Where Did the Names of the 50 States of America Come From? - Owlcation - Education
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Where Did the Names of the 50 States of America Come From?

Darius is a former high school literary and feature writer with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information and Communications Technology.

This map shows a breakdown of all of the states' etymologies.

This map shows a breakdown of all of the states' etymologies.

The Short Answer...

Most of them had Native American roots, along with French and Spanish origins. Below are more explanations behind each state and their names.

etymology

noun

Is the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.

List of Terms that You Should Know, First:

1. Algonquian

The Algonquian are one of the most populous and widespread North American native language groups. Historically, the peoples were prominent along the Atlantic Coast and into the interior along the Saint Lawrence River and around the Great Lakes.

2. Siouan

Siouan languages, also called Siouan-Catawban and Catawba-Siouan, are a family of languages in North America spread primarily across the Great Plains. The Sioux is a large group of Native American tribes that traditionally lived in the Great Plains. Many Sioux tribes were nomadic people who moved from place to place following bison (buffalo) herds.

3. Uto-Aztecan

Uto-Aztecan or Uto-Aztekan is a family of indigenous languages of the Americas, consisting of over 30 languages. Uto-Aztecan languages are found almost entirely in the Western United States and Mexico. It is one of the oldest and largest family of American Indian languages both in terms of extent of distribution (Oregon to Panama) and number of languages and speakers.

4. Hawaiian

The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaiʻi, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the State of Hawaii.

5. Latin

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium.

6. English

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England.

7. French

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages.

The United States of America: Capitals and State Name Etymologies

Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores: Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores is popular with both campers and day-trippers, offering a wide variety of facilities and more than two miles of white, sandy beaches. www.alapark.com/gulf-state-park

Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores: Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores is popular with both campers and day-trippers, offering a wide variety of facilities and more than two miles of white, sandy beaches. www.alapark.com/gulf-state-park

Alabama (AL)

Capital: Montgomery

Alabama is from the Choctaw word albah amo meaning "thicket-clearers" or "plant-cutters. The Choctaw were a tribe of Native American Indians who originated from modern Mexico and the American Southwest to settle in the Mississippi River Valley for about 1800 years. Known for their head-flattening and Green Corn Festival, these people built mounds and lived in a matriarchal society.


Denali National Park: In the northern part of the Alaska Range, Denali National Park is the one of the largest in the United States and encompasses North America's highest mountain. http://www.nps.gov/dena/index.htm

Denali National Park: In the northern part of the Alaska Range, Denali National Park is the one of the largest in the United States and encompasses North America's highest mountain. http://www.nps.gov/dena/index.htm

Alaska (AK)

Capital: Juneau

Alaska is from the Aleut word alaxsxaq and from Russian Аляска, meaning "the object toward which the action of the sea is directed." The Aleuts, who are usually known in the Aleut language, are the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands. Both the Aleut people and the islands are divided between the U.S. state of Alaska and the Russian administrative division of Kamchatka Krai. Three groups of natives lived in Alaska: Eskimos, Aleuts, and Indians. Europeans first discovered Alaska in 1741, when Danish explorer Vitus Bering sighted it on his long voyage from Siberia. The first settlement in Alaska was established by Russian whalers and fur traders on Kodiak Island in 1784.

Grand Canyon: Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon looking out over the endless ridges of colorful cliff walls and deep ravines.

Grand Canyon: Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon looking out over the endless ridges of colorful cliff walls and deep ravines.

Arizona (AZ)

Capital: Pheonix

Arizona is from the O'odham (an Uto-Aztecan language) word ali sona-g via Spanish Arizonac meaning "good oaks." The O'odham are an indigenous Uto-Aztecan peoples of the Sonoran desert in southern and central Arizona and northern Sonora. Sonora, the second largest state in Mexico, is sparsely populated. Mountainous and arid, the region is sunny almost year–round and has little rainfall. Nearly all of Mexico’s copper is produced here.

Buffalo National River: Buffalo National River is a protected area and home to deer, bobcats, and a variety of other wildlife. Photo by OakleyOriginals.

Buffalo National River: Buffalo National River is a protected area and home to deer, bobcats, and a variety of other wildlife. Photo by OakleyOriginals.

Arkansas (AR)

Capital: Little Rock

Arkansas (pronounced as ar-kan-saw) came from the French pronunciation of an Algonquin name for the Quapaw people: akansa. This word, meaning either "downriver people" or “people of the south wind," comes from the Algonquin prefix -a plus the Siouan word kká:ze for a group of tribes including the Quapaw. The Quapaw people are a tribe of Native Americans that coalesced in the Midwest and Ohio Valley.

Hollywood Sign: Although you can’t hike directly to the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, there is a legal trail that allows you to look out over the sign, which dates back to the 1920s when it was used as an advertisement for a real-estate. © Gnaphron

Hollywood Sign: Although you can’t hike directly to the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, there is a legal trail that allows you to look out over the sign, which dates back to the 1920s when it was used as an advertisement for a real-estate. © Gnaphron

California (CA)

Capital: Sacramento

In his popular novel "Las sergas de Esplandián" (The Adventures of Esplandián) is the fifth book in a series of Spanish chivalric romance novels published in 1510, writer Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo named an imaginary realm California. Las Sergas mentions a fictional island named California inhabited only by black women and ruled by Queen Calafia, a pagan warrior queen who ruled over a kingdom of Arabic women. When Spanish explorers (including Francisco de Ulloa) learned of an island (actually a peninsula) off western Mexico rumored to be ruled by Amazon women, they named it California. Where Montalvo learned the name and its meaning remain a mystery.

San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway and the Million Dollar Highway: A spectacular scenic drive stretches from the old mining town of Silverton, to the town of Ouray, along what is called the Million Dollar Highway.

