What Were Some of the Origins of the Names of the States in the U.S.?


Quick Answer

Many of the state names in the United States are derived from words in the language of the regional American Indians, or they were derived from the names of the area's first colonizers or the colonizers' sponsors. The first Europeans to land on North American shores often named the land after their kings and queens, or the area's naming was based on a comparison to a place in the Old World homeland. Disagreement regarding the exact meanings of the original American Indian words that became state names is not uncommon.

Continue Reading
What Were Some of the Origins of the Names of the States in the U.S.?
Credit: Jennifer Maravillas Ikon Images Getty Images

Full Answer

In the case of Idaho, the state name source is believed to be a made-up word coined by George M. Willing, a lobbyist who originally claimed it was from the Shoshone American Indian language and that it meant "the sun comes from the mountains." Willing later said that he invented the word in the early 1860s, but many 20th-century textbooks note the origin of the state name as a derivative of a Shoshone word. Other sources have claimed that the word comes from the Apache language and means "enemy."

The exact origin of the name of the northernmost state in the U.S., Maine, remains unknown. It is believed to be derived from the name of the similar sounding French Province. Another theory holds that the state name is derived from the nautical reference for a mainland.

Learn more about United States

Related Questions