U.S. States by Namesake or Name Meaning

Guess the U.S. state based on each description of what it is named for.
if the state name's etymology is disputed or unclear, it generally is not included here.
Quiz by kalbahamut
Last updated: December 10, 2018
First submittedJanuary 26, 2014
Times taken2,322
Report this quizReport
Enter answer here
 / 39 guessed
The quiz is paused. You have remaining.
You scored / = %
This beats or equals % of test takers also scored 100%
The average score is
Your high score is
Your fastest time is
Keep scrolling down for answers and more stats ...
Named For
"mountain" in Spanish
William Penn
first American president
"land of Maria" in English
"land of the Indians"
Queen Elizabeth I
the Kansa tribe
King George II
country to the south
New Mexico
King Louis XIV
the Ioway people
King Charles I
the Carolinas
"dry land" in Spanish
northern English city
New York
"flowery land" in Spanish
island off Normandy
New Jersey
"snow-covered" in Spanish
"homeland" in Proto-Polynesian
"flat water" in Omaha
"great river" in Ojibwe
Named For
"ruddy color" in Spanish
"green mountains" in French
"great river" in Iroquois
governor of Virginia
"large lake" in Ojibwe
southern English county
New Hampshire
"people of the mountains" in Ute
a Cherokee village
"the great land" in Aleut
Tipi Sapa clan of the Sioux Nation
the Dakotas
"red people" in Choctaw
"clouded water" in Dakota
name for the locals in Muskogean
"friends" in Caddo
"long tidal river" in Algonquian
"downriver people" in Quapaw
"those with canoes" in Sioux/Illini
"by the large hill"
a valley in Pennsylvania
Level 44
Feb 23, 2014
You missed Rhode Island, otherwise great quiz!
Level 81
Feb 23, 2014
It wasn't an oversight. I intentionally omitted Rhode Island (and 10 other states for the same reason) because the origins of its name are unclear. In Rhode Island's case there are at least two popular theories, one is that an early explorer was comparing Aquidneck Island to the Greek island of Rhodes, and another popular theory is that an early Dutch explorer described the island as being "reddish" (rodlich), perhaps due to the color of Autumn foliage in the area.
Level 36
Dec 12, 2014
" The name is based on the Chippewa Indian word Ouisconsin, believed to mean 'grassy place.' "
Level 36
Dec 12, 2014
" California's name comes from a mythical Spanish island ruled by a queen called Califia that was featured in a Spanish romance "
Level 36
Dec 12, 2014
" Mining lobbyist George M. Willing presented the name 'Idaho' to congress for a new territory around Pike's Peak, claiming it was a Shoshone Indian word meaning 'Gem of the Mountains.' By the time the deception was discovered, the name 'Idaho' was already in common use. "
Level 36
Dec 12, 2014
" Kentucky's name comes from the Wyandot Indian name for 'plain' in reference to the central plains of the state. "
Level 36
Dec 12, 2014
" Maine's name was first used to distinguish the mainland from the offshore islands. It has been considered a compliment to Henrietta Maria, queen of Charles I of England. She was said to have owned the province of Mayne in France. "
Level 36
Dec 12, 2014
" Oregon was most likely named after one of two rivers. The Columbia River, which forms a coastline along the northern border, was at one time called the Oregon or Ouragan, which is French for hurricane. Others believe the name was derived from a mapmaker's error in the 1700s. The Wisconsin River was named the Ouisconsink and was picked up by travelers referring to the country west of the Great Lakes as Ourigan. "
Level 36
Dec 12, 2014
" The first mention of Rhode Island in writing ("isola di Rhode") was made by explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 (he refers to an island near the mouth of Narragansett Bay which he compares to the Island of Rhodes in the Mediterranean). Some attribute the name to Dutch explorer Adriaen Block ("Roode Eylandt"), again because its red clay is similar to the Greek island of Rhodes. "
Level 81
Dec 13, 2014
This is another of my quizzes I've been meaning to expand/re-do.
Level 78
May 20, 2014
My brain must be slow today. I didn't get finished in time.
Level 59
May 27, 2014
not enough time
Level 44
Aug 1, 2014
Level 48
Jun 1, 2014
Just a note, but if you say in the instructions that disputed or unclear names are not included, and then you include that Arizona comes from Spanish for "dry land", you're not following your own rules. We don't know where the name Arizona came from. However, I am nearly certain that it didn't come from "zona árida" or anything like that, because frankly it's a ridiculous theory. I prefer the theory that it's a Tohono O'odham word that came to English via Spanish, but then again, it's under dispute, so don't include it.
Level 81
Jun 2, 2014
I had not heard that before but it appears you are correct. However, why is the dry land etymology ridiculous? Makes pretty good sense considering large parts of Arizona are desert and the first Europeans there were Spanish speakers.
Level 48
Sep 29, 2015
I'm realizing a year later that I never followed up on this comment, so I'd like to add a few notes. I say that the theory is ridiculous in part because it is not a fair or accurate description of the geography—Arizona is no more arid than Southern California or New Mexico—but mostly because I see it as highly implausible that the Spanish phrase "zona árida" would get flipped around to Arizona when the grammar would not place the adjective first in this context. I also speak Spanish (non-natively) and have never heard "zona" used in a placename; a better translation would be "Tierra Seca". So while there are many Spanish placenames in Arizona (e.g. the cities of Mesa, Tucson, Casa Grande, & Sierra Vista; Santa Catalina mountains) I don't think the name Arizona is one of them. I'm sorry for letting my pet peeve get in the way of writing a better comment; re-reading it, it strikes me as abrasive. I dislike having people say that my home state is arid and I let it get to me sometimes.
Level 48
Sep 29, 2015
My theory is that the "it's Spanish for 'dry land'" theory comes from English-speaking people who didn't like the climate and noticed that in English, "Arizona" sounds an awful lot like "Arid Zone". Basically a folk etymology. But that comes from my own subjective opinion.
Level 81
Sep 30, 2015
That makes some sense, though, I've been to Arizona before. I've seen the desert there. The climate is among the hottest and driest in the United States. Only Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming receive less annual rainfall. And it's hardly like historical place names are required to be super accurate. I mean... how green is Greenland?
Level 81
Jun 2, 2014
This wiki page supports your contention while offering some slightly different etymologies of other states, some for states I had not included, and some further disputed claims of ones that are included. I might update the quiz in light of this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Level 81
Jun 2, 2014
one last note... I did say "generally not included," so, the caveats and quiz are not necessarily wrong.
Level 57
Sep 14, 2015
Great quiz! I like the idea of taking these geography quizzes to new places (pun intended). I wish I had the time to make more like it, too. Keep 'em coming, kal.