March 5, 2024 | Dancy Mason

Every State's Nickname—And Where It Comes From


State Nicknames

Ever wonder why Missouri is the "Show-Me State"? Do you know "The Badger State" doesn't mean what you think? Find out all the state nicknames and the stories behind them.

US Nicknames

Alabama

"The Yellowhammer State"

Because the Yellowhammer is the official state bird. Other nicknames: "The Heart of Dixie."

Yellowhammer bird (Emberiza citronella).Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Alaska

"The Last Frontier"

Because it was one of the last states to join America. Other nicknames: "Land of the Midnight Sun," "The North Star State."

Alaska SignIngo70, Shutterstock

Arizona

"The Grand Canyon State"

Because it's home to the Grand Canyon. Other nicknames: "The Apache State," "The Copper State."

Grand Canyon National Park, Yavapai Point RainbowGrand Canyon National Park's Photostream, Flickr

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Arkansas

"The Natural State"

Because of its natural beauty and resources. Other nicknames: "The Land of Opportunity," "The Wonder State."

Little Rock, Arkansas - 2014Nicolas Henderson, Flickr

California

"The Golden State"

Because of the California gold rush as well as the Golden Gate Bridge. Other nicknames: "The Grape State," "The Land of Milk and Honey."

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.brock brannen, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

Colorado

"The Centennial State"

Because Colorado became part of the US 100 years after the Declaration of Independence. Other nicknames: "The Columbine State," "The Rocky Mountain State."

Main Street in downtown Aspen, CO - 2012Daniel Case, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Connecticut

"The Constitution State"

Because some of the very first laws were passed in Connecticut. Other nicknames: "The Arsenal of the Nation," "The Nutmeg State."

New Haven County Courthouse, Connecticut - 2019Jimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr

Delaware

"The First State"

Because Delaware was the first state to sign the Constitution. Other nicknames: "The Diamond State," "The Spud State."

Scene At The Signing Of The Constitution Of The United StatesHoward Chandler Christy, Wikimedia Commons

Florida

"The Sunshine State"

Because it's so sunny! Other nicknames: "The Everglade State," "The Orange State."

South Beach - Miami, Florida - 2009Timothy Wildey. Flickr

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Georgia

"The Peach State"

Because its peaches really are that good. Other nicknames: "The Empire State of the South."

Woman in red coat holding a peach.cottonbro studio, Pexels

Hawaii

"The Aloha State"

Because "Aloha" is "Hello" in Hawaiian. Other nicknames: "The Pineapple State," "The Rainbow State."

Hawaiian lei girl giving flowers as welcome to HawaiiMaridav, Shutterstock

Idaho

"The Gem State"

Because the name "Idaho" is a Shoshone Native American word that means "Gem of the Mountains." 

Shoshone Falls, Idaho - 2018Frank Schulenburg, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Illinois

"The Prairie State"

Because of its abundance of prairies. Other nicknames: "The Land of Lincoln," "The Rainy State."

Prairie Pond, Illinois - 2018Chris, Flickr

Indiana

"The Hoosier State"

Because of the John Finley poem "The Hoosier's Nest." Other nicknames: "The Hospitality State."

Indiana State Capitol at the end of Market St, Indianapolis - 2008Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Iowa

"The Hawkeye State"

Because Chief Black Hawk had to move to what is now Iowa, and they named it in honor of him. 

Black Hawk, the Sauk war chief - 1832George Catlin, Wikimedia Commons

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Kansas

"The Sunflower State"

Because sunflowers grow there aplenty. Other nicknames: "The Jayhawk State," "The Wheat State."

Sunflowers on the field.Tom Fisk, Pexels

Kentucky

"The Bluegrass State"

Because the Kentucky grasslands have grass with blue-tipped flowers. 

Kentucky bluegrass - Poa pratensis.Matt Lavin, Flickr

Louisiana

"The Pelican State"

Because Louisiana is home to a lot of pelicans. Other nicknames: "The Child of the Mississippi," "The Bayou State."

White pelicans in the water.Zak Cole, Flickr

Maine

"The Pine Tree State"

Because of Maine's beautiful white pine trees. Other nicknames: "Vacationland."

Pine Tree State, Maine - 2012smilla4, Flickr

Maryland

"The Old Line State"

Because during the Revolutionary War, Maryland men fought as the Maryland Line military. Other nicknames: "The Cockade State," "The Free State."

Maryland  Revolutionary WarMaryland National Guard, Flickr

Massachusetts

"The Bay State"

Because of Cape Cod Bay and the old governing body, the Massachusetts Bay Company. Other nicknames: "The Colony State," "The Spirit of America."

Shaping Cape Cod, Massachusetts - 2015NASA Johnson, Flickr

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Michigan

"The Wolverine State"

Because wolverines often make their home in Michigan. Other nicknames: "The Mitten State," "The Winter Water Wonderland."

A wolverine in the forest.Magnus Johansson, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Minnesota

"The North Star State"

Because its state motto translates to "The Star of the North." Other nicknames: "The Gopher State," "The State of Hockey."

Minnesota Whitecaps team - 2019Lorie Shaull, Flickr

Mississippi

"The Magnolia State"

Because of its breathtaking magnolia trees. Other nicknames: "The Hospitality State," "The Mudcat State."

March Magnolia (Explored) - 2022Julie from Wexford, Flickr

Missouri

"The Show-Me State"

Reportedly because Missouri congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver was attending a black-tie affair over in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when he quipped, "frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri. You have to show me." Other nicknames: "The Bullion State," "The Cave State."