San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway and the Million Dollar Highway: A spectacular scenic drive stretches from the old mining town of Silverton, to the town of Ouray, along what is called the Million Dollar Highway.

Colorado (CO)

Capital: Denver

Colorado is named from the Rio Colorado (Colorado River), which in Spanish means "ruddy" or "reddish." The has been inhabited by Native Americans for more than 13,000 years.

Mystic Seaport: Mystic Seaport recreates a historical seaport village as part of one of the most prominent maritime museums in the United States. Photo by ReefTECK

Mystic Seaport: Mystic Seaport recreates a historical seaport village as part of one of the most prominent maritime museums in the United States. Photo by ReefTECK

Connecticut (CT)

Capital: Hartford

Connecticut is named after the Connecticut River, which stems from Eastern Algonquian, possibly Mohican, quinnitukqut, meaning "at the long tidal river." Originally the Mohicans lived along the banks of the Hudson River, in modern-day New York state. The Connecticut region was inhabited by multiple Indian tribes before European settlement and colonization. The first European explorer in Connecticut was Adriaen Block, a Dutch private trader, privateer, and ship's captain who is best known for exploring the coastal and river valley areas between present-day New Jersey and Massachusetts who explored the region in 1614.

Winterthur Museum and Gardens:  Winterthur is considered America's finest museum of decorative arts. Photo by Peter Bond

Winterthur Museum and Gardens: Winterthur is considered America's finest museum of decorative arts. Photo by Peter Bond

Delaware (DE)

Capital: Dover

Delaware is named after the Delaware Bay that is also named after Baron De la Warr (Thomas West, 1577 – 1618), the first English governor of Virginia. His surname ultimately comes from de la werre, meaning "of the war" in Old French.

There have been two creations of Baron De La Warr, and West came from the second. He was the son of Thomas West, 2nd Baron De La Warr, of Wherwell Abbey in Hampshire and Anne Knollys. He was born at Wherwell, Hampshire, England, and died at sea while travelling from England to the Colony of Virginia. Counting from the original creation of the title, West would be the 12th Baron.

Fort Lauderdale: Located on the Atlantic coast, Fort Lauderdale is known as the “Venice of America” due to its expansive and intricate canal system.

Fort Lauderdale: Located on the Atlantic coast, Fort Lauderdale is known as the “Venice of America” due to its expansive and intricate canal system.

Florida (FL)

Capital: Tallahassee

Florida is from the Spanish Pascua florida meaning "flowering Easter." Spanish explorers discovered the area on Palm Sunday in 1513. Florida was the first region of the continental United States to be visited and settled by Europeans. The earliest known European explorers came with the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León. Ponce de León spotted and landed on the peninsula on April 2, 1513. He named it La Florida in recognition of the verdant landscape and because it was the Easter season, which the Spaniards called Pascua Florida (Festival of Flowers).

The state name also relates to the English word florid, an adjective meaning "strikingly beautiful," from Latin floridus. If it were a country, Florida would be the 16th largest economy in the world and the 58th most populous as of 2018.

Georgia Aquarium: The world's largest aquarium, Georgia Aquarium houses more than 100,000 aquatic animals in more than 10 million gallons of fresh and saltwater

Georgia Aquarium: The world's largest aquarium, Georgia Aquarium houses more than 100,000 aquatic animals in more than 10 million gallons of fresh and saltwater

Georgia (GA)

Capital: Atlanta

Founded in 1733 as a British colony, Georgia was the last and southernmost of the original Thirteen Colonies to be established. Georgia is named after King George II of Great Britain. The King's name originates with Latin Georgius, from Greek Georgos, meaning farmer, from ge (earth) + ergon (work). George II was king of Great Britain and Ireland, duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death in 1760. George is the most recent British monarch born outside Great Britain: he was born and brought up in northern Germany.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu: This neighborhood on the southern shore of Honolulu is known for its high-end resorts, entertainment, shopping, and dining, as well as its gorgeous beaches.

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu: This neighborhood on the southern shore of Honolulu is known for its high-end resorts, entertainment, shopping, and dining, as well as its gorgeous beaches.

Hawaii (HI)

Capital: Honolulu

Hawaii is from the Hawaiian Hawai'i, from Proto-Polynesian hawaiki, thought to mean "place of the Gods." Originally named the Sandwich Islands by James Cook, a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the British Royal Navy, in the late 1700s. He made detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.

Sun Valley: Sun Valley's year-round outdoor recreation and awesome mountain scenery draw visitors from around the world.Getty Images.

Sun Valley: Sun Valley's year-round outdoor recreation and awesome mountain scenery draw visitors from around the world.Getty Images.

Idaho (ID)

Capital: Boise

Idaho, originally applied to the territory now part of eastern Colorado, is named from the Kiowa-Apache (Athabaskan) word idaahe, meaning "enemy," a name given by the Comanches. The name Kiowa may be a variant of their name for themselves, Kai-i-gwu, meaning “principal people.” The Comanche became the dominant tribe on the southern Great Plains in the 18th and 19th centuries. The name Comanche is derived from a Ute word meaning “anyone who wants to fight me all the time.”

Lincoln Home National Historic Site: Abraham Lincoln only owned one home and he lived there with his wife, Mary, for seventeen years. Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Matt Turner.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site: Abraham Lincoln only owned one home and he lived there with his wife, Mary, for seventeen years. Photo Courtesy: Flickr/Matt Turner.

Illinois (IL)

Capital: Springfield

Illinois came from the French spelling ilinwe of the Algonquian's name for themselves Inoca, also written Ilinouek, from Old Ottawa for "ordinary speaker." Illinois has been noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. A microcosm is a community, place, or situation regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristic qualities or features of something much larger.

