Nicknames: Chu, Chuie, Ula
Detail: From the Choctaw word for fox.
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.
Origin: Native American
Meaning: “Circling around.”
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.
Origin: Native American
Meaning: “Sleepy ones.”
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”.
Origin: Pima (Native American); Basque
Meaning: “Having a little spring; or good oak.”
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.
Meaning: “The mainland, the land facing the sea.”
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.
Meaning: Uncertain, perhaps “Plant gatherers.”
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.
Origin: Chinook (A Native American people inhabiting the Pacific Northwest)
Pronunciation: (oh-LAH-leh); (oh-LAH-lee)
Nicknames: Olla, Olli, Lali, Lala
Detail: The Olallieberry is grown mainly on the Northwest Coast of the United States and Canada. This cross between a Youngberry and a Loganberry has a distinctive, sweet flavor and resembles a large, elongated Blackberry. It’s delicious both fresh and cooked and makes excellent jams and jellies.
Meaning: “Daughter of the Earth and Corn Spirit.”
Nicknames: Nat, Ona, Ota
Detail: In Iroquois mythology, Onatah is the corn goddess. She was the daughter of Eithinoha (Mother Earth).
Onatah was kidnapped by the ruler of the underworld. Her mother searched everywhere for her, to no avail. She grieved and while she grieved no crops grew. Finally, the sun found where she was, split open the ground and rescued her, and the earth flourished. However, the spirits of the underworld miss Onatah, and whenever the sun sleeps they snatch her back (winter), and then a great human effort in ceremonies and offerings are needed to awaken the sun and rescue her again (spring).