Do you know your state nicknames?
U.S. history buffs might be experts on the details of state geography and capitals, but fewer may claim to know each of the 50 states’ nicknames. Every state has one, whether it’s official or just a common epithet used colloquially.
To test your knowledge, Stacker has compiled a list of all the top state nicknames throughout the country. Some nicknames aren’t intuitive at all—for example, “The Badger State,” which really has no basis in the actual animal itself, but rather in the people who lived and worked in the state. Others are fairly straightforward. Even U.S. history newbies might wager a guess as to “The Grand Canyon State” and “Mount Rushmore State.”
History pros and amateurs alike can quiz each other to discover which nickname goes with which state and just how it earned its moniker. Dedicated road-trippers may have an advantage, as some state nicknames appear on license plates. Who knows? Hours of playing the license plate game with travel companions may finally come in handy.
Read on to quiz yourself on every state's nicknames.
RELATED: Do you know all the state capitals?
Nickname: The Yellowhammer State
This nickname dates back to the Civil War, when soldiers from the state trimmed their uniforms with yellow—causing them to look like the northern flicker woodpecker, commonly known as the “yellowhammer."
Alabama's newly trimmed Confederate uniforms first debuted in Kentucky, when one of the company men already on the site shouted, “Yellowhammer, yellowhammer, flicker, flicker!" upon seeing them.
Nickname: The Last Frontier
This state is huge and full of open space. Through the end of the 19th century, pioneers and explorers continued to refer to it as “The Last Frontier."
Alaska's distance from the rest of the U.S. and its rugged environment keeps this nickname relevant. The state is also known as “The Land of the Midnight Sun."
Nickname: The Grand Canyon State
This state is named after the national park and landform existing almost entirely within its borders.
Grand Canyon National Park—and the canyon itself—is almost entirely inside Arizona's borders. The canyon was formed mainly by erosion from the Colorado River.
Nickname: The Natural State
This state nickname reflects the beauty of the state itself, with many natural features across the landscape.
Arkansas has the country's first nationally protected river, the Buffalo National River, five national parks, 52 state parks, and three national forests.
Nickname: The Golden State
Many things in this state have revolved around gold since 1848—including flowers, bridges, minerals, and more.
California officially became “The Golden State" in 1968, but it had been associated with gold since the gold rush in 1848. The nickname is also given on behalf of the many fields of golden poppies, the Golden Gate Bridge, golden sunsets, and the state mineral: gold.
Nickname: The Centennial State
This state entered the country officially on the centennial of the Declaration of Independence.
In 1876, Colorado became a state—which was 100 years after the 1776 Declaration of Independence. It's also known as Colorful Colorado, thanks to the landscape.
Nickname: The Constitution State
This state's first constitution reportedly inspired the official United States Constitution.
The Fundamental Orders, or Connecticut's first state constitution written in 1638 to 1639, shared many of the same ideals that would be set out in the U.S. Constitution. Connecticut is also known as the Nutmeg State, and residents are sometimes called Nutmeggers.
Nickname: The First State
This nickname was made official after a request by an elementary school class.
Anabelle O'Malley's first grade class at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School requested this state nickname become official to honor the fact that Delaware was the first state to officially ratify the U.S. Constitution.
Nickname: The Sunshine State
This nickname comes courtesy of the state's pleasant climate.
The entirety of Florida has either a subtropical (north and central Florida) or tropical (south and the Keys) climate—which means warm weather and lots of sunshine.
Nickname: The Peach State
Peaches grown in this state are known to be superior to others throughout the country.
Georgia's official state fruit is the peach, and the fruit there is often recognized as the highest quality peach thanks to color, size, flavor, and texture.
Nickname: The Aloha State
This state is named after a word in the native language.
Hawaii is the most recent state added to the U.S., and it exudes “aloha"—a word that represents compassion, love, and peace.
Nickname: The Gem State
This nickname is based on a fake Native American word.
When mining lobbyist George M. Willing presented the idea for Idaho as a state to Congress, he said the word “Idaho" meant “Gem of the Mountains" in the Shoshone language. Turns out Willing made that all up, but the gem moniker stuck.
Nickname: The Prairie State
The state was once almost entirely covered in prairie grass.
As far back as 1842, people have referred to Illinois as the Prairie State thanks to the abundance of prairie grasses. It's also commonly referred to as “The Land of Lincoln."
