How Every State Got Its Nickname

The origin of State Nicknames
Mediafeed / Edward Percy Moran by United States Library of Congress / harryhayashi/istockphoto

The Nickname Game

Some state nicknames have obvious origins (we're looking at you and your Grand Canyon, Arizona) while others have unclear backstories that have always made us wonder. Curious how your state and the 49 others in the nation got their nicknames? Read on!

Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama Road Sign
Allard1/istockphoto

Alabama: The Heart of Dixie

Alabama's dubbing as "The Heart of Dixie" is geographic in origin. Because the state is located smack dab in the middle of a group of states in the Deep South, commonly referred to as "Dixie" or "Dixie Land." The name "Dixie" itself has competing origin stories.

Sled and Sled Dogs in Snow Wilderness, Alaska
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Alaska: The Last Frontier

By definition, a frontier is the region outside of the settled part of a country. Also by definition, Alaska is — in many places throughout the state — the last frontier in the U.S. Plenty of the landscape in the state is made up of vast, unsettled spaces, and much of the areas that are considered "settled" still don't have running water in every house, or even electricity run from a standard grid.

Grand Canyon, Arizona
bluejayphoto/istockphoto

Arizona: The Grand Canyon State

Hmm, we wonder why Arizona is called The Grand Canyon State. Could it be the colossal canyon that is universally associated with the state? As Homer Simpson would say, "Doh!"

Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas
zrfphoto/depositphotos

Arkansas: The Natural State

Lots of people think of Arkansas as a Southern cesspool, but to be honest, in many ways, they're dead wrong. The state is full of natural beauty, including mountains, forests, rivers, and lakes. Hence: The Natural State.

California Gold Rush Stamp
Manakin/istockphoto

California: The Golden State

There are mixed opinions on the origin of the Golden State nickname, and in truth, it's probably a combination of inspiration. For starters, there's the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. But before there was the bridge, California was home to a historic old rush that defined the state for years to come.

American Declaration of independence 4th july 1776 detail
Andrea Izzotti/istockphoto

Colorado: The Centennial State

Colorado's nickname is pretty cute if we do say so ourselves. Since it became a state in 1876, 100 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, it was dubbed "The Centennial State," which has a much better ring to it than "The Snow-Capped Mountain State."

Fayerweather Island Lighthouse, Connecticut, During Sunset
Ara Josefsson/istockphoto

Connecticut: The Constitution State

Before the official Constitution was signed in 1787, Connecticut wrote and adopted its own Fundamental Orders in 1639, which is widely considered the first written constitution in the nation, inspiring the state's nickname: The Constitution State.

The Old State House, Dover, Delaware
benkrut/istockphoto

Delaware: The First State

If you didn't know before, now you do: Delaware was the first of the original 13 states to ratify the U.S. Constitution, which is where its self explanatory nickname from.

Miami Beach, Miami
korzeniewski/depositphotos

Florida: The Sunshine State

There is plenty of sunshine and an abundance of warm weather in Florida, so "The Sunshine State" suits the state perfectly.

Closeup of Peaches on a Peachtree, Georgia
arinahabich/istockphoto

Georgia: The Peach State

Georgia has a noteable reputation for its peach production, inspiring its nickname "The Peach State."

Silhouette of a Hula Dancer, Sunset in Background, Hawaii
RandyJayBraun/istockphoto

Hawaii: The Aloha State

"Aloha" is a Hawaiian word meaning love, peace, compassion, and mercy. Commonly used as a greeting, "Aloha" is also deeply rooted in the state's culture, which sparked the nickname "The Aloha State."

Digging for Emerald Creek Star Garnets, Fernwood, Idaho, Postcard Circa 1960s
Digging for Emerald Creek Star Garnets, Fernwood, Idaho, Postcard Circa 1960s

Idaho: The Gem State

Idaho is known as The Gem State because it's home to 72 different types of precious and semi-precious stones. The star garnet — which is the state gem — is only found in two places: Iowa and India.

Prairie in Illinois
Wirepec/depositphotos

Illinois: The Prairie State

These days, mental images of Illinois might be laden with Chicago skyscrapers, but when the first settlers arrived to the state, they were met with vast prairies, hence the nickname, "The Prairie State."

Aerial of Machine Harvesting Corn, Indiana
Aaron Yoder/istockphoto

Indiana: The Hoosier State

Indiana is commonly referred to as "The Hoosier State," a nickname with origins that are somewhat unclear but rich in folklore. One popular theory is that the term "hoosier," which is synonymous with the state, was originally intended as an insult toward people from Indiana, specifically poor farmers.

Lake OkobojiIowa, Iowa, During Sunrise
jacksonjesse/depositphotos

Iowa: The Hawkeye State

Iowa is known as "The Hawkeye State," a nickname inspired by the character Hawkeye from James Fenimore Cooper's novel "The Last of the Mohicans." The name was suggested in the 1830s by settlers who admired the character's qualities and wanted to create a distinctive identity for the state.

the beautiful sunflowers field close up in the sunshine.
Oleg Marchak/istockphoto

Kansas: The Sunflower State

Kansas is a boomin agricultural state, and the sunflower industry is prevalent in the state, inspiring its moniker.

