Virginia


Gender: Feminine

Origin: Latin

Meaning: “Maid, virgin.”

Pronunciation: (vur-JIHN-yuh)

Nicknames: Vira, Viri, Ginny

Detail: At the end of the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603), who was known as the “Virgin Queen” because she never married, gave the name Virginia to the whole area explored by the 1584 expedition of Sir Walter Raleigh along the coast of North America.

Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe was the wife of American writer Edgar Allan Poe.

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Nevada


Gender: Feminine

Origin: Spanish

Meaning: “Snowy, snow-covered.”

Pronunciation: (nuh-VA-duh); (neh-VAH-dah)

Nicknames: Neve, Neva, Vada

Detail: Although the name is derived from the Spanish word nevada “snowy, snow-covered”, the local pronunciation of the state’s name is not Spanish (neh-VAH-dah) but good ol’ American (nuh-VA-duh).

Iowa


Gender: Feminine

Origin: Native American

Meaning: “Sleepy ones.”

Pronunciation: (AHY-oh-wah)

Nicknames: Io

Detail: The state of Iowa was named for the Native Americans living in that territory at the time, the Iowa. Despite the report of the 1879 General Assembly of Iowa, which proclaimed that this word means “the beautiful land”, it is actually a Dakota Sioux word given to the Iowas in jest meaning “sleepy ones”.

Indiana


Gender: Feminine

Origin: English

Meaning: “Land of Indians.”

Pronunciation: (in-dee-AN-uh)

Nicknames: Indie, Ana

Detail: This state has one of the most obvious names in the US with the rather ironic meaning, “the land of Indians.” It was given to the Indiana Territory by the United States Congress when Indiana was created from the Northwest Territory in 1800.

Arizona


Gender: Feminine

Origin: Pima (Native American); Basque

Meaning: “Having a little spring; or good oak.”

Pronunciation: (air-ih-ZOH-nuh)

Nicknames: Ari, Ara, Azza, Zona, Zoni, Zoe

Detail: Arizona was inherited from the Spanish Arizonac, a word virtually identical to Basque arizonac “good oak”. However, it isn’t clear why the Spanish would choose a Basque word for (at the time) a Mexican territory. The name of this state is most probably a Native American word, possibly an O’odham (Pima) word meaning “having a little spring” made up of ali “little” + sona-g “spring-having”—plus a little corruption from the Spanish.

Alaska


Gender: Feminine

Origin: Aleut

Meaning: “The mainland, the land facing the sea.”

Pronunciation: (uh-LAS-uh)

Nicknames: Alla, Alas, Laski

Detail: Alaska came from an Aleut (Yupik) word alaxsxaq (ah-LOCK-shock) “the mainland, the land facing the sea”. The Russians were the first Europeans in Alaska and they pronounced the word (al-YA-ska). When the US purchased Alaska from the Russians the name was only slightly modified to what it is today.

Title character in John Green’s Looking for Alaska.