Illinois is known as the "Land of Lincoln" as Abraham Lincoln spent most of his life there.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln ran against Stephen A. Douglas for the U.S. Senate. Lincoln’s stand against slavery during several debates in Illinois, gave him national attention. He lost the election, but became president of the United States two years later. Six southern states seceded from the Union and the Civil War (1861-1865) began after Lincoln’s inauguration.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and join the Indy Racing Experience Driving Program. You will have drive a real IndyCar series on the actual tracks. Photo Courtesy by Facebook/IndianapolisMotorSpeedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and join the Indy Racing Experience Driving Program. You will have drive a real IndyCar series on the actual tracks. Photo Courtesy by Facebook/IndianapolisMotorSpeedway

Indiana (IN)

Capital: Indianapolis

Indiana is from the English word Indian + -ana, a Latin suffix, roughly meaning "land of the Indians." Thinking they had reached the South Indes, explorers mistakenly called native inhabitants of the Americas Indians. And India comes from the same Latin word, from the same Greek word, meaning "region of the Indus River."

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium: strives to showcase the important role this river and its watershed plays on the environment and people. http://www.rivermuseum.com

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium: strives to showcase the important role this river and its watershed plays on the environment and people. http://www.rivermuseum.com

Iowa (IA)

Capital: Des Moines

Iowa is named after the natives of the Chiwere branch of the Aiouan family, from Dakota ayuxba, meaning "sleepy ones." Chiwere is a Siouan language formerly spoken in parts of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. It was first documented in the 1830s by Christian missionaries. Since then little has been written about the language.

Botanica Wichita Gardens: is one of the top things to do in the city of Wichita. It is a paradise celebrating horticulture that is open year-round. Photo by One Day Closer.

Botanica Wichita Gardens: is one of the top things to do in the city of Wichita. It is a paradise celebrating horticulture that is open year-round. Photo by One Day Closer.

Kansas (KS)

Capital: Topeka

Kansas is named after the Kansa tribe, natively called kká:ze, meaning "people of the south wind." Despite having the same etymological root as Arkansas, Kansas has a different pronunciation (kan-zhus). The Kansa, also spelled Konza or Kanza, also called Kaw Nation, are North American Indians of Siouan linguistic stock who lived along the Kansas and Saline rivers in what is now central Kansas.

The Kentucky Horse Park: located a short drive north of Lexington, allows visitors a chance to see a working horse farm, learn about, and visit with horses. Photo by David Paul Ohmer.

The Kentucky Horse Park: located a short drive north of Lexington, allows visitors a chance to see a working horse farm, learn about, and visit with horses. Photo by David Paul Ohmer.

Kentucky (KY)

Capital: Frankfort

Kentucky is named after the Kentucky River, from Shawnee or Wyandot language, meaning "on the meadow" (also "at the field" in Seneca). The Wyandot people or Wendat, also called the Huron Nation and Huron people, are an Iroquoian-speaking peoples of North America who emerged as a tribe around the north shore of Lake Ontario. The Iroquoian languages are a language family of indigenous peoples of North America. They are known for their general lack of labial consonants.

The Rosedown Plantation: is a State Historic Site known for being one of the most well preserved domestic Southern plantations. Photo by dtroyka via Flickr.

The Rosedown Plantation: is a State Historic Site known for being one of the most well preserved domestic Southern plantations. Photo by dtroyka via Flickr.

Louisiana (LA)

Capital: Baton Rouge

Louisiana is named after Louis XIV of France. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the longest recorded of any monarch of a sovereign country in European history. When René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed the territory for France in 1682, he named it La Louisiane, meaning "Land of Louis." Louis stems from Old French Loois, from Medieval Latin Ludovicus, a changed version of Old High Germany Hluodwig, meaning "famous in war."

  • The Battle of New Orleans, which made Andrew Jackson a national hero, was fought two weeks after the War of 1812 had ended and more than a month before the news of the war's end had reached Louisiana.
  • Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a big celebration with a festival and carnival-like atmosphere. People in colorful costumes dance around the major streets of the city in celebration of the state’s most popular holiday. Aside from Mardi Gras, New Orleans also holds several music festivals including Jazz Fest, a gathering of the world’s best in jazz music.
Acadia National Park: the rugged and beautiful stretch of coastline also surrounds a large inland region of lakes, streams, and forests. https://www.nps.gov/acad

Acadia National Park: the rugged and beautiful stretch of coastline also surrounds a large inland region of lakes, streams, and forests. https://www.nps.gov/acad

Maine (ME)

Capital: Augusta

Maine is of uncertain origins, potentially named for the French province of Maine, named for the river of Gaulish, an extinct Celtic language, origin. During the 1st millennium BC, Celtic languages were spoken across much of Europe and in Asia Minor. Today, they are restricted to the northwestern fringe of Europe and a few diaspora communities. There are four living languages: Welsh, Breton, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. All are minority languages in their respective countries, though there are continuing efforts at revitalisation. Welsh is an official language in Wales and Irish is an official language of Ireland and of the European Union. Welsh is the only Celtic language not classified as endangered by UNESCO.

Antietam National Battlefield: few places illustrate the terrible cost of war like Antietam National Battlefield, scene of the bloodiest day's battle in the Civil War. http://www.nps.gov/ancm/index.htm

Antietam National Battlefield: few places illustrate the terrible cost of war like Antietam National Battlefield, scene of the bloodiest day's battle in the Civil War. http://www.nps.gov/ancm/index.htm

Maryland (MD)

Capital: Annapolis

Maryland was named after Henrietta Maria, wife of English King Charles I. Mary originally comes from Hebrew Miryam, the sister of Moses. Henrietta Maria was the daughter of King Henry IV of France and Marie de Médicis. Throughout her childhood she was surrounded by political intrigue; her father was assassinated six months after her birth, and when she was seven her mother was banished from Paris. In 1625, at the age of 15, she was married to Charles. Like his father, James I, and grandmother Mary, Queen of Scots, Charles I ruled with a heavy hand. His frequent quarrels with Parliament ultimately provoked a civil war that led to his execution on January 30, 1649.

