Where Did the Name Kansas Come From?

Many states in the US have interesting names derived from geology, from the arrival of European settlers, for wildlife native to the area and for other reasons. Some states, like Kansas, have name origins that are a bit more obscure than others. Where did the name “Kansas” come from?

It seems that the name originated with French explorers and is actually derived from a Native American language. The state is named for the Kansas River, rather than the reverse, and the original word was “Kanze”, meaning “south wind”. The river was named after a group of Native Americans encountered by French explorers, including the Kaw, Osage, Dakota, Sioux, Omaha and Kansas peoples.

Interestingly, the name Kansas and Arkansas technically mean the same thing, so the state of Arkansas shares the name meaning with Kansas. Even pronunciation of Arkansas is similar to the way Kansas is pronounced, depending on the area of the nation in which the speaker lives.

Nicknames for Kansas

While the state has only one official name, it actually has a wide range of nicknames. The official nickname is The Sunflower State for the immense number of wild sunflowers that grow all across the state. However, Kansas is also called The Wheat State in recognition of the state’s massive annual wheat crop, as well as The Central State and Midway, USA because of its location in the geographic center of the continental United States. It’s called The Cyclone State because of the significant number of tornadoes that strike the state every year (it’s firmly in Tornado Alley).

Kansas is nicknamed the Grasshopper State for the Grasshopper Plague of 1874, and the Garden State because of the fertile soil and the beautiful flowers that grow throughout the state. Other names include the Jayhawk State, and the Battleground of Freedom.