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Here Are The Meanings Behind All 50 State Names

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Here's your chance to admit without being embarrassed if you have absolutely no idea what your state's name means.

It's a funny thing, but you can live somewhere your whole life and never think to ask what its name means. Or maybe you have the wrong idea, and get a shock when you learn where the name really comes from.

Check your state to find out what you've been missing all these years!


"Alabama" originally referred to the native people who lived along what we call the Alabama River today. The exact meaning of the name isn't clear, but it's something close to "herb gatherers" or "clearers of thickets."

There's a popular claim that it means "here we rest," but this was actually invented by a newspaper in the 1840s.


The name Alaska was first given to the territory by Russians, but taken from a native language (it's unclear which one). The word means "mainland," or "object to which the action of the sea is directed" if you want to be literal.


A native word for "small spring," alĭ ṣonak morphed into Arissona over time as Spanish settlers moved in. Some still believe it could be from the Basque phrase aritz ona, or "the good oak."


Ever wonder why this is pronounced differently than Kansas? That state takes its name from the Kansa tribe, while the native word akakaze gave Arkansas its name. There's still a mystery: was it the Quapaw meaning of akakaze, "land of the downriver people," or the Sioux meaning, "people of the south wind?" We're still trying to sort that out.


In 1510 Spanish writer Garci Rodriquez de Montalvo wrote a fantasy-adventure story called Las Sergas de Esplandián, about a faraway land ruled by a queen named Calafia (based on the word caliph, a kind of Muslim religious leader). The idea of the distant island of California, full of gold and monsters, became common, so when Spanish explorers thought California was an island they gave it that name.

California was believed to be an island until the 1700s.Wikimedia


Spanish settlers used the word colorado - "red colored" - to describe the territory and name locations in this state, including Colorado City and the Colorado River.


Connecticut means "long tidal river" in the Algonquian language, who originally called the territory "Quinnehtukqut."


This state is named for the Baron de la Warr, the original governor of the colony of Virginia and the governor-general of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America.

Baron de la


Florida was discovered during the Easter season by Spanish explorers. If you know your Spanish you might be wondering why it's not called pascua, the word we normally use for Easter. Pascua means both Easter and Christmas, so to avoid confusion they picked Florida ("flowering") instead.


Georgia was named for King George II of Great Britain, but also in honor of Saint George, the patron saint of England. The name George comes from the Greek word georgos, for "farmer."

Click to the next page for more state name origins!

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