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

You probably never think about it, but ‘M’ is one of the most popular letters when it comes to starting state names, used for eight states in the U.S.

Only ‘N’ is used to start U.S. state names as often, and it cheats with “New” and “North” in over half of those.

Basically, ‘M’ is popular all the way from Maine to Montana.

So, here are all of the ‘M’ states in the U.S. and how they got their ‘M’ names.


Maine’s name origin is entirely up in the air.

It’s possible the state was named after the nautical term “Meyne” or the “The Main,” short for mainland, which navigators might have called the area to distinguish it from the islands just off the coast.

It also might have been named after an existing “Maine.”

There were Maines in both France and England at the time of the state’s exploration.

In France, Maine was a province.

In England, Maine was a town.

Maine Name Meaning

Since the origin of “Maine” is unclear, so is the name’s meaning.

But it does likely relate in some way to “main.”


Maryland was named after Henrietta Maria, or “Mary,” who was the wife of Charles I of England.

Charles I granted Cecilius Calvert (2nd Baron Baltimore) a charter for the territory that Maryland would become, proposing the territory be named in honor of his wife.

Maryland Name Meaning

Maryland means exactly what it says – Mary Land.

Officially, the name proposed by Charles I was “Terra Mariae,” Latin for “Mary’s Land.”


Naming states after words that were already around in the territories (i.e. Native American words) was a popular choice when most of the U.S. states were founded.

And Massachusetts was no exception.

It took its name directly from a Native American tribe – the Massachusett tribe.

The Massachusett tribe lived near Great Blue Hill in what is now Milton, Massachusetts, less than 20 miles south of Boston.

Massachusetts Name Meaning

In Algonquian, the language of the Massachusett tribe, “Massachusett” translates as “at the great hill” or “near the great hill.”

Given the tribe’s location, the “great hill” almost certainly referred to Great Blue Hill.


Like Massachusetts, Michigan was named for a Native American word, though in this case it doesn’t share its name with a tribe.

It was named for an Ojibwe word already in use to describe the large lake in the region, which, of course, was Lake Michigan.

Michigan Name Meaning

The word “Mishigamaw” is Ojibwe for “big lake” or “large/great water”.


Minnesota also gets its name from the word Native Americans used to describe a body of water in the region. This time, it was the Minnesota River.

While it’s known the name stems from the Dakota language, it could have two quite different meanings

Minnesota Name Meaning

The name “Minnesota” derived from the Dakota phrase “mni sota.”

Historians know the word “mni” means “water” in Dakota, but “sota” could mean either “sky blue” or “cloudy.”

Maybe it was both, depending on the day.


Not to be outdone, what would Mississippi be if it wasn’t named for its great river?

When Europeans settled in the region, the Mississippi River, like many other rivers, had already been named by the natives in the region.

Mississippi is taken from what is believed to have been an Ojibwe word – Misi-ziibi.

Mississippi Name Meaning

Misi-ziibi in Ojibwe means “great river,” and it hardly gets more accurate than that.


Like Massachusetts, Missouri’s state name was taken directly from the name of a tribe – the Missouri – though it wasn’t the name the tribe called themselves.

In their own language, the Missouri tribe referred to themselves as the Niúachi.

“Missouri” was the name for the tribe in the Irenwa or Miami-Illinois language, a division of the Algonquian languages.

Missouri Name Meaning

In Irenwa (Miami-Illinois), “Missouri” makes some reference to canoes, though it has been given slightly different interpretations over the years.

Some likely meanings are:

  • “town of the large canoe”
  • “he who has dug out canoes”
  • “wooden canoe people”

What we know for sure is that canoes are involved, so it pays some tribute to the river.


Alphabetically last of the “M” states in the U.S. is Montana.

Montana is an anglicized version of the Spanish word “montaña.”

It comes from “Montaña del Norte,” which Spanish explorers used to describe the mountains of the American Northwest.

Montana Name Meaning

Montana, it probably comes as no surprised, means “mountain.”

Onward From the ‘M’ State Names

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

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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