seneca gëdá’geh (phonemic /kẽtaʔkeh/), "at the field", originally referring to the Kentucky River. While some sources say the etymology is uncertain, most agree on a meaning of "(on) the meadow" or "(on) the prairie".

Louisiana - (language of origin: French, ultimately from Frankish) - Louisiane, named after King Louis XIV of France. The name Louis came itself from Frankish hluda "heard of, famous" (cf. loud) + wiga "war".

Maine - (languages of origin: English, French) - a common historical etymology is that the state's name refers to the mainland, as opposed to the coastal islands and a more recent proposal is that the state was named after the English village of Broadmayne which was the family estate of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the colony's founder.

Maryland - (language of origin: English, ultimately from Hebrew) - Miryam named after Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I of England. The name Mary originally meant in Hebrew "bitterness" or "rebelliousness", and could also have come from Egyptian "beloved" or "love".

Massachusetts - (language of origin: Algonquian) - plural of "Massachusett" meaning "Near the great little-mountain", or "at the great hill", usually identified as Great Blue Hill on the border of Milton and Canton, Massachusetts (cf. the Narragansett name Massachusêuck).

Michigan - (language of origin: Ojibwe via French) - mishigami, in Old Algonquin, *meshi-gami, which means "Large water" or "large lake".

Minnesota - (language of origin: Dakota) - mnisota, which means "Cloudy water", referring to the Minnesota River.

Mississippi - (language of origin: Ojibwe via French) - misi-ziibi, was named after the Mississippi River "Great river".

Missouri - (language of origin: Illinois) - mihsoori, which means "Dugout canoe". The Missouri tribe was noteworthy among the Illinois for their dugout canoes, and so was referred to as the wimihsoorita, "one who has a wood boat [dugout canoe]".

Montana - (language of origin: Spanish) - montaña, which means “Mountain”.

Nebraska - (language of origin: Chiwere) - ñįbraske, which means "flattened water" and named after the Platte River, which used to be known as the Nebraska River, due to the flatness of the plains, when the river would flood, it would blanket the region.

New Hampshire - (language of origin: English) - named after the county of Hampshire in England.

New Jersey - (language of origin: French, ultimately from Old Norse) - named after Jersey (the largest of the British Channel Islands), birthplace of one of the colony's two co-founders, Sir George de Carteret. The state was established under the name of New Caeserea or New Jersey because the Roman name of the island was thought to have been Caesarea. The name "Jersey" most likely comes from the Norse name Geirrs ey meaning "Geirr's Island".

New Mexico - (language of origin: Nahuatl via Spanish) - Mēxihco via Nuevo México, a calque of Spanish Nuevo México. The name Mexico comes from Nahuatl Mēxica, the Aztec people who founded the city of Tenochtitlan (pronounced /meːˈʃiʔko/). Its literal meaning is unknown, though many possibilities have been proposed such as that the name comes from the God Metztli, or that it means "navel of the moon".

New York - (language of origin: English) - named after the then Duke of York (later King James II of England). Named by then King Charles II of England, James II's brother. The name "York" is derived from its Latin name Eboracum (via Old English Eoforwic and then Old Norse Jórvík), apparently borrowed from Brythonic Celtic *eborakon, which probably meant "Yew-Tree Estate". Search for ​Cheap flights to New York state.

North Carolina - (language of origin: Latin via English, ultimately from Frankish) - Carolus via Carolana, named after King Charles I of England. The name Charles came itself from Frankish karl "man, husband".

North Dakota - (language of origin: Sioux) - dakhóta, which means "Ally" or "friend", named after the Dakota tribe.

Ohio - (language of origin: Seneca via French) - ohi:yo’, which means "Large creek", originally the name of both the Ohio River and Allegheny River. Often incorrectly translated as "beautiful river", due to a French mistranslation.

Oklahoma - (language of origin: Choctaw) - okla + homa, devised as a rough translation of "Indian Territory"; in Choctaw, okla means "people", "tribe", or "nation", and homa- means "red", thus: "Red people".

Oregon - (language of origin: Connecticut Pidgin Algonquian) - wauregan, which means "Beautiful". First named by Major Robert Rogers in a petition to King George III.

Pennsylvania - (languages of origin: Welsh and Latin) - Penn + silvania, which means "Penn's woods", named after Admiral William Penn. The name "Penn" comes from Pennaeth which is the Welsh word for "head".

Rhode Island - (languages of origin: Dutch and Greek) - roodt eylandt, which means "Red island", referring to Aquidneck Island. The Modern Dutch form of the phrase is "rood eiland". And ῾Ρόδος named after a resemblance to the island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea.

South Carolina - (language of origin: Latin via English, ultimately from Frankish) - Carolus via Carolana, named after After King Charles I of England. The name Charles came itself from Frankish karl "man, husband".

South Dakota - (language of origin: Sioux) - dakhót, which means "Ally" or "friend". See North Dakota, above.

Tennessee - (language of origin: Cherokee) - tanasi, (in Cherokee: ᏔᎾᏏ) was the name of a Cherokee village; the meaning is unknown.

Texas - (language of origin: Caddo via Spanish) - táysha via Tejas, which means "Friend", used by the Caddo to refer the larger Caddo nation (in opposition to enemy tribes). The name was borrowed into Spanish astexa, plural texas, and used to refer to the Caddo Nation.

Utah - (language of origin: Western Apache via Spanish) - yúdah via yut, From the Spanish designation for the Ute people, yuta, in turn perhaps a borrowing from Western Apache yúdah meaning "high" (not, as is commonly stated, "people of the mountains" and not from the Ute's own self-designation [nutʃi̥] (plural [nuːtʃiu]), as suggested by J. P. Harrington).

Vermont - (language of origin: French) - vert + mont, which means "Green mount" or "Green mountain"; vert in French means "green", and mont means "mount" or "mountain".

Virginia - (language of origin: Latin) - "Country of the Virgin", after Elizabeth I of England, who was known as the "Virgin Queen" because she never married.

Washington - (language of origin: English) - named after George Washington.

West Virginia - (language of origin: Latin) - The western, transmontane, counties of Virginia; separated from Virginia during Civil War; see Virginia, above.

Wisconsin - (language of origin: Miami via French) - Wishkonsing, originally spelled Mescousing by the French, and later corrupted to Ouisconsin. Likely it derives from a Miami word Meskonsing meaning "it lies red" It may also come from the Ojibwe term miskwasiniing, "red-stone place".

Wyoming - (language of origin: Munsee Delaware) - xwé:wamənk, which means "at the big river flat"; the name was transplanted westward from the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania.

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