Friday, January 27, 2012

Native Americans, England, and Rivers

Have you ever wondered what influenced the naming of our 50 beautiful states?

Alabama - Alabama means "tribal town" in the Creek Indian language.

Alaska - derived from the Aleut word alaxsxaq, meaning "the object towards which the action of the sea is directed."

Arizona - some historians think it comes from the Spanish phrase zona arida (arid zone) and others think the state was named after the Aztec word arizuma, which means "silver bearing."

Arkansas - derived from the Quapaw word kakaze meaning "land of downriver people" or the Sioux word Akakaze meaning "people of the south wind."

California - believed to have derived from a Spanish novel about a mythical island off the coast of India ruled by a Queen Califia.

Colorado - was named after the Colorado River, which starts in the state.  Early Spanish explorers named the Colorado River the Rio Colorado, or red river, for the red-brown silt that the river carried from the mountains.

Connecticut - comes from the Mohegan word quonehtacut, meaning "place of long tidal river."

Delaware - named after the Delaware River, which was named for Lord de la Warr, the first Governor-General of Jamestown.

Florida - comes from the Spanish Pascua Florida, meaning "feast of flowers," but more commonly known as  Easter, in honor of its discovery by the Spanish during the Easter season.

Georgia - is the feminine Latin form of George and was named after King George II of Great Britain.

Hawaii - comes from Hawaiki, legendary homeland of the Polynesians.  Hawaiki is believed to mean "place of the gods."

Idaho - was possibly named as the result of a hoax (the so-called Idahoax).   Lobbyist George Willing suggested the name Idaho, claiming it came from the Shoshoni word Ee-dah-how, or gem of the mountains.  Later he admitted it really wasn't a Native American word, but was a word he made up.

Illinois - the early French explorers' name for the Illinois people.  The name Illlinois has traditionally been said to mean 'man' or 'men' in the Miami-Illinois language.

Indiana - means Land of the Indians, or simply Indian Land in Latin.

Iowa - was named after the Iowa River, which derives its name from the Ioway people, a tribe native to the area.

Kansas - was named after the Kansas River, which derives its name from the Kaw or Kansas tribe.  The tribe's name Kka:ze is said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south wind."

Kentucky - no one is sure, but most likely it comes from the Iroquoian word kenhtake meaning 'meadow' or 'prairie.'

Louisiana - named after King Louis XIV of France.  When Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed the territory drained by the Mississippi River for France, he named it La Louisiane, meaning "Land of Louis."

Maine - has an unknown origin.  In 2001, the state legislature adopted a resolution which stated that the state was named after the ancient French province of Maine.

Maryland - named after Queen Henrietta Maria of England, wife of King Charles I.

Massachusetts - named after the native population, the Massachusett, which has been translated as "by the blue hills."

Michigan - is a French adaptation of the Ojibwe word mishigama, meaning "large water."

Minnesota - comes from the Dakota name for the Minnesota River (Mnisota) which can be translated as "sky-tinted  water."

Mississippi - named after the Mississippi River, which got its name from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi "Great River."

Missouri - named for a group of Sioux Indians of that name.  The word  itself meant 'town or people of the large canoes.'

Montana - derived from the Spanish word for "mountain."

Nebraska - most likely comes from an Otoe word meaning "flat water" after the Platte River that flows through the state.

Nevada - from the Spanish word meaning "snowfall" after the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

New Hampshire - named after the English county of Hampshire.

New Jersey - named  after the British Channel Island of Jersey.

New Mexico - comes from Mexico, "place of Mexitli," an Aztec god or leader.  The name Nuevo Mexico was first used by Francisco de Ibarra who explored  far to the north of Mexico and reported his findings as being in "a New Mexico."

New York - named after York, England, to honor the Duke of York.

North Carolina - named after King Charles I of England  (Charles translates to Carolus).

North Dakota - named after the Dakota tribe and means  "ally" or "friend."

Ohio - comes from the Iroquois word ohi-yo, meaning "great river."

Oklahoma - from the Choctaw phrase okla humma, meaning "red people."   A Choctaw Chief suggested the name in 1866 during treaty negotiations with the federal government regarding the use of Indian Territory.

Oregon - has an unknown origin.  One theory is that the name comes from the French word ouragan which means 'hurricane.'

Pennsylvania - was named after Sir Willlian Penn, who received the first land grant for the area Sylvania, which means 'woods.'  The name literally means Penn's Woods.

Rhode Island - means red island, named after the red clay that lined its shores.

South Carolina - got its name from Carolus, Latin word for Charles, with reference to King Charles I.

South Dakota - the southern half of the Dakota Territory, originally named for the Dakota Sioux tribe which inhabited the area.

Tennessee - got its name from the Indian Cherokee village called Tanasi, which means big bend and was used to describe a river in Tennessee, which eventually got the name Tennessee.

Texas - comes from the Caddo Indian word taysha, or "friend," which was used to refer to the larger Caddo nation.  The name was borrowed into Spanish as texa, plural texas.

Utah - comes from the Spanish designation for the Ute people, yuta, in turn perhaps a borrowing from Western Apache yudah, meaning "High."

Vermont - hails from the French words vert (green) and mont (mountain).

Virginia - was named after Elizabeth I of England, who was known as the Virgin Queen.

Washington - named after George Washington.

West Virginia - broke away from the State of Virginia during the Civil War.

Wisconsin - was named after the Algonquin name for the Wisconsin River.  French explorer Jacques Marquette recorded the name as Meskousing in his journal, but this was later misspelled as Ouisconsin.

Wyoming - comes from the Munsee Indian word xwe:wamenk, meaning "at the big river flat."