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Do You Know The Meaning Behind Your State's Name?

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Aaron Foster

The origin of your state's name is one of those funny things you could live your whole life without learning.

All 50 of our country's states have a unique story behind their monikers. You may be surprised to learn the meaning of yours.

Alabama

The state takes its name from the American Indian tribes who lived along the Alabama River. The name is believed to combine the Choctaw words for "vegetation" and "picker," so its literal meaning is "vegetation gatherers."

Alaska

This name was given to the Alaskan territory by the Russians. It's taken from an Aleut Indian word, alaxsxaq, meaning "facing the sea" or "where the sea breaks."

Arizona

There are two disputed meanings behind the name Arizona:

It either comes from aritz ona, or "good oak" in Basque, since the state had many Basque settlers.

It could also mean aleh-zon, or "little spring," from the native Papago Indian dialect.

Arkansas

Illinois Indian guides for European settlers called the state's native Quawpaw Indian tribes Akansa, or "wind people."

Pronunciation was up for debate until 1881, when the state legislature settled on "Ar-ken-saw" instead of "Ar-kan-sas."

California

California was originally the name of a fictional island in the West Indies, from a Spanish novel Las Sergas de Esplandián by writer Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo. The magical island was said to be full of gold, so Spanish explorers were probably hopeful they would find some there.

California was mistaken for an island, and later a peninsula, until the 1700s.

Colorado

Colorado is Spanish for red, and named for the color of the Colorado River, which carries red dirt.

Connecticut

Like other states, Connecticut is named after the river that bears its name. The word itself is from Quinnehtukqut, the Algonquian word for "beside the long tidal river."

Delaware

The state and the river that flows through it were both named for Thomas West, Baron of de la Warr. He was the original governor of the colony of Virginia.

Florida

Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon arrived off the coast of Florida just after Easter 1513. Florida is the name for the Easter season in Spanish, but it also means "flowery."

Georgia

The state is named after a colony founded there in the 1733, and named for the then-current King of England, George II.

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