Special Report

How Each State Got Its Name

Source: pfly from Pugetopolis / Wikimedia Commons

Virginia
> Joined United States: June 25, 1788 (10th state to join)
> Capital: Richmond
> Population: 8,525,660

The state of Virginia was named after England’s Queen Elizabeth I, who was also known as “The Virgin Queen.” The lands in North America claimed by England in the 1600s were called “Virginia.” Queen Elizabeth I granted Walter Raleigh the charter to create a colony.

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Washington
> Joined United States: Nov. 11, 1889 (42nd state to join)
> Capital: Olympia
> Population: 7,530,552

The state of Washington was named in honor of George Washington and is the only state named after the the nation’s first president, or any U.S. president.

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West Virginia
> Joined United States: June 20, 1863 (35th state to join)
> Capital: Charleston
> Population: 1,803,077

West Virginia split from Virginia when the 39 western counties of Virginia refused to secede from the Union during the Civil War. West Virginia came into being in 1863. For Virginia’s name origin please look up Virginia on our list.

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Wisconsin
> Joined United States: May 29, 1848 (30th state to join)
> Capital: Madison
> Population: 5,818,049

The Wisconsin Historical Society says Wisconsin was originally called “Meskonsing” and is the English rendering of a French version of a Miami Indian name for the Wisconsin River that runs through the center of the state. The society said that in the Miami people’s language it meant, “this stream meanders through something red,” a reference to the red sandstone bluffs of the Wisconsin Dells.

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Wyoming
> Joined United States: July 10, 1890 (44th state to join)
> Capital: Cheyenne
> Population: 573,720

The name “Wyoming” is derived from the Delaware people’s word “mecheweami-ing,” meaning “at the big plains.” Another possible origin for Wyoming’s name is that it is an Algonquin word meaning “large prairie place.”