Nickname: The Hoosier State
"Hoosier" isn't just in the state nickname—it's also a name for the people who reside there.
No one is 100% certain why Indiana is called the Hoosier State, nor why the people there are called Hoosiers, but the nickname has been around since the early 1830s. The word has been said to derive from a crew of canal workers, an Indian word for corn, a frequent response from settlers after a knock on the door, and more.
Nickname: The Hawkeye State
A historical Native American chief is the reason for this state's nickname.
Chief Black Hawk led the Sauk tribe into battle against the settlers on their land, and the Native Americans were relocated to Iowa after they lost. The state nickname honors Chief Black Hawk.
Nickname: The Sunflower State
The sunflower is the official flower of this state.
In 1903, the sunflower was named the official flower of Kansas. It grows wild in abundance around the state.
Nickname: The Bluegrass State
This nickname comes from a type of grass, not the style of music.
Bluegrass is abundant across the northern part of Kentucky. In the spring, this type of grass grows bluish-purple buds that make everything look awash in a blue hue.
Nickname: The Pelican State
An abundance of a certain type of bird led to this nickname.
Louisiana has long been known as “The Pelican State"—thanks to the large amount of pelicans that frequent the state's coastline. The brown pelican is the state bird as well.
Nickname: The Pine Tree State
This state grows some of the tallest pine trees in the Northeast region of the U.S.
Maine is known for ample white pine forests, some of the tallest of all the pine trees in the northern United States. In the state's early days, the trees were used in shipbuilding.
Nickname: The Old Line State
George Washington coined this state nickname.
During the Revolutionary War, Maryland regularly had lines of troops, known as the Maryland Line. George Washington called it “the old line," bestowing the nickname on the state.
Nickname: The Bay State
This state nickname is mainly based on its location near a body of water.
Massachusetts' Cape Cod Bay was the home to early settlements on the land, and in 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Company received a royal charter promoting settlement.
Nickname: Great Lakes State
This state's nickname comes from its proximity to a major American landmark.
Michigan touches four out of the five Great Lakes, and it also has more than 11,000 lakes within its borders. It is also commonly known as “The Wolverine State."
Nickname: The North Star State
This nickname comes from a French phrase.
The state flag and seal of Minnesota have a French phrase on them: “l'étoile du nord," which means “the star of the north."
Nickname: The Magnolia State
This state nickname comes from an abundant tree and its flower.
Mississippi has an ample amount of magnolia trees, which bloom with beautiful flowers. The tree is the state tree, and its flower is the state flower.
Nickname: The Show-Me State
A widely believed story gives credit to a congressman for this nickname.
The exact origin of “The Show-Me State" is unclear, but credit is generally given to Missouri's U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver. In an 1899 speech in Philadelphia, he said “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
Nickname: The Treasure State
People coming to this state might get rich from the naturally occuring treasure.
Montana earned its nickname from its rich deposits of silver and gold; the treasures here were discovered in the mid-1800s.
Nickname: The Cornhusker State
Essentially, this state nickname is thanks to sports—and a crop.
Corn is a big crop in Nebraska, and early settlers had to husk the corn by hand. The University of Nebraska honored that heritage by naming its teams the Cornhuskers, and that was shortly thereafter adopted as the state nickname.
Nickname: The Silver State
Forget the gold rush; this state was nicknamed for its silver rush.
Back in the mid-1800s, deserts in the state of Nevada had a silver crust on top, polished by the wind and dust. Prospectors came and literally shoveled the silver off and got rich.
Nickname: The Granite State
This nickname is based on the state's official rock.
State: New Hampshire
Granite is in ample supply in New Hampshire and there are extensive granite quarries. Granite is the official state rock.
Nickname: The Garden State
This state's nickname has more to do with barrels than gardens.
State: New Jersey
New Jersey's attorney general from 1845 to 1850—Abraham Browning—is credited with giving New Jersey the moniker “The Garden State." Browning called New Jersey “an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat and open at both ends, with Pennsylvanians grabbing from one end and New Yorkers from the other," according to the state website.
Nickname: Land of Enchantment
This nickname was originally a tourism slogan, gleaned from a travel book.
State: New Mexico
In 1935, the tourism bureau of New Mexico called the state “The Land of Enchantment" on a brochure, hoping it would bring visitors in to see the state's rich history and expansive beauty.
Nickname: The Empire State
George Washington might also be responsible for this state nickname, which has nothing to do with a building.