Cape Cod Beaches: is a long, curving peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic, protecting Cape Cod Bay with its northward curve.

Cape Cod Beaches: is a long, curving peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic, protecting Cape Cod Bay with its northward curve.

Massachusetts (MA)

Capital: Boston

Massachusetts is from Algonquian Massachusett, a name for the native people who lived around the bay, meaning "at the large hill," in reference to Great Blue Hill, southwest of Boston.

Alternatively, Massachusett has been represented as Moswetuset—from the name of the Moswetuset Hummock, meaning "hill shaped like an arrowhead", in Quincy, where Plymouth Colony commander Myles Standish, hired English military officer met Chief Chickatawbut in 1621. Chickatawbut was the sachem, or leader, of a large group of indigenous people of what is now eastern Massachusetts, United States known as the Massachusett tribe, during the initial period of English settlement in the region in the early seventeenth century. In 1630 Chickatawbut deeded the land that is now Boston to the Puritans. The Puritans were English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries, who sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and needed to become more protestant.

Isle Royale National Park: this relatively unspoiled tract of country attracts those looking for a remote wilderness experience. www.nps.gov/isro

Isle Royale National Park: this relatively unspoiled tract of country attracts those looking for a remote wilderness experience. www.nps.gov/isro

Michigan (MI)

Capital: Lansing

Michigan is named after Lake Michigan, which stems from a French spelling of Old Ojibwa (Algonquian) meshi-gami, meaning "big lake." The Ojibwe, Ojibwa, Chippewa, or Saulteaux are an Anishinaabe people of Canada and the northern Midwestern United States. They are one of the most numerous indigenous peoples north of the Rio Grande. In Canada, they are the second-largest First Nations population, surpassed only by the Cree.

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory: from tigers, elephants, monkeys, polar bears, and giraffes to birds, fish and insects, you can get up close and personal with all these exotic animals. Photo Courtesy of Facebook/Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Como Park Zoo and Conservatory: from tigers, elephants, monkeys, polar bears, and giraffes to birds, fish and insects, you can get up close and personal with all these exotic animals. Photo Courtesy of Facebook/Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Minnesota (MN)

Capital: Saint Paul

Minnesota is named after the river, from Dakota (Siouan) mnisota, meaning "cloudy water, milky water." Native Americans demonstrated the name to early settlers by dropping milk into water and calling it mnisota. Many places in the state have similar names, such as Minnehaha Falls ("curling water" or waterfall), Minneiska ("white water"), Minneota ("much water"), Minnetonka ("big water"), Minnetrista ("crooked water"), and Minneapolis, a hybrid word combining mni ("water") and polis (Greek for "city").

The Windsor Ruins:  are well and truly off the beaten track, giving visitors a private window into the centuries gone by quite unlike other tourist attractions. Photo source by karenfoleyphotography via Shutterstock.

The Windsor Ruins: are well and truly off the beaten track, giving visitors a private window into the centuries gone by quite unlike other tourist attractions. Photo source by karenfoleyphotography via Shutterstock.

Mississippi (MS)

Capital: Jackson

Mississippi is named after the river, from French variation of Algonquian Ojibwa meshi-ziibi, meaning "big river." On December 10, 1817, Mississippi became the 20th state admitted to the Union. By 1860, Mississippi was the nation's top cotton producing state and enslaved persons accounted for 55% of the state population. Mississippi declared its secession from the Union on March 23, 1861, and was one of the seven original Confederate States. Following the Civil War, it was restored to the Union on February 23, 1870. Until the Great Migration of the 1930s, African Americans were a majority of Mississippi's population. Mississippi was the site of many prominent events during the American Civil Rights movement.

Branson: in southwest Missouri, with no false modesty, calls itself the "Live country music capital of the universe." It draws millions of tourists each year, mainly country music fans. Photo by doug_wertman via Flickr.

Branson: in southwest Missouri, with no false modesty, calls itself the "Live country music capital of the universe." It draws millions of tourists each year, mainly country music fans. Photo by doug_wertman via Flickr.

Missouri (MO)

Capital: Jefferson City

Missouri is named after a group of native peoples among Chiwere (Siouan) tribes, from an Algonquian word, likely wimihsoorita, meaning "people of the big (or wood) canoes." This appears to be folk etymology—the Illinois spoke an Algonquian language and the closest approximation that can be made in that of their close neighbors, the Ojibwe, is "You Ought to Go Downriver & Visit Those People." This would be an odd occurrence, as the French who first explored and attempted to settle the Mississippi River usually got their translations during that time fairly accurate, often giving things French names that were exact translations of the native tongue(s).

Glacier National Park: is an area of spectacular mountain ranges, alpine meadows, thick forests, tall waterfalls, countless sparkling lakes, and numerous glaciers. www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm

Glacier National Park: is an area of spectacular mountain ranges, alpine meadows, thick forests, tall waterfalls, countless sparkling lakes, and numerous glaciers. www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm

Montana (MT)

Capital: Helena

Montana is from the Spanish word montaña, meaning "mountain, which stems from Latin mons, montis. U.S. Rep. James H. Ashley of Ohio proposed the name in 1864. Montaña del Norte was the name given by early Spanish explorers to the entire mountainous region of the west. James Mitchell Ashley was an American politician and abolitionist. A member of the Republican Party, Ashley served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from Ohio during the American Civil War, where he became a leader of the Radical Republicans and pushed for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, ending slavery in the United States.

