Friday, April 29, 2016

The Etymology of U.S. State Names, Part 2

On Wednesday, we started looking at the etymologies of all 50 U.S. state names. Since there are so many, we only made it from Alabama to Kentucky. Today we're continuing with another big bunch of state name origins, this time starting with the etymology of Louisiana.

Louisiana's name has French origins, which should come as no surprise. In fact, it's named after King Louis XIV of France, who was in power when a French explorer reached the area.

Maine has very mysterious origins, though some historians believe it gets its name from a former French province. Others believe it might just be a reference to the "mainland".

Maryland is named after Henrietta Maria of France, the wife of King Charles I of England, who was in power when it was first established as a colony.

Massachusetts, one of the best states in terms of spelling practice, is named after the Massachusett, one of the first Native American groups to encounter English colonists.

A beautifully sunny day on the coast of Lake Michigan.
Michigan is actually named after Lake Michigan, one of the four Great Lakes bordering it. The term itself came from Ojibwe, an indigenous language, and means "large water" or "large lake".

Minnesota gets its name from a body of water too, specifically the Minnesota River. The name is derived from a Dakota term that refers to its cloudy water.

Mississippi gets its name from the Mississippi River, which comes from an Ojibwe term meaning "great river".

Missouri is also named after a big river, the Missouri River, which was in turn named after the Missouri Native American tribe. The term itself actually comes from the Illiniwek, another Native American tribe in the region, and refers to their use of dugout canoes.

Montana is an easy one! It comes from the Spanish word montaña, meaning "mountain", which is very appropriate if you've ever visited the state.

Nebraska's name means "flat water", a reference to the Platte River, which is thought have originated as the French term rivière plate ("flat river"). Nebraska's name, on the other hand, comes from a Siouan language.

Nevada means "snowy" or "snow-covered" in Spanish, and was named after the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

"The Rock of Ages in the Big Room," a photograph taken at
Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico by famous
photographer Ansel Adams for the National Park Service.
New Hampshire and New Jersey are both named after locations in the United Kingdom. Hampshire is a county on the southern coast of England, while Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands.

New Mexico is actually a translation of Nuevo México, the Spanish name for the area. The word Mexico, however, comes from the Nahuatl language, which was spoken by the Aztecs.

New York was named after the Duke of York, who eventually became King James II of England. The term York, however, is thought to have Celtic origins.

North Carolina is named after King Charles I of England, who you may recall is the husband of Maryland's namesake. Naturally, he had a colony named after him several years before she did...

North Dakota is derived from a Lakota term meaning "ally" or "friend", which was used to refer to the Dakota tribe.

We'll be back on Monday with the final group of states!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3