Whether you’re working on an ‘I’ assignment or looking forward to that next intense game of Scattergories where an ‘I’ comes up on the die, if you need to know which states start with ‘I,’ we’ve got you covered.

Here are all the ‘I’ states in the U.S. and how they got their ‘I’ names.


Idaho is an entirely made-up name.

No, it’s true.

According to the Idaho State Historical Society, when the territory that would become Colorado was looking for a state name, a local leader named George Willing invented the name “Idaho.”

Then, he lied about it.

The people in the territory wanted a Native American word for their state, so Willing told them that’s what “Idaho” was, a Native American word meaning “gem of the mountains.”

The territory that is today Colorado was even almost named Idaho based on Willing’s lie.

Days before the name was ratified by congress, Coloradans discovered the word wasn’t Native American at all, and asked congress to change the state name to Colorado, which was a Spanish word already in use for the region.

Idaho Name Meaning

As a made-up word, the name Idaho has no meaning.

Though today, I suppose, it’s synonymous with potatoes.


While Idaho might be a made-up Native American word, the name of the next “I” state on our list actually does have Native American origins.

Illinois stems from the Illiniwek Nation, a large grouping of native tribes that shared a common language.

French explorers who entered the Illinois territory pulled the suffix off the ended of the word and added the common French suffix of “ois” instead, turning Illiniwek into Illinois.

It should be noted the name was first used for the river that flows through most of the state.

The state was then named after the river.

Illinois Name Meaning

The stem word for Illinois – Illiniwek – translates as “men” or “warriors,” according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but this had little to do with the French term.

The French suffix “ois” is used for adjectives referring to a specific place, language/dialect, or people of an area.

So, Illinois as originally coined by the French roughly means “of the Illini.”


Of all the state names with Native American origins (and there are plenty), none may be more obvious than Indiana.

Or more off the mark.

It stems from the English moniker “Indians” for Native Americans, which of course stems from European explorers (namely Christopher Columbus) believing they had landed in the Indies when they didn’t.

Indiana Name Meaning

The name “Indiana” literally means “land of the Indians.”


The name Iowa is also of Native American origin. It comes directly from a Native America tribe name.

Though, not from the name the tribe used for themselves.

The root word for Iowa – ayuhwa – was the Sioux word for the tribe.

The tribe known as the “Iowa” or “Ioway” called themselves the Bah-Kho-Je.

Iowa Name Meaning

Ayuhwa, the root word for Iowa, meant “sleepy ones” in the Sioux language.

Onward From the ‘I’ State Names

So, there you have them, the four U.S. states that start with the letter ‘I.’

Now, it’s time to make a big impression on that school report or drop a few knowledge bombs on your next game night.

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