State: New York
New York's nickname came well before the Empire State Building went up. It's often credited to a quote from a letter that George Washington wrote in 1785, calling New York “the Seat of the Empire."
Nickname: The Tar Heel State
This state nickname was actually a term of derision when it was first coined.
State: North Carolina
North Carolina's maritime history dates back to colonial times, when the state supplied tar, pitch, and turpentine from pine trees to naval stores. The tar often stuck to workers' feet, so the term “tar heel" was used to mock the working class.
Nickname: The Peace Garden State
This state is nicknamed after an actual garden.
State: North Dakota
The International Peace Garden opened in 1932, covering land in both Canada and North Dakota. The nickname was formally adopted in 1957.
Nickname: The Buckeye State
This state's nickname comes from a tree with a wide prevalence.
Ohio's state tree is the Ohio buckeye, named so because the nuts look like deer eyes.
Nickname: The Sooner State
This state is nicknamed after a set of people who essentially cheated to get land.
In 1889, Oklahoma's land was largely unclaimed. The government opened it up for land grabs in April, but potential settlers needed to wait in line at the border before getting in to stake their claim—except the sooners, who snuck in early and hid so they could have the first choice.
Nickname: The Beaver State
This state nickname dates back to the time of the Oregon Trail.
Beavers are prevalent in Oregon and always have been. “The Beaver State" dates back to the early 1800s when pioneers and trappers made fur hats out of beaver pelts.
Nickname: The Keystone State
The keystone is the center stone in an arch that holds everything together—as many have said this state does.
Pennsylvania was in the middle of the first 13 colonies, and had a key position in the early history of the United States. Three important documents originated in Philadelphia: the Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.
Nickname: The Ocean State
This small state's nickname comes from its lengthy coastline.
State: Rhode Island
Rhode Island has more than 400 miles of coastline, mostly along the Atlantic Ocean. Every resident can reach either the Atlantic Ocean or Narragansett Bay within 30 minutes.
Nickname: The Palmetto State
This nickname refers to a specific type of tree.
State: South Carolina
South Carolina's state tree is the sabal palmetto, more commonly referred to as the cabbage palmetto. The salute to South Carolina's flag includes a pledge to “The Palmetto State."
Nickname: Mount Rushmore State
A giant rocky monument gives this state its nickname.
State: South Dakota
South Dakota is home to Mount Rushmore, the cliffside face carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
Nickname: The Volunteer State
This state's nickname refers to an era when thousands of this state's residents volunteered to go to battle.
Coined during the War of 1812, Tennessee is called “The Volunteer State" because thousands of volunteer soldiers fought in the war. It happened again during the Mexican War—the state government requested 2,800 volunteers and 30,000 people stepped forward.
Nickname: The Lone Star State
The single star in this state represents fierce independence.
Texas is known worldwide as “The Lone Star State," a nickname dating back to 1839 when Texas declared independence from Mexico.
Nickname: The Beehive State
Surprisingly, this state nickname actually has nothing to do with insects.
“The Beehive State" was coined by Mormons in 1847, when Brigham Young chose the beehive as the emblem of the Salt Lake Valley, representing the cooperation and teamwork that would be necessary to cultivate the land.
Nickname: The Green Mountain State
A statewide mountain range gives this state its nickname.
The Green Mountains stretch across Vermont from Massachusetts to Quebec. Samuel de Champlain named the range in 1647.
Nickname: Old Dominion
This state was loyal to English monarchy, earning this nickname.
In the mid-1600s, Virginia stayed fiercely loyal to the English crown during the English Civil War. It was also the first overseas dominion of the royals.
Nickname: The Evergreen State
A pioneer and realtor coined this state's nickname.
C.T. Conver, a pioneer and realtor in Washington, created the nickname “The Evergreen State" to honor the large tracts of fir and pine trees. The name was made official in 1893.
Nickname: The Mountain State
This state is nicknamed based on its terrain.
State: West Virginia
West Virginia is covered in mountains and hills, most notably the Appalachian Mountains.
Nickname: The Badger State
The badgers in this state weren't necessarily of the four-legged type.
Wisconsin earned its nickname of “The Badger State" in the 1800s, thanks to miners who dug out tunnels searching for lead. Sometimes the miners lived in those tunnels as they worked, which reminded locals of badgers.
Nickname: The Equality State
Women played a big role in this state's nickname.
In 1869, Wyoming became the first state to champion suffrage equality by giving women the right to vote.