Strategic Air and Space Museum: with over 300,000 square feet of exhibits, the destination aims to provide interactive, educational and fun exhibits to inspire and sharpen young minds. www.sasmuseum.com

Strategic Air and Space Museum: with over 300,000 square feet of exhibits, the destination aims to provide interactive, educational and fun exhibits to inspire and sharpen young minds. www.sasmuseum.com

Nebraska (NE)

Capital: Lincoln

Nebraska is from a native Siouan name for the Platte River, either Omaha ni braska or Oto ni brathge, both meaning "water flat." The Elephant Hall at the University of Nebraska State Museum features the largest mammoth fossil on display anywhere in the world. The fossils were discovered in Lincoln County in 1922 and have been identified as the remains of a Columbian mammoth. It is also Nebraska’s official state fossil.

Sand Harbor Beach, Lake Tahoe: the sparkling blue water of Lake Tahoe, surrounded by often snow-capped mountains, is one of the most beautiful sites in Nevada.

Sand Harbor Beach, Lake Tahoe: the sparkling blue water of Lake Tahoe, surrounded by often snow-capped mountains, is one of the most beautiful sites in Nevada.

Nevada (NV)

Capital: Carson City

Nevada is named after the western boundary of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, meaning "snowy mountains" in Spanish. You might think of it as the gambling state, but silver ore helped put Nevada on the map. The 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode triggered a silver rush and population boom. Nevada's location and mineral wealth made it an attractive potential Union state during the Civil War. That's why Nevada's also known as the Battle Born State. With fewer than 10 inches of rain per year, Nevada's the driest state in the U.S.

Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and Franconia Notch: the first aerial tramway in North America, the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway carried its first passengers to the 4,080-foot summit high above Franconia Notch in 1938. Photo by Jaine via Flickr.

Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway and Franconia Notch: the first aerial tramway in North America, the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway carried its first passengers to the 4,080-foot summit high above Franconia Notch in 1938. Photo by Jaine via Flickr.

New Hampshire (NH)

Capital: Concord

New Hampshire is named after the county of Hampshire in England, which was named for city of Southampton. Southampton was known in Old English as Hamtun, meaning "village-town." The surrounding area (or scīr) became known as Hamtunscīr. Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England. New Hampshire is nicknamed the Granite State because it has a history of granite mining.

Battleship New Jersey: the US Navy's most decorated vessel, the mammoth New Jersey is now an excellent floating museum moored on the Delaware River. www.battleshipnewjersey.org

Battleship New Jersey: the US Navy's most decorated vessel, the mammoth New Jersey is now an excellent floating museum moored on the Delaware River. www.battleshipnewjersey.org

New Jersey (NJ)

Capital: Trenton

New Jersey is named by one of the state's proprietors, Sir George Carteret, for his home the Channel island of Jersey, a bastardization (change something in such a way as to lower its quality or value, typically by adding new elements) of the Latin word Caesarea, the Roman name for the island. Lord John Berkeley was co-proprietor of New Jersey from 1664 to 1674. In 1665, Berkeley and Sir George Carteret drafted the Concession and Agreement, a proclamation for the structure of the government for the Province of New Jersey. The document also provided freedom of religion in the colony.

Albuquerque Balloon Festival: each autumn, Albuquerque hosts the world's largest hot air balloon festival, drawing crowds of more than 80,000 people. www.balloonfiesta.com

Albuquerque Balloon Festival: each autumn, Albuquerque hosts the world's largest hot air balloon festival, drawing crowds of more than 80,000 people. www.balloonfiesta.com

New Mexico (NM)

Capital: Santa Fe

New Mexico is from the Spanish Nuevo Mexico of Nahuatl (Aztecan) mexihco, the name of the ancient Aztec capital. New Mexico received its name long before the present-day nation of Mexico won independence from Spain and adopted that name in 1821.

Náhuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs and their neighbours, is not a dead language. It is spoken by a million or so people in Mexico today, and there is at least as much Classical Náhuatl committed to writing as Classical Greek. The Aztecs were famous for their agriculture, cultivating all available land, introducing irrigation, draining swamps, and creating artificial islands in the lakes. They developed a form of hieroglyphic writing, a complex calendar system, and built famous pyramids and temples.

The Statue of Liberty: was France's gift to America. Built in 1886, it remains a famous world symbol of freedom and one of the greatest American icons. www.nps.gov/stli/index.htm

The Statue of Liberty: was France's gift to America. Built in 1886, it remains a famous world symbol of freedom and one of the greatest American icons. www.nps.gov/stli/index.htm

New York (NY)

Capital: Albany

New York is named in honor of the Duke of York and Albany, the future James II. York comes from Old English Eoforwic, earlier Eborakon, an ancient Celtic name probably meaning "Yew-Tree Estate." New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. James II was king of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1685 to 1688. Britain's last Stuart and last Catholic monarch, he granted religious minorities the right to worship. He was deposed by the Glorious Revolution by William III. The Glorious Revolution (1688–89) permanently established Parliament as the ruling power of England—and, later, the United Kingdom—representing a shift from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.

Blue Ridge Parkway: nicknamed "America's favorite drive," the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway was designed by landscape architect Stanley Abbott whose vision was to create a road that was far more than just a way. https://www.nps.gov/blri/index.htm

Blue Ridge Parkway: nicknamed "America's favorite drive," the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway was designed by landscape architect Stanley Abbott whose vision was to create a road that was far more than just a way. https://www.nps.gov/blri/index.htm

New Carolina (NC)

Capital: Raleigh

North Carolina was established as a royal colony in 1729 and is one of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is nicknamed the "Tar Heel State." No one is sure of the origin of the nickname. Both Carolinas were named for King Charles II. The proper form of Charles in Latin is Carolus, and the division into north and south originated in 1710. In latin, Carolus is a strong form of the pronoun "he" and translates in many related languages as a "free or strong" man. There were also some people who did not like King Charles II because of his religious beliefs. He had been brought up by his mother, who was Roman Catholic, while most people in the country were Protestant. He married a princess from Portugal, Catherine of Braganza.

