How Did Some of the U.S. States Receive Their Names?


Quick Answer

Many states in the United States have names derived from Native American words. Others have names that harken back to their British colonial masters. Still others have names that derive from words in other languages, and some names have more than one source.

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Full Answer

Hawaii is a state whose name does not derive from Native American or English roots but from a Polynesian word that probably means "place of the gods." The state of Idaho's name might have two sources. In one instance, the name was invented by George "Doc" Willing as a joke. In another instance, it derives from the Plains Apache word for enemy, ídaahę́. This was the name the Apaches gave to the Comanches.

Indiana's name comes from the Latin with roots in a proto Indo-Iranian language. It means "land of the Indians." Arizona's name comes from a Basque word that means "good oak," an O'odham via Spanish word that means "having a little spring," and a Spanish word that means "arid zone." Alaska's name comes from the language of the Aleut people via Russian and means, basically, "mainland."

States named after British Kings and Queens are Virginia and West Virginia, named after Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, Maryland, named after Henrietta Maria, the Queen consort of Charles I and Georgia, named after George II of Great Britain. Louisiana was named after a French King, Louis XIV.

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