Willard D. Vandiver (Missouri Congressman) - circa 1905The State Historical Society of Missouri, Wikimedia Commons

Montana

"The Treasure State"

Because of its abundant mineral resources. Other nicknames: "Big Sky Country," "The Last Best Place."

Continental Mine (Butte, Montana) - 2010James St. John, Flickr

Nebraska

"The Cornhusker State"

Because cornhusking, a practice of growing corn competitively, happens all over Nebraska. Other nicknames: "The Beef State."

Painting of Corn Husking At field.Eastman Johnson, Wikimedia Commons

Nevada

"The Silver State"

Because silver is one of its biggest natural resources. Other nicknames: "The Battle-Born State," "The Sagebrush State."

Silver City, Nevada - 2013Jasperdo, Flickr

New Hampshire

"The Granite State"

Because it is teeming with granite. Other nicknames: "The Mother of Rivers," "The White Mountain State."

New Hampshire granite quarry.Doc Searls, Flickr

New Jersey

"The Garden State"

Because of an 1876 speech where Abraham Browning called it "The Garden State."

Picture of New Jersey Attorney General Abraham Browning - from 1845-1850Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

New Mexico

"The Land of Enchantment"

Because of a phrase in a Lilian Whiting book. 

Albuquerque, New Mexico, Usa - 1955Pom', CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

New York

"The Empire State"

Because George Washington called it the "Seat of the Empire" in 1785. 

Painting of George Washington - 1795Gilbert Stuart, Wikimedia Commons

North Carolina

"The Tar Heel State"

Because of the state's roots in turpentine production. Other nicknames: "The Turpentine State," "The Old North State."

Turpentine still in Wilmington, North Carolina between 1905 to 1915C. W. Yates & Co, Wikimedia Commons

North Dakota

"The Peace Garden State"

Because it houses the International Peace Garden on the border of the US and Canada. Other nicknames: "The Flickertail State," "The Sioux State."

International Peace Garden, North Dakota-Manitoba Border - 2018Ken Lund, Flickr

Ohio

"The Buckeye State"

Because of the buckeye trees that were in the area when the territory was first colonized. Other nicknames: "The Mother of Modern Presidents."

Aesculus glabra (Ohio buckeye) - 2010James St. John, Flickr

Oklahoma 

"The Sooner State"

Because the Oklahoma territories were initially settled through "land runs," or (literally) land claims races. A pistol shot started these races, and those who "jumped the gun" were known as "Sooners." Other nicknames: "Cowboy Country."

Oklahoma Land Rush - 1889Chris 73, Wikimedia Commons

Oregon

"The Beaver State"

Because beaver fur used to be incredibly popular, and much of it came from Oregon. Other nicknames: "The Union State."

Agent Bragg And Beaver Pelts.Ralston Dan H, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia Commons

Pennsylvania

"The Keystone State"

Because of its crucial role in founding the United States. Other nicknames: "The Independence State," "The Quaker State."

Entering North Beaver Township, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania sign - 2015Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Rhode Island

"The Ocean State"

Because of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Other nicknames: "Little Rhody."

Providence Rhode Island Skyline - 2017Kenneth C. Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

South Carolina

"The Palmetto State"

Because of its sabal palmetto trees.

Sabal palmetto - cabbage palm treesJames St. John, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

South Dakota

"The Mount Rushmore State"

Because it houses the famous Mount Rushmore. Other nicknames: "The Coyote State."

Mount Rushmore Fireworks CelebrationThe White House, Wikimedia Commons

Tennessee 

"The Volunteer State"

Because in the War of 1812, a huge number of volunteer fighters came from the state. Other nicknames: "The Butternut State."

War of 1812 - Fort York - 2013Don Gunn, Flickr

Texas

"The Lone Star State"

Because of the "lone star" flag, which was adopted after Texas won independence from Mexico. 

Man on horse holding the Texas flag.Carol M Highsmith, Rawpixel

Utah

"The Beehive State"

Because beehives represent industry and hard work. Other nicknames: "The Deseret."

Utah Beehive - 2012vxla, Flickr

Vermont

"The Green Mountain State"

Because of the "Monts Verts" (French for "Green Mountains") that run through the state. 

Church steeple in the rain in Stowe, Vermont - 2021Diana Robinson, Flickr

Virginia

"The Old Dominion"

Because of Virginia's loyalty to the King in the English Civil War. Other nicknames: "The Mother of Presidents."

State Capitol Of The Commonwealth Of Virginia - 2012Ron Cogswell, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Washington

"The Evergreen State"

Because of its evergreen forests. Other nicknames: "The State of Love and Trust."

Washington Woods Tall Trees - 2017Jonathan Connolly, Flickr

West Virginia

"The Mountain State"

Because of its mountains. Other nicknames: "The Panhandle State."

West Virginia Fall Foliage Mountain Sunset - 2011Forest Wander, Flickr

Wisconsin 

"The Badger State"

Not because of the animal, but because the miners who came to find their fortunes there in the 1820s had to "live like badgers" in tunnels inside the hills to survive the winter. Other nicknames: "America's Dairyland," "The Cheese State."

Wisconsin State Cow Chip Cow StatueCorey Coyle, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Wyoming

"The Equality State"

Because it was the first state to grant women the right to vote. Other nicknames: "The Cowboy State," "The Park State."

Devils Tower National Monument Wyoming November 2011.1025wil, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Sources:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 1213, 14, 15


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