What’s in a name? Depends on where you’re from!
Did you know the official term for a resident nickname is a demonym? If someone is from, say, Iowa, there are several things you could call them. The federal government (according to the U.S. Government Publishing Office Style Manual) would call them Iowans. But you might also hear them called Hawkeyes or Iowegians. If you’re trying to decide where to live, find out what the natives of each state are called — both officially and unofficially. Make sure you want to be labeled something before you move there!
The ultimate list of state resident nicknames
If you’re trying to solve a debate about what you call someone from a particular place, the first nickname listed below is the government-accepted official demonym. Any others on the list are informal, and some come with interesting stories! Click on a state link to jump to information about the background behind the resident nickname.
|State||Official Resident Nickname||Other Monikers|
|Connecticut||Connecticuter||Connecticotian, Connecticutian, Nutmegger|
|Hawaii||Hawaii Resident||Hawaiian, Islander|
|Maine||Mainer||Mainiac, Down Easter|
|Massachusetts||Massachusettsan||Bay Stater, Massachusite|
|New Hampshire||New Hampshirite||New Hampshireman, Granite Stater|
|New Jersey||New Jerseyan||New Jerseyite, Jerseyite|
|New Mexico||New Mexican|
|New York||New Yorker||Empire Stater|
|North Carolina||North Carolinian||Tar Heel|
|North Dakota||North Dakotan||NoDak|
|Oklahoma||Oklahoman||Oklahomians, Oklahomie, Okie, Sooner|
|Rhode Island||Rhode Islander||Rhodian|
|South Carolina||South Carolinian||South Carolinan, Sandlapper|
|South Dakota||South Dakotan|
|Tennessee||Tennessean||Volunteer, Big Bender, Butternut|
|West Virginia||West Virginian||Mountaineer|
While officially Arkansas residents are Arkansans, many think that since the state is pronounced “Ark-an-saw” that Arkansawyer is more accurate thing to call those who live there.
The origin of the unofficial nickname Nutmegger is unknown. Some say it’s because locals would sell nutmegs. However, no one knows if residents sold real nutmeg spice seeds or if they were swindling and selling fake wooden ones. Since that name may have dubious origins, most people refer to residents of Connecticut as Connecticuters (which sounds like the word “cuter” at the end).
Folks who live on the islands are called Hawaii Residents, instead of Hawaiians. Why? The term “Hawaiian” typically implies someone who is ethnically native, while “Hawaii Resident” can apply to anyone who calls the island state home.
It’s unusual that the Indiana official demonym doesn’t involve the state name. While yes, the Hoosier is the mascot for Indiana University, the residents are called Hoosiers because of an 1830s poem “The Hoosier’s Nest,” by John Finley. Several Indiana newspapers used as a Carrier’s Address greeting. Many other mentions of the nickname followed, including use in a widely spread printed speech and other publications.
What does it mean? No one really knows! Some say it’s because settlers would say “Who’s yere?” when visitors would knock at their cabins. Others say it’s because local riverman were good at “hushing” (or pouncing on) opponents in a brawl. No matter it’s origin or intended meaning, it now means “those who live in Indiana.”
Similar to Indiana, the Hawkeye is the mascot for the University of Iowa, but it’s also something you can call all residents no matter who they cheer for. This nickname also has unclear origins, but most point to local promoters who used the phrase in the 1800s. In fact, the Hawkeye name was adopted by territorial officials in 1838, 8 years before Iowa became a state!
Having one of the longest state names, it’s no surprise that Massachusetts has a multi-syllable resident nickname. Massachusettsan sort of sounds like “Massachusett-son.” This complicated nickname is likely why many refer to residents simply as Bay Staters, since the state is called The Bay State.
Sorry Marvel fans, the resident nickname Wolverine doesn’t have anything to do with the comic book character. And it doesn’t originate with the University of Michigan, either. Interestingly, the wolverine is not the state animal, and they aren’t sure any ever lived in the area. Instead, the origin story points to the 1835 Toledo War between Michigan and Ohio when Michigan residents earned the reputation of being wolverines (strong, cunning and not afraid to attack).
Driving through Nebraska, it’s clear to see why corn has come to identify the state and its residents — it’s everywhere. The name Cornhuskers was originally used to talk about Nebraska sports teams, but has been adopted by all who live here.
Early in the state’s history, they were a leading producer of naval supplies, including tar, pitch and turpentine, which are extracted from local pine trees. Locals were once called “Tarboilers,” but legend has it that in then Civil War, residents from Virginia were taunting soldiers from North Carolina and asked, “Any more tar down in the Old North State, boys?” They replied, “Not a bit, it’s all been brought up.” Then they made a joke that the regiment leader was going to put the tar on the heels of the Virginians to make them stick better in the fight! The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill calls their teams the Tar Heels, too.
The Sooner nickname came about because in 1889, people were allowed to enter the area to claim land at a specific time. Those who came early to stake their claim were called “sooners.” The University of Oklahoma adopted the title in 1908.
While South Carolina is known for sand, both along the coast, in the Sand Hills, and in several places with sandy names (Sandy Springs, Sandy Flat, Sandy River, Sand Creek), not all residents claim the sandlapper nickname. It originally meant “someone who eats sand,” and was used because some locals did in fact eat the clay dirt as a medicine. It’s made from kaolin, which is an ingredient in medicines like Kaopectate. Now, “sandlapper” is mostly adopted by those along the coast or in the southern regions of the state.
During the war of 1812, 1,500 troops from Tennessee fought under General Andrew Jackson. These volunteer fighters gave people from the state a reputation of submitting themselves to others. The University of Tennessee took on the name in 1905. The alternative nickname “Big Benders” comes because the Tennessee river has a “big bend,” and “Butternuts” from the tan color of their Civil War uniforms.
Most Texas residents will call themselves Texan, but those with Mexican heritage will often refer to themselves as Tejanos. While some may jokingly call Texas “Tejas” because of its proximity to Mexico, the nickname is more likely due to the Mexican state Coahuila y Tejas which was a highly contested area that Spain, Mexico and America fought to control.
What probably started as a derogatory term toward Dutch residents, now Cheesehead applies to residents of Wisconsin because the state produces more dairy products than any other state. Fans of the Green Bay Packers take on the title as well, often wearing giant orange cheese hats at games.
Want more random facts to pull out at parties?
Interested in other fascinating information about U.S. cities or states? At the bottom of our coverage map, you’ll find tons of fun articles that will help you win at your next trivia night!
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