North Dakota Heritage Center: located in Bismarck, the North Dakota Heritage Center offers an overview of the history of North Dakota from prehistoric to modern times. Photo by minnemom via Flickr.

North Dakota Heritage Center: located in Bismarck, the North Dakota Heritage Center offers an overview of the history of North Dakota from prehistoric to modern times. Photo by minnemom via Flickr.

North Dakota (ND)

Capital: Bismarck

Both Dakotas stem from the name of a group of native peoples from the Plains states, from Dakota dakhota, meaning "friendly" (often translated as "allies"). The first European to reach the area was the French-Canadian trader Pierre Gaultier, sieur de La Vérendrye, who led an exploration and trading party to the Mandan, a Native American tribe of the Great Plains to which are usually divided into two broad classifications which overlap to some degree, who have lived for centuries villages in 1738. Idaho has its potatoes, and Iowa has its corn, but North Dakota is the nation's number one producer of spring wheat (nearly half the nation's total), durum wheat, sunflower, barley, oats, lentils, honey, edible beans, canola and flaxseed.

Cedar Point Amusement Park: is one of the most popular summer destinations in Ohio. Cedar Point has more than 17 world-class roller coasters, several kids' areas, and live entertainment. Photo by cryogenic666 via Flickr.

Cedar Point Amusement Park: is one of the most popular summer destinations in Ohio. Cedar Point has more than 17 world-class roller coasters, several kids' areas, and live entertainment. Photo by cryogenic666 via Flickr.

Ohio (OH)

Capital: Colombus

Ohio is named after the Ohio River, from Seneca (Iroquoian) ohi:yo', meaning "good river." Seneca is the language of the Seneca people, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois League; it is an Iroquoian language, spoken at the time of contact in the western portion of New York. Ohio often refers to itself as the “birthplace of aviation.” This is because they produced the first people to fly an airplane. The Wright Brothers, who were the pioneers of aviation, were raised in Ohio. The brother, Orville, and Wilber, were credited for designing, building and flying the first ever successful airplane.

Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden: in operation for more than a century, the destination engages tourists and families with more than 500 animal species, including rhinos, gorillas, lions, and tigers. www.okczoo.com

Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden: in operation for more than a century, the destination engages tourists and families with more than 500 animal species, including rhinos, gorillas, lions, and tigers. www.okczoo.com

Oklahoma (OK)

Capital: Oklahoma City

Oklahoma came from a Choctaw word, meaning "red people," which breaks down as okla "nation, people" plus homma "red." Choctaw scholar Allen Wright, later principal chief of the Choctaw Nation, coined the word. The Choctaw are a Native American people originally occupying what is now the Southeastern United States. He dreamed of an all-Indian state with power held by the United States Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Okla humma was a phrase in the Choctaw language that meant the same as the English word Indian. It was used to describe the Native American people all together. Oklahoma later became the de facto (describes practices that exist in reality, even though they are not officially recognized by laws) name for Oklahoma Territory. It was officially accepted in 1890, two years after the area was opened to white settlers.

Crater Lake National Park: it is not actually a crater, but rather an ancient caldera of an extinct volcano, Mount Mazama, and its lava cliffs rise to heights of up to 2,000 feet around the intensely blue and extremely deep lake.

Crater Lake National Park: it is not actually a crater, but rather an ancient caldera of an extinct volcano, Mount Mazama, and its lava cliffs rise to heights of up to 2,000 feet around the intensely blue and extremely deep lake.

Oregon (OR)

Capital: Salem

Oregon came from uncertain origins:

  • The earliest evidence of the name Oregon has Spanish origins. The term "orejón" comes from the historical chronicle Relación de la Alta y Baja California (1598) written by the new Spaniard Rodrigo Montezuma and made reference to the Columbia River when the Spanish explorers penetrated into the actual North American territory that became part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. This chronicle is the first topographical and linguistic source with respect to the place name Oregon.
  • There are also two other sources with Spanish origins, such as the name Oregano, which grows in the southern part of the region. It is most probable that the American territory was named by the Spaniards, as there are some populations in Spain such as "Arroyo del Oregón"
  • One theory is that the name comes from the French word ouragan ("windstorm" or "hurricane"), which was applied to the River of the West based on Native American tales of powerful Chinook winds on the lower Columbia River, or Great Plains.
  • Another account, endorsed as the "most plausible explanation" in the book Oregon Geographic Names, was advanced by George R. Stewart in a 1944 article in American Speech. According to Stewart, the name came from an engraver's error in a French map published in the early 18th century, on which the Ouisiconsink (Wisconsin) River was spelled "Ouaricon-sint", broken on two lines with the -sint below, so there appeared to be a river flowing to the west named "Ouaricon".

Oregon was a long way from the United States of America, which was east of the Mississippi river in the 1830s and 1840s. To get to Oregon, settlers had to cross the Great Plains, which were empty except for a few forts and groups of Native Americans. Most people thought that it was impossible to farm there. They called it the "Great American Desert", because crossing it was long and dangerous; however, thousands did anyway.

The Gettysburg National Military Park: the destination in Gettysburg is the site of Gettysburg Battlefield, where in 1863 this Civil War battle took the life of some 51,000 people over a three-day period. Photo by Alaskan Dude via Flickr.

The Gettysburg National Military Park: the destination in Gettysburg is the site of Gettysburg Battlefield, where in 1863 this Civil War battle took the life of some 51,000 people over a three-day period. Photo by Alaskan Dude via Flickr.

Pennsylvania (PA)

Capital: Harrisburg

The first European settlers in Pennsylvania were from Sweden. They arrived in 1643. The area was later ruled by the Netherlands and Great Britain. In 1681, Charles II of England, gave the land to William Penn. Penn used the land to create a home for Quakers.

