While map making is generally an exact science, some maps really put the “art” in cartography. A gorgeous new map shows all fifty US states with the literal meaning of the state’s name transcribed over them.
Expedia put together a map of all the Canadian provinces and the American states with the most commonly accepted and academically proven translations of their names. When translated, the names range from obvious to subtle, from “completely factual” to “completely wrong” (looking at you there, Indiana!) And while some of the names remain true today, some of them are hilariously “off” in the modern age.
This map gives us a chance to peel back the layers of history and look at the many different cultures and peoples who shaped America as it is today. To learn a little bit more about why exactly each state has its meaning, read on!
1. Hawaii (Proto-Polynesian): While the origins of the word are shrouded in history, one explanation is that it comes from the word for “homeland” or “home of the gods”.
2. Louisiana (French): Unsurprisingly, the state was named after King Louis XIV by the explorer who found it. Ironically, less than two hundred years later, France sold it to the United States in possibly the worst real-estate deal anyone has ever made.
3. New Mexico (English and Aztec): literally means “New Place of Mexitli”, a figure from Aztec storytelling.
4. Colorado (Spanish): “Coloured red” or “red soil”, a name given to the area because of the red sandstone soil around the base of the Colorado river
5. Delaware (Old French): This one comes to us through two degrees of separation. It was named after Baron De La Warr, the colony’s first governor. His family name comes from an Old French word for “Of The War.”
6. Texas (Caddo): Friend or Ally, comes from the Caddo word “Tasha”. Because of this, “Friendship” is the official motto of the state. Is anyone else disappointed that it isn’t officially “Don’t Mess With Texas”?
7. Virginia (English): Country of the Virgin, named after the “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth the First. If you take one thing from this map, it should be that naming colonies after your ruler is just begging to lose them.
8. California (Spanish): Named after Califia, an island paradise from a popular Spanish romance novel at the time of the Conquistadors. I’m pretty happy we aren’t “discovering” more “new” land, as I don’t think I could deal with a state named Fiftyshadeslandia.