Closeup of Poa Pratensis, Kentucky Bluegrass
michael14mei2@live.nl/depositphotos

Kentucky: The Bluegrass State

Kentucky isn't known as The Bluegrass State because of banjos. Instead, the state's nickname is derived from the native grass species.

Pelican on Wooden Ledge, Louisiana
tyalexanderphotography/istockphoto

Louisiana: The Pelican State

Pelicans used to be all over Louisiana's Gulf Coast, and there's even one depicted on the state flag. Thus, "The Pelican State" nickname was born.

Sunlight Coming Through the Pine Trees in a Forest, Maine
Mary Haley/istockphoto

Maine: The Pine Tree State

There are tons of white pines in Maine and vast evergreen forests, inspiring the moniker "The Pine Tree State."

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, John Trumbull
Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, John Trumbull

Maryland: The Old Line State

Maryland is called "The Old Line State" in honor of the Maryland Line, the state's regiment of regulars who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. These soldiers earned a reputation for their bravery and resilience in several key battles, solidifying Maryland's historical legacy.

Small Boats on a Bay on Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Sanghwan Kim/istockphoto

Massachusetts: The Bay State

Massachusett's multiple large bays that define its coastline, including Massachusetts Bay, Cape Cod Bay, and Buzzards Bay, inspired its nickname, "The Bay State."

Wolverine
Denja1/istockphoto

Michigan: The Wolverine State

Michigan's official state nickname should probably be overridden at this point because although early settlers to the state noted wolverines in the Mitten, the animal does not inhabit the state any longer. Perhaps its other nickname, "The Great Lakes State" should take over as head honcho. We don't see the lakes going anywhere anytime soon, after all.

Sunset Over a Lake, Minnesota
Tammi Mild/istockphoto

Minnesota: The Land of 10,000 Lakes

There are actually nearly 12,000 lakes in the state of Minnesota, but "The Land of 11,842 Lakes Over 10 Acres" doesn't roll off the tongue with ease. "The Land of 10,000 Lakes" it is.

Blooming Magnolia Flower on Tree, Mississippi
Daniela Goen/istockphoto

Mississippi: The Magnolia State

Mississippi is called "The Magnolia State" because of the abundant magnolia trees that grow throughout the region. The magnolia blossom is also the state's official flower and tree.

Willard Duncan Vandiver
Willard Duncan Vandiver

Missouri: The Show Me State

No, Missouri didn't derive its nickname after someone snapped a photo of a toddler who immediately shouted, "Show me!" (if you know, you know). Instead, Missouri is called "The Show Me State" because the phrase was popularized in the 1890s, when Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver delivered a speech and said, "I'm from Missouri, and you've got to show me."

Water Purification Plant at Edge of Berkeley Pit Copper Mine in Butte, Montana
PhilAugustavo/istockphoto

Montana: The Treasure State

Montana is called "The Treasure State" because of its rich deposits of valuable minerals, including gold, silver, and copper, discovered during the state's early mining days.

Cheerleaders on Field During Football Game at the University of Nebraska
Cheerleaders on Field During Football Game at the University of Nebraska

Nebraska: The Cornhusker State

The University of Nebraska's athletic teams are dubbed the Cornhuskers, a nickname that originated from the practice of hand-husking corn, which is a common agricultural activity in the state. So, the state is known as "The Cornhusker State."

Mining on the Comstock
Mining on the Comstock

Nevada: The Silver State

The largest silver strike in U.S. history occurred in Nevada, inspiring its nickname as "The Silver State."

A Man Is Atop Cathederal Ledge After His Ascent in North Conway, New Hampshire
arodPEI/istockphoto

New Hampshire: The Granite State

New Hampshire is home to abundant granite formations and quarries, so it's appropriately known as "The Granite State."

Garden With Flowers Around a White Fence in Front of a Home, Cape May, New Jersey
MDoculus/istockphoto

New Jersey: The Garden State

New Jersey is called "The Garden State" due to its long history of agriculture and its diverse landscape that supports abundant gardens and farms. The nickname was popularized in the 19th century as a way to promote the state's agricultural footprint.

Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah, New Mexico
harryhayashi/istockphoto

New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment

From the Rocky Mountains to vast desert landscapes, we'd say it's pretty appropriate to tie the adjective "enchanting" to New Mexico, so the state is deservingly known as "The Land of Enchantment."

George Washington at His Desk on Engraving From 1859
GeorgiosArt/istockphoto

New York: The Empire State

The nickname "Empire State" is believed to have origins dating back to a letter written by George Washington in 1785, where he praised New York's resilience and referred to it as "the Seat of the Empire."

Tar Heating in a Metal Container
Taraskin1975/istockphoto

North Carolina: The Tar Heel State

North Carolina is known as the "Tar Heel State" because of the state's history is rooted in turpentine, tar, and pitch production from its pine trees, and the resulting sticky tar that stuck to the heels of those who worked in the profession. The nickname was used as a point of pride by soldiers during the Civil War — upending the negative connotation it once had — and stuck like tar from then on.

