Alabama and its Origins

alabama state flag

Alabama State Flag









Having been settled by Native Americans for centuries before ever seeing Europeans the first non-native to see what is now Alabama was Hernando de Soto in his expedition of 1540. Later, in 1702, while settling the area the French found several Native American tribes living there. The Choctaw were among the area tribes and it is believed that Alabama’s name is derived from two Choctaw words. “Alba” which translates into “plants” or “weeds” combined with “amo” which translates into “to cut” or “to gather”. Therefore, the area was named after the tribesmen there that practiced clearing and cultivation of the land.

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Wisconsin: History of the State’s Name

wisconsin state flag

Wisconsin State Flag









While being led by two Miami Indians as guides, explorer Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet traveled down a river (in what is now Wisconsin) that led them to the Mississippi. This river, as it was written, was called the “Meskousing”. In the native language of the Miami Indians it meant “stream that meanders through something red” –perhaps referring to red sandstone that borders some parts of the river. Later Louis Joliet drew a map of their travels that included the same river but in this case he spelled it “Miskonsing”. The map and the accounts of the travels were later published in a book and the name again took on a slightly different spelling: “Mescousin”. French explorer Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle then misinterpreted Marquette’s original cursive spelling, turning the “M” into “Ou”. The river could then be seen in its written form as “Ouisconsing” and from 1682 to the 1820’s the name stuck. Then in the 1820’s the U.S. Government Americanized the French spelling of the misinterpreted word by replacing the “Ou” with a “W” (which is the English pronunciation of “ou”). The territory became official in 1836 and the name would forever remain “Wisconsin”.

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Minnesota: History of the State’s Name

Minnesota state flag

Minnesota state flag








The first inhabitants of the area of the United States now known as Minnesota were the Dakota people of the Sioux Tribes. They named the area after the large river in the Southern half of the state known as the Minnesota River. They observed the water to be sky-tinted or slightly cloudy therefore the name became Mnisota. The root of the word is Dakota for water or “Mni” coupled with a Dakota word meaning cloudy or tinted. Another example is seen in the word “Minnetonka” which translates into “Big Water”.

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Montana: Land of Mountains

montana state flag

Montana State Flag









Montana is one of the larger states but is also one of the least populated.  As one of the more mountainous states in the country it comes as no surprise that the name Montana is derived from the Spanish word Montaña.

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Alaska: Bears its native roots

alaska state flag

The least populated but largest state in the U.S. was purchased from the Russians in 1867.  The name actually comes from the Aleut word Alaxsxaq which means “the object towards which the action of the sea is directed”.

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Arizona: More sunsine than Florida

arizona state flag

Arizona is one of the newer states in the U.S. being admitted in 1912.  The name is derived from a word found the Uto-Aztecan language that means “small spring” –that word is “alĭ ṣonak”.

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Arkansas: “The Natural State”

arkansas state flag

Similar to the nearby state of Kansas, Arkansas got its name from a derivation of a Quapaw Tribe word meaning “land of downriver people”.  The word is “akakaze” and most likely referred to the Arkansas River.

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Colorado: “The Centennial State”

colorado state flag

Being admitted into the Union in 1876 one of Colorado’s most prominent features is the mighty Colorado river that runs through it.  The state was actually named after this river which the Spanish described as “rio Colorado” which translates into “red colored river” for its silt laden, red waters.

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Connecticut: “The nutmeg state”

connecticut state flag

Much like Colorado, Connecticut is named for the major river that runs through it, the Connecticut river.  The name is derived from the Algonquian tribal word “quinatucquet” which means “upon the long river”.

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Delaware: The First State

delaware state flag

As with many state names there is a tribal origin to Delaware as well.  The first inhabitants were the Lenape Indians also known as the Delaware Indians.

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