This map shows the literal meaning of every state name

Flattened Water. Place of the Small Spring. Milky Water.
At first glance, these phrases might look like just a jumble of words, but they’re actually something way cooler: the literal translation of three state names in the United States. Can you guess which ones?
Expedia Canada put together this colorful map that shows the literal meaning of all 50 state names. And you might be surprised to know a particular state’s meaning.
As Expedia puts it, state etymologies “offer a unique insight into the forgotten history of the continent and may teach something new about your home.”
Want to dig into the state meanings a little more? Expedia Canada includes links to its sources. So you can decide for yourself if, for example, you’d prefer knowing Alabama as “tribal town,” the translation from the American Creek language, or the more popular translation of “vegetation gatherers” or “thicket-clearers,” derived from the Choctaw language.
A lot of the state meaning variation comes down to which Native American language source you go with. Others have an obvious connection to the English language (Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North/South Carolina, Virginia) or famous figures (Washington and Pennsylvania).
It’s fun knowing the backgrounds of the state names you’ve been saying since you learned to spell M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I (that’s “Great River” to you).

Here are Expedia’s top choices for each state’s literal meaning and the language each was derived from.
Note: There are conflicting origin stories for many state names. If you’ve done any digging into this yourself, you’ll find this to be true! This map and the etymology for each state name are based on Expedia’s research, which you can read more about here.
Meaning: Thicket-Clearers
Language: Choctaw
Alabama photo
Alabama photo
Meaning: That Which the Sea Breaks Against
Language: Aleut
northern lights photo
Meaning: Place of the Small Spring
Language: Spanish interpretation of O’odham
grand canyon photo
Meaning: Land of Downriver People
Language: Quapaw
arkansas photo
Meaning: Mythical Island Califia
Language: Spanish
golden gate photo
Meaning: Sandstone Soil
Language: Spanish
colorado photo
Meaning: The Long Tidal River
Language: Mohican
Connecticut photo
Meaning: Of The War
Language: Old French
Delaware photo
Meaning: Flowery Easter
Language: Spanish
disney world photo
Meaning: Land of King George II
Language: Greek
georgia photo
Meaning: Place of the Gods
Language: Proto-Polynesian
(Note: Other research shows that, in the Hawaiian language, Hawaii has no meaning. Unfortunately, etymology, particularly in the case of state names, presents conflicting research. This is the case with Hawaii along with others on this list. The meaning listed here is in accordance with Expedia’s map and their research, which you can read more about here.)
Hawaii photo
Meaning: Gem of the Mountains
Language: Adaptation of Native American word from northwest origin
Idaho photo
Meaning: Best People
Language: Derived from the Native American word, “Illiniwek”
chicago photo
Meaning: Land of the Indians
Language: Native American origin
indy 500 photo
Meaning: This is the Place
Language: Native American origin
Iowa photo
Meaning: People of the South Wind
Language: Native American origin
Kansas photo
Meaning: The Meadow
Language: Iroquois or Shawnee origin
university of kentucky photo
Meaning: King Louis XIV
Language: French
new orleans photo
Meaning: Mainland
Language: French
maine photo
Meaning: Land of Queen Henrietta Maria
Language: English
maryland photo
Meaning: Near the Great-Little-Mountain
Language: Native American origin
boston photo
Meaning: Great Lake
Language: Native American origin

Meaning: Milky Water
Language: Siouan
minnesota photo
Meaning: Great River
Language: French
Mississippi old capitol museum photo
Meaning: Dugout Canoe
Language: Siouan
Missouri gateway arch photo
Meaning: Mountainous
Language: Spanish
Glacier National Park montana photo
Meaning: Flattened Water
Language: Based on Oto Indian word “Nebrathka”
Chimney Rock nebraska photo
Meaning: Snow-Covered
Language: Spanish
las vegas photo
New Hampshire
Meaning: The New Hants
Language: English
New Hampshire photo
New Jersey
Meaning: Channel Island of Jersey
Language: English
New jersey photo
New Mexico
Meaning: New Place of Mexitli (Aztec God)
Language: Aztec
White Sands National Monument photo
New York
Meaning: New Home of the Duke of York
Language: English

North Carolina
Meaning: In Honor of King Charles I
Language: From the Latin word for “Charles”
the biltmore photo
North Dakota
Meaning: North Ally
Language: From the Sioux Native American word for “friend”
north dakota photo
Meaning: Good River
Language: Iroquois Native American

Meaning: Red People
Language: Choctaw Native American

Meaning: Indian River Ouragon
Language: French
Crater Lake National Park photo
Meaning: Penns Woods
Language: English
liberty bell photo
Rhode Island
Meaning: Red Island
Language: Italian
providence Rhode Island photo
South Carolina
Meaning: In Honor of King Charles I
Language: From the Latin word for “Charles”

South Dakota
Meaning: South Ally
Language: Sioux Native American
south dakota photo
Meaning: The Bends of a River
Language: Native American origin
tennessee photo
Meaning: Friend
Language: Spanish
Meaning: People of the Mountains
Language: Spanish based on Ute
Zion National Park photo
Meaning: Green Mountain
Language: French
Vermont photo
Meaning: Country of the Virgin
Language: English
Virginia arlington photo
Meaning: Home of the First President
Language: English

West Virginia
Meaning: West of the Country of the Virgin
Language: English

Meaning: River Running Through a Red Place
Language: English/French/Native American
Wisconsin photo
Meaning: At the Big River Flat
Language: Native American origin
wyoming yellowstone national park photo
Updated 8/14/17 to better reflect the etymology of several state names and highlight the conflicting research that exists around the meanings of state names.

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