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

You might be interested to know that ‘N’ is actually one of the most popular letters when it comes to starting state names, used for eight states in the U.S.

Only ‘M’ is used to start U.S. state names as often.

Basically, ‘N’ is popular all the way from Nebraska to North Dakota.

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


The Cornhusker State, as it’s affectionately known, owes its name to an indigenous language of North America – Chiwere, spoken by tribes such as the Otoe and the Missouria.

Nebraska Name Meaning

In Chiwere, the term “Ni braska” or “Nebrathka” was used, meaning “flat water,” a poetic and fitting tribute to the languidly flowing Platte River that courses through the state.

However, it’s not a tale entirely devoid of controversy. Some interpretations argue the original pronunciation and meaning might have been slightly different.

Yet, most agree on the overall narrative – Nebraska is a nod to the state’s beautiful and significant waterway, the Platte River.


Like many western states, Nevada got its name from the Spanish, specifically from “Sierra Nevada,” which Spanish explorers used to describe the mountains to the west of the state.

When Nevada became a state, they took the name of the mountains.

Nevada Name Meaning

“Sierra Nevada” directly translates to “snowy mountains” or “snow-covered mountain range.”

The state earned its moniker from the majestic and often snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountain range that forms part of its western boundary.

Presumably, early explorers from Spain were struck by these towering peaks, especially when dusted with snow, leading to the state’s evocative title.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire comes from the southern English county of Hampshire, a choice made by Captain John Mason.

Born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England, Mason was an early colonial entrepreneur and explorer who never actually set foot in the land he named.

In the early 1620s, Mason and Sir Ferdinando Gorges received a land grant from the Council for New England, an English joint-stock company.

This territory, stretching from the Merrimack River to the Kennebec River, was initially dubbed “Laconia” after an ancient region in Greece.

A few years later, in 1629, when the two partners divided their sizable claim, Mason ended up with the southern portion, which he promptly named “New Hampshire” after the county of Hampshire in southern England.

New Hampshire Meaning

The term “Hampshire” traces back to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 1011.

In the Chronicle, the county was recorded as “Hamtunscire,” which translated as “the shire of the homestead.”

New Jersey

Like New Hampshire, New Jersey’s name has its roots in old English soil.

The Garden State was named after the Channel Island of Jersey, which lies off the coast of Normandy, France.

However, the connection between the U.S. state and British island isn’t as direct as it might first appear.

The man who named New Jersey was Sir George Carteret, a loyal royalist and experienced naval officer who provided sanctuary for the future King Charles II during his exile during the English Civil War.

After the monarchy was restored in 1660, a grateful Charles II rewarded Carteret by granting him a portion of land in the American colonies.

This land, which was part of what was then called New Netherland, had recently been seized from the Dutch by the English.

Carteret, who had been the Bailiff of Jersey from 1643 to 1651, named his new territory New Jersey, in honor of the island that had given him and the king refuge during the tumultuous years of the republic.

New Jersey Name Meaning

The name “Jersey” originates from the Old Norse language.

It is thought to come from the Norse words “jarth,” which means “earth” and “ey,” which means island.

Put it together, and Jersey roughly translates as “earth island.”

New Mexico

New Mexico was named by Spanish explorers.

The name “Mexico” itself originates from the Nahuatl language spoken by the Aztecs.

“Mexica” was the original term for the Aztec people, and is the root word for “Mexico.”

Spanish explorers named New Mexico after Mexico because they hoped to find treasures like those that built the Aztec Empire in the new land.

New Mexico Meaning

The origin of the term “Mexica,” from which Mexico was derived, is disputed.

One theory is that “Mexica” is a combination of two Nahuatl words – “mētztli” and “xīctli” which translate as “moon” and “navel” respectively.

Linguists have translated these two terms together as meaning roughly “center of the moon,” with “center of the world” as a more liberal interpretation.

A second theory is that “Mexica” derived from “Mētztli,” a goddess of the moon in Aztec mythology.

New York

The name “New York” pays tribute to James, Duke of York and Albany, who was leading the English Navy at the time the English seized the territory from the Dutch in 1664.

Before the English captured the area, it was known as New Amsterdam, after the Dutch capital.

New York Name Meaning

The word “York” is derived from the Old Norse “jǫfurr,” which means “wild boar.”

North Carolina

North Carolina, and its southern counterpart, South Carolina, were named by Sir Robert Heath in honor of King Charles I of England.

The Latin form of Charles is “Carolus” and the entire region was originally called “Carolana.”

It wasn’t until the early 18th century that Carolina was divided into two separate colonies: North Carolina and South Carolina.

North Carolina Name Meaning

“Carolana” directly translates as “the land of Charles.”

North Dakota

North Dakota was named for the Dakota people, one of the tribes of the Sioux, who lived in the region when it was first discovered by explorers.

North Dakota Meaning

The word “Dakota” in the Sioux language means “ally” or “friend.”

Onward From the ‘N’ State Names

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

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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