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How the states of America got their names (4/5).

Updated on February 16, 2013

Welcome to part four of our look into the background to the names of the states, that make up the United States of the Union. If you have found this page by accident and would like to view this from the beginning, you can find a related link within the article. The United States of America has a wealth of history, especially when we consider the rich heritage of the native population. Even they have influenced the names of the states.

Location of the states

New York:
New York, NY, USA

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North Carolina:
North Carolina, USA

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North Dakota:
North Dakota, USA

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Ohio, USA

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Oklahoma, USA

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Oregon, USA

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Pennsylvania, USA

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Rhode Island:
Rhode Island, USA

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New York

New York became the 11th state in 1788, the British and Dutch were instrumental in colonizing the area. New York. The British changed the names of a lot of the Dutch settlements such as turning New Amsterdam into New York. The state capital of New York state is Albany, even though New York City is more well known. The state gets its name from the the Duke of York who became James the 2nd of Great Britain.

North Carolina

North Carolina was the 12th state to join the Union in 1789, North Carolina was originally a Spanish possession in the New World. It was joined with South Carolina until they separated in 1729,by then it was one of Britain's Thirteen colonies. The state capital of North Carolina is Raleigh, which is named after Sir Walter Raleigh. North Carolina left the Union to join the Confederate cause after it was instructed to invade South Carolina. The state takes it name from Charles the First of Great Britain.

North Dakota

North Dakota was the 39th state to join the Union, having been admitted in 1889. It had been claimed in parts by the French and Spanish settlers. The United States gained the land from the Louisiana purchase and by a succession of treaties. The state capital is Bismark, while Fargo is it's largest city. The name Dakota comes from the Native American tribe of the same name.


Ohio was a part of the North West territory until statehood was achieved in 1803, this made Ohio the 17th state to join the Union. The state capital of Ohio is Columbus, and it has many other major cities such as Cleveland and Cincinnati. The name Ohio comes from the Iroquois language and it translates as great river. Ohio backed the Unionist side in the Civil War.


Oklahoma territory was added to the Union in 1907, and this made it the 46th member of the United States of America. Oklahoma was home to many different Native American tribes after the land was purchased from the French in 1803. Oklahoma's state capital is Oklahoma City and it grew rapidly from 1890 due to a land rush. The name Oklahoma is borrowed from the Choctaw language and means Red People.


In 1859 the Oregon territory was admitted to the Union as the 33rd state of America. Much of the area had been subject to Spanish and French claims over the centuries. The state capital is Salem, and should not be confused with the Salem of Witch hunt fame. The name of the state is likely a misspelling of either a French or Indian word by a attempting to anglicise it. The name is thought to refer to either the storms or the water ways.


The province of Pennsylvania was the Second state to be admitted to the Union in 1787. The state was subject to British, Dutch and Swedish territorial claims, although the British eventually gained supremacy of the area. Pennsylvania's state capital is Harrisburg, although Philadelphia is the more well known settlement. The state was a Unionist state in the American Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in the state. The states is named after William Penn after King Charles granted him the land charter to fulfill a debt. Penn wanted to call the land either New Wales or Sylvania.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island was the first states to declare independence from the British, and was added to the Union as the 13th state in 1790. The state capital of Rhode Island is the city of Providence, and was set up as a refuge for religious freedom. There are two theories regarding the name Rhode Island. The first one is that a European explorer saw similarities with the Greek Island of Rhodes and the new colonists took the name as their own. The second more likely explanation is the colour of the land was described by a Dutch traveler as been " Een rodlich Eylande ", which meant red island. The name was anglicized and Rhode Island was adopted as the name.


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