Pennsylvania was named not for William Penn, the state's proprietor, but for his late father Admiral William Penn (1621-1670) after suggestion from Charles II. The name literally means "Penn's Woods," a hybrid formed from the surname Penn and Latin sylvania. The state of Delaware was once part of Pennsylvania. In 1704, Delaware formed when three Pennsylvania counties left the colony and created their own government.

WaterFire Providence: more than 100 bonfires are lit in large iron pans in the river's center and kept blazing throughout the evening as residents and tourists stroll along the brick riverside walkways and footbridges. Photo by liz west via Flickr.

WaterFire Providence: more than 100 bonfires are lit in large iron pans in the river's center and kept blazing throughout the evening as residents and tourists stroll along the brick riverside walkways and footbridges. Photo by liz west via Flickr.

Rhode Island (RI)

Capital: Providence

It is thought that Dutch explorer Adrian Block named modern Block Island (a part of Rhode Island) Roodt Eylandt, meaning "red island" for the cliffs. English settlers later extended the name to the mainland, and the island became Block Island for differentiation. An alternate theory is that Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano gave it the name in 1524 based on an apparent similarity to the island of Rhodes.

  • Adriaen Block was a Dutch private trader, privateer, and ship's captain who is best known for exploring the coastal and river valley areas between present-day New Jersey and Massachusetts during four voyages from 1611 to 1614, following the 1609 expedition by Henry Hudson.
  • Giovanni da Verrazzano or Verrazano was an Italian explorer of North America, in the service of King Francis I of France. He is renowned as the first European to explore the Atlantic coast of North America between Florida and New Brunswick in 1524, including New York Bay and Narragansett Bay. Despite his discoveries, Verrazzano's reputation did not proliferate as much as other explorers of that era; for example, Verrazzano gave the European name Francesca to the new land which he had seen, in accordance with the practices of the time, after the French king in whose name he sailed. This and other names have not survived, which he bestowed on features that he discovered.
Myrtle Beach: one of the most popular things to do in South Carolina in the summer is to retreat to the miles of pristine sands that line the coast at Myrtle Beach. 

Myrtle Beach: one of the most popular things to do in South Carolina in the summer is to retreat to the miles of pristine sands that line the coast at Myrtle Beach. 

South Carolina (SC)

Capital: Columbia

South Carolina was formed in 1729 when the Carolina colony was divided in two. South Carolina was the eighth state to ratify the United States Constitution in 1788. Both Carolinas were named for King Charles II. The proper form of Charles in Latin is Carolus, and the division into north and south originated in 1710. In latin, Carolus is a strong form of the pronoun "he" and translates in many related languages as a "free or strong" man. South Carolina entered the Union on May 23, 1788 and became the 8th state.

Mount Rushmore National Monument: carved majestically into the side of the mountain are the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. https://www.nps.gov/moru/planyourvisit/index.htm

Mount Rushmore National Monument: carved majestically into the side of the mountain are the heads of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. https://www.nps.gov/moru/planyourvisit/index.htm

South Dakota (SD)

Capital: Pierre

Prior to Dakota's origins, North Dakota and South Dakota were Admitted to the Union. After controversy over the location of a capital, the Dakota Territory was split in two and divided into North and South in 1889. Later that year, on November 2, North Dakota and South Dakota were admitted to the Union as the 39th and 40th states. Nicknames for South Dakota includes the Mount Rushmore State, the Coyote State, and the Sunshine State. Another, more fitting, state moniker is the Blizzard State. South Dakota is also called the Artesian State, thanks to its large number of artesian wells, and is sometimes referred to as the “Land of Plenty" and "The Land of Infinite Variety."

The Smokies: there's no better place to begin your Great Smoky Mountains National Park adventure than in the small town of Gatlinburg with its many big-ticket attractions, such as the excellent Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.

The Smokies: there's no better place to begin your Great Smoky Mountains National Park adventure than in the small town of Gatlinburg with its many big-ticket attractions, such as the excellent Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.

Tennessee (TS)

Capital: Nashville

Tennessee is from a Cherokee (Iroquoian) village name ta'nasi' of unknown origin. Some accounts suggest it is a Cherokee modification of an earlier Yuchi word. It has been said to mean "meeting place", "winding river", or "river of the great bend". The earliest variant of the name that became Tennessee was recorded by Captain Juan Pardo, the Spanish explorer, when he and his men passed through an American Indian village named "Tanasqui" in 1567 while traveling inland from South Carolina. In the early 18th century, British traders encountered a Cherokee town named Tanasi (or "Tanase") in present-day Monroe County, Tennessee.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to the four highest peaks in Texas.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to the four highest peaks in Texas.

Texas (TX)

Capital: Austin

Texas is from the Spanish word Tejas, earlier pronounced "ta-shas;" originally an ethnic name, from Caddo (the language of an eastern Texas Indian tribe) taysha meaning "friends, allies." The Caddo Nation is a confederacy of several Southeastern Native American tribes. Their ancestors historically inhabited much of what is now East Texas, Louisiana, and portions of southern Arkansas and Oklahoma. They were descendants of the Caddoan Mississippian culture that constructed huge earthwork mounds at several sites in this territory. In the early 19th century, Caddo people were forced to a reservation in Texas; they were removed to Indian Territory in 1859.

The Uinta Mountains are a subrange of the Rocky Mountains and are highest east to west running range in the United States.

The Uinta Mountains are a subrange of the Rocky Mountains and are highest east to west running range in the United States.

Utah (UT)

Capital: Salt Lake City

Utah is from the Spanish word yuta, name of the indigenous Uto-Aztecan people of the Great Basin; perhaps from Western Apache (Athabaskan) yudah, meaning "high" (in reference to living in the mountains). The first KFC franchise opened in South Salt Lake around 1952. Colonel Sanders initially franchised his chicken recipe to Pete Harman. Kentucky Fried Chicken was painted on the sign and the “finger lickin’ good” chain expanded from there.