International Peace Garden, North Dakota
Ryan R./Yelp

North Dakota: The Peace Garden State

North Dakota's International Peace Garden, which sits on the border between the state and Manitoba, Canada commemorates a pledge made in 1932 between the United States and Canada to never go to war with each other. Thus, the nickname "The Peace Garden State."

Closeup of Fallen Ohio Buckeyes on Grass
NajaShots/istockphoto

Ohio: The Buckeye State

Buckeyes are ubiquitous with Ohio — so much so that we've never even deeply pondered how the nickname "The Buckeye State" came to be. It more than likely originated from the buckeye trees in the state and these days the Ohio State athletic teams, candies, and more from the state sport the moniker.

Oklahoma Route 66 Sign in Foreground With a Street in a Town in the Background, Oklahoma
Tiago_Fernandez/istockphoto

Oklahoma: The Sooner State

There were nearly 2 million acres open for settlement in Oklahoma in 1889 and people came in troves to settle there. The people who came to the state before the land run's starting time at noon on April 22, 1889 were called "sooner," inspiring the state's eventual nickname as "The Sooner State."

A Cute Beaver
Jillian Cooper/istockphoto

Oregon: The Beaver State

Oregon's history is rooted in fur hats sourced from beavers. The beaver is both the state animal and the inspiration for the state nickname, "The Beaver State."

The Betsy Ross House With Waving the Thirteen Colonies American Flag, Philadelpha
Rolf Karlsson/istockphoto

Pennsylvania: The Keystone State

Pennsylvania is called "The Keystone State" because of its central location among the original Thirteen Colonies during the formation of the United States.

Boats in the Foreground of Newport Bridge, Newport, Rhode Island, During Sunset
Brad Yurcisin/istockphoto

Rhode Island: The Ocean State

Plenty of states feature oceanic locales, but Rhode Island is bonded to the Atlantic Ocean. The tiny state is known as "The Ocean State" due to its extensive coastline and maritime heritage, which have shaped its identity and economy.

Palmetto Trees, South Carolina, During Dusk
mikeledford/istockphoto

South Carolina: The Palmetto State

South Carolina is known as "The Palmetto State" because of the abundant palmetto trees in the region, which are particularly notable for their role in defending Charleston during the Revolutionary War.

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, During Sunset
Gunther Fraulob/istockphoto

South Dakota: The Mount Rushmore State

The iconic Mount Rushmore is located in South Dakota, so the state's nickname is "The Mount Rushmore State." Straightforward stuff, folks.

The Battle of New Orleans, Edward Percy Moran
The Battle of New Orleans, Edward Percy Moran

Tennessee: The Volunteer State

In recognition of the volunteer soldiers from Tennessee who played a crucial role in the War of 1812, particularly during the Battle of New Orleans, the state nickname is "The Volunteer State."

Texas State Flag on a Sunny Day
Richard McMillin/istockphoto

Texas: The Lone Star State

Texas is called "The Lone Star State" because of the single star on its flag, symbolizing its former status as an independent republic before joining the United States.

Bees Flying to Beehive Box, Sunlight
Martin Herzog/istockphoto

Utah: The Beehive State

Utah isn't chock full of beehives. Instead, the state is called "The Beehive State" because settlers believed that beehives were symbolic of hard work and perseverance.

Aerial of Trees and Mountains in Windsor, Vermont, During Summer
Matt Bills/istockphoto

Vermont: The Green Mountain State

The lush, forested moutain ranges in Vermont, known as the Green Mountains, inspired the state's nickname: "The Green Mountain State."

Horse-Drawn Carriage Traveling Along Road, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Bill Chizek/istockphoto

Virginia: The Old Dominion State

Virginia is called "The Old Dominion State" because of its status as one of the original colonies and its historical significance as a loyalist colony during the English Civil War.

Welcome to Washington The Evergreen State Sign
Kirk Fisher/istockphoto

Washington: The Evergreen State

If you've ever been to Washington, you know why it's called The Evergreen State. Abundant lush evergreen forests sprawl the landscape giving the locale unique scenery.

Rainbow Over New River Gorge, West Virginia
Jesse Thornton/istockphoto

West Virginia: The Mountain State

West Virginia is called "The Mountain State" due to its mountainous terrain, with the Appalachian Mountains covering a significant portion of the state.

A Quarry in Green Bay, Wisconsin
James Neal/istockphoto

Wisconsin: The Badger State

In the early 1800s, lead miners living in the southwestern region of Wisconsin often lived in abandoned mine shafts (like badgers) to seek shelter during the winter instead of building houses. This inspired the state nickname: The Badger State.

Wyoming Women Statue, Cheyenne, Wyoming
Wyoming Women Statue, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Wyoming: The Equality State

Wyoming is called "The Equality State" because it was the first state to grant women the right to vote in 1869, which was certainly something to be commemorated.

This story was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

Hot Air Balloons Drifting Over the Rio Grande River, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Greg Meland/istockphoto

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