How Each State Got Its Name

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Alabama
> Joined United States: Dec. 14, 1819 (22nd state to join)
> Capital: Montgomery
> Population: 4,888,949

The genesis of the Alabama name is believed to have come from a fusion of two Choctaw words, Alba and Amo. Alba means “vegetation,” while Amo refers to “gatherer.” The name “vegetation gatherers” would fit the Alabama Indians who cleared the land for farming.

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Alaska
> Joined United States: Jan. 3, 1959 (49th state to join)
> Capital: Juneau
> Population: 738,068

The name “Alaska” comes from the Aleut word “Alyeska” which means “great land.” The Aleuts are the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands and western Alaska.

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Arizona
> Joined United States: Feb. 14, 1912 (48th state to join)
> Capital: Phoenix
> Population: 7,123,898

It is not clear how Arizona got its name. Historian James H. McClintock believes the name was derived from a Native American place name that sounded like Aleh-zon or Ali-Shonak, which meant “small spring” or “place of the small spring,” according to the Southern Arizona Guide.

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Arkansas
> Joined United States: June 15, 1836 (25th state to join)
> Capital: Little Rock
> Population: 3,020,327

The word “Arkansas” came from the Quapaw Native Americans. The Quapaws were known as the “people who live downstream,” or Ugakhopag. “The Native Americans who spoke Algonquian and lived in the Ohio Valley called the Quapaws Arkansas, which means “south wind.”

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California
> Joined United States: Sept. 9, 1850 (31st state to join)
> Capital: Sacramento
> Population: 39,776,830

Credit the Spanish conquistadors for naming California. The name of the nation’s largest state comes from Califia, a legendary queen of the island paradise described in a Spanish romance novel from the early 16th century.