Lake Champlain: extending for 120 miles between Vermont and New York, with its northern tip in Canada, Lake Champlain lies mostly in Vermont, and draws visitors for its recreation, wildlife, and historical attractions. http://www.lclt.org

Lake Champlain: extending for 120 miles between Vermont and New York, with its northern tip in Canada, Lake Champlain lies mostly in Vermont, and draws visitors for its recreation, wildlife, and historical attractions. http://www.lclt.org

Vermont (VT)

Capital: Montpelier

Vermont is based on French words for "Green Mountain," mont vert. Vermont is the United States’ undisputed maple syrup champion. The state produces 5.5 percent of the global supply of the sweet stuff, making it the country’s leading producer. It even has its own quality grading system that maintains a higher standard of density than the rest of the country. Maple syrup enthusiasts can swing by the New England Maple Museum in Pittford to check out the biggest jug of syrup in the world.

Montpelier, Vermont is the only U.S. state capital without a McDonalds. In ratio of cows to people, Vermont has the greatest number of dairy cows in the country. Montpelier, Is the largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S. Vermont's largest employer isn't Ben and Jerry's, it's IBM.

Luray Caverns: contain breathtaking examples of calcite formations within an extensive underground system that sometimes feels more like an alien landscape than a terrestrial natural landmark. https://luraycaverns.com

Luray Caverns: contain breathtaking examples of calcite formations within an extensive underground system that sometimes feels more like an alien landscape than a terrestrial natural landmark. https://luraycaverns.com

Virginia (VA)

Capital: Richmond

Virginia came from a Latinized name for Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen. Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called the Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor. The House of Tudor was an English royal house of Welsh origin, descended from the Tudors of Penmynydd. Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland from 1485 until 1603. The Tudors succeeded the House of Plantagenet as rulers of the Kingdom of England, and were succeeded by the House of Stuart.

Recognized around the world as a symbol of the United States, the Capitol is the seat of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The huge dome is based on the dome of St. Peter's in Rome. https://www.aoc.gov/

Recognized around the world as a symbol of the United States, the Capitol is the seat of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The huge dome is based on the dome of St. Peter's in Rome. https://www.aoc.gov/

Washington (WA)

Capital: Olympia

Washington is named after President George Washington (1732-1799). The surname Washington means "estate of a man named Wassa" in Old English. Before it became a state, the territory was called Columbia (named after the Columbia River). When it was granted statehood, the name was changed to Washington, supposedly so people wouldn't confuse it with The District of Columbia. Washington was actually born on February 11, 1731, but when the colonies switched to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian calendar, his birthday was moved 11 days. Since his birthday fell before the old date for New Year’s Day, but after the new date for New Year’s Day, his birth year was changed to 1732.

The Shenandoah River meets the Potomac River at this small West Virginia town, which was the site of abolitionist John Brown's raid on the United States arsenal in 1859, an event that hastened the onset of the Civil War.

The Shenandoah River meets the Potomac River at this small West Virginia town, which was the site of abolitionist John Brown's raid on the United States arsenal in 1859, an event that hastened the onset of the Civil War.

West Virginia (WV)

Capital: Charleston

Also coming from Virginia's origins, West Virginia split from confederate Virginia and officially joined the Union as a separate state in 1863. West Virginia became a state in 1863, but about a century earlier, a group led by Benjamin Franklin wanted to make the area a colony called Vandalia.

The small town of Oshkosh on Lake Winnebago, northwest of Milwaukee, is famous for two things: the popular line of kids' clothing and its place on the world's airshow circuit. www.eaa.org/en/airventure

The small town of Oshkosh on Lake Winnebago, northwest of Milwaukee, is famous for two things: the popular line of kids' clothing and its place on the world's airshow circuit. www.eaa.org/en/airventure

Wisconsin (WI)

Capital: Madison

Wisconsin is of uncertain origins but likely from a Miami word Meskonsing, meaning "it lies red"; misspelled Mescousing by the French, and later corrupted to Ouisconsin. Quarries in Wisconsin often contain red flint. Wisconsin's official nickname is "The Badger State,” but not because the state's forests are teeming with the fuzzy woodland creatures. In the early 19th century, lead was discovered in the tiny town of Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Immigrants from Cornwall, England, settled in the region and dug mines. Some miners without homes lived in the tunnels during the winter months to keep warm, and their dwellings reminded people of badger holes. Today, the badger is proudly featured on Wisconsin's state flag and is also the official state animal.

The world's first and oldest national park, Yellowstone is one of the most awe-inspiring wilderness areas on the planet. Huge herds of bison still roam free in the valleys, and the abundant wildlife includes grizzly and black bears, gray wolves, etc.

The world's first and oldest national park, Yellowstone is one of the most awe-inspiring wilderness areas on the planet. Huge herds of bison still roam free in the valleys, and the abundant wildlife includes grizzly and black bears, gray wolves, etc.

Wyoming (WY)

Capital: Cheyenne

Wyoming came from a Munsee Delaware (Algonquian) word chwewamink, meaning "at the big river flat." The name “Wyoming” also comes from the Lenape Indian word mecheweami-ing, which means “at (or on) the big plain.” The Lenape, also called the Leni Lenape, Lenni Lenape and Delaware people, are an indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands, who live in Canada and the United States.

The Wyoming territory became first in the nation to grant women over the age of 21 the right to vote in 1869. Historians believe that legislators passed the bill for several reasons, including a genuine conviction that women should have the same rights as men, a desire to attract new settlers to the territory by making it appear more modern, and because some legislators voted for it just to be able to say they did, believing (mistakenly) that the bill did not have enough traction to pass.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Darius Razzle Paciente