Special Report

How Each State Got Its Name

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Massachusetts
> Joined United States: Feb. 6, 1788 (6th state to join)
> Capital: Boston
> Population: 6,895,917

The name “Massachusetts” is derived from the language of the Algonquian nation and translates as “at or about the great hill.” The hill refers to the Blue Hills southwest of Boston.

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Michigan
> Joined United States: Jan. 26, 1837 (26th state to join)
> Capital: Lansing
> Population: 10,390,149

One account maintain the Michigan name is based on a Native American Chippewa word, “meicigama,” meaning “great water.” Another version of the name claims the state gets its name from Lake Michigan and that Michigan is a French conversion of the Ojibwa word misshikama, which means “big lake,” “large lake,” or “large water.”

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Minnesota
> Joined United States: May 11, 1858 (32nd state to join)
> Capital: St. Paul
> Population: 5,628,162

As we move west, many of the state names are derived from Native American place names or language. Minnesota is one of them. The name “Minnesota” comes from the Dakota Sioux word “Mnisota,” the Native American name for the Minnesota River, which means “cloudy water” or “sky-tinted water.”

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Mississippi
> Joined United States: Dec. 10, 1817 (20th state to join)
> Capital: Jackson
> Population: 2,982,785

The name “Mississippi” comes from the word “Messipi” – the French version for either the Ojibwe or Algonquin name for the river, “Misi-ziibi,” meaning “great river.”

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Missouri
> Joined United States: Aug. 10, 1821 (24th state to join)
> Capital: Jefferson City
> Population: 6,135,888

The name Missouri originates from the Native American Sioux of the state called the Missouris. Missouri means “town of the large canoe.” Other meanings for “Missouri” include “those who have dugout canoes,” “wooden canoe people,” or “he of the big canoe.”