Chula


Gender: Feminine

Origin: Choctaw

Meaning: “Fox.”

Pronunciation: (CHOO-lah)

Nicknames: Chu, Chuie, Ula

Detail: From the Choctaw word for fox.

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Tooele


Gender: Feminine

Origin: Goshute

Meaning: “Bear.”

Pronunciation: (too-WIL-ah)

Nicknames: Tooe, Tooli, Willa

Detail: Historical research reveals the name “Tooele” comes from the Goshute Indian word “bear.” There are several families with the last name “Bear” — descendants of the Goshute Indians who signed a treaty with early Tooele Valley Mormons.

Tooele County, Utah was originally known as Tuilla County. The spelling was changed to Tooele in 1852, when boundaries of the State of Deseret were extended to the California border.

Nootka


Gender: Feminine

Origin: Native American

Meaning: “Circling around.”

Pronunciation: (NOOT-kah)

Nicknames: Noot, Nutella

Detail: When James Cook (British explorer) first encountered the villagers at Yuquot in 1778, they directed him to “come around” (in their language “nootka”) with his ship to the harbour. Cook interpreted this as the name of their tribe. In 1981 the term Nuu-Chah-Nulth (meaning “all along the mountains”) was chosen as the new name of the tribe.

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”.

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.

Alabama


Gender: Feminine

Origin: Choctaw

Meaning: Uncertain, perhaps “Plant gatherers.”

Pronunciation: (al-uh-BAM-uh)

Nicknames: Alla, Bama

Detail: Alabama was named after the Alabama River. The river was named for the Alabama Indians originally living in region of that river. It is possible that Alabama originated as a compound noun bases on Choctaw, alba “vegetation, plants, herbs” + amo “gatherer, picker”. “Plant gatherers” would be an apt description of the Alabama Indians of that time since they did clear land for farming.