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Michigan State Names (Etymology of Names)

Michigan Name Origin and State Nicknames

Midwest

MI 3D Map: State Name OriginMichigan is a state in the Great Lakes region of the Midwestern United States. Michigan is the 9th most populous of the 50 United States, with the 11th most extensive total area (the largest state by total area east of the Mississippi River). The Great Lakes that border Michigan from east to west are Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. It has more lighthouses than any other state. The state is bounded on the south by the states of Ohio and Indiana, sharing land and water boundaries with both. Michigan's western boundaries are almost entirely water boundaries, from south to north, with Illinois and Wisconsin in Lake Michigan; then a land boundary with Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula, that is principally demarcated by the Menominee and Montreal Rivers; then water boundaries again, in Lake Superior, with Wisconsin and Minnesota to the west, capped around by the Canadian province of Ontario to the north and east.

Michigan is from an Algonquian Chippewa Indian word "meicigama" that means "big sea wate" (referring to the Great Lakes).

Michigan Nicknames

  • Wolverine State
  • Great Lake State
  • The Peninsula State
  • Lake State
  • Lady of the Lake
  • Auto State
  • Mitten State
  • Water Wonderland

Origin of Michigan State Name

Michigan is derived from the Indian words "Michi-gama" meaning "large lake."

The word Michigan originally referred to a clearing on the lower peninsula and was derived from the Chippewa Indian word "majigan" which means clearing. Lake Michigan was named after this clearing by European explorers in the area in the 1670's. The state later took the name of the clearing as well.

The French first used the word for the Great Lake that Native Americans called the "Lake of the Illinois"--now Lake Michigan. It was first used officially to refer to this land area when Congress created the Territory of Michigan in 1805.

Michigan Nicknames

Wolverine State

Michigan has long had an unofficial nickname: "The Wolverine State." However, evidence seems to show that if wolverines ever lived in Michigan, they would have been very rare. We don't know exactly how the state got the nickname, but two stories attempt to explain it.

Some people believe that Ohioans gave Michigan the nickname around 1835 during a dispute over the Toledo strip, a piece of land along the border between Ohio and Michigan. Rumors in Ohio at the time described Michiganians as being as vicious and bloodthirsty as wolverines. This dispute became known as the Toledo War.

Another reason given for the nickname is a story that has Native Americans, during the 1830s, comparing Michigan settlers to wolverines. Some native people, according to this story, disliked the way settlers were taking the land because it made them think of how the gluttonous wolverine went after its food.

Source: http://www.sos.state.mi.us

Great Lake State

Another nickname for Michigan is the "Great Lake State." Michigan's shores touch four of the five Great Lakes, and Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes. In Michigan, you are never more than 6 miles from an inland lake or more than 85 miles from a Great Lake. From 1969 to 1975 and from 1977 to 1983 Michigan's automobile license plates featured the legend, GREAT LAKE STATE.

But this name conflicts with the "Lake States", given to the states which border the Great Lakes. To avoid this conflict, some have turned it into the Lady of the Lake and the more remote Water Wonderland.

Lake State

Lake Michigan. Michigan is also known as the Lake State, (which appeared on the state license plates) for its proximity to Lake Michigan, but this name conflicts with the "Lake States", given to the states which border the Great Lakes. To avoid this conflict, some have turned it into the Lady of the Lake and the more remote Water Wonderland.

Lady of the Lake

Lake Michigan. Michigan is also known as the Lake State, or the Great Lakes State (which appeared on the state license plates) for its proximity to Lake Michigan, but this name conflicts with the "Lake States", given to the states which border the Great Lakes. To avoid this conflict, some have turned it into the Lady of the Lake and the more remote Water Wonderland.

Auto State

Detroit's automobile manufacturing industry.

Mitten State

Michigan is often called the "mitten state"... not because it's so cold that we need to wear mittens all the time, but because if you look at the map of Michigan you can see the the Lower Peninsula is shaped like a mitten. Because of this most people from Michigan will hold up their right hand and point with the left hand where they are from or where they are going! The Upper Peninsula looks less like a mitten, but with a little stretch of imagination you could see how it could be a mitten tipped sideways above the Lower Peninsula.

Water Wonderland

This promotional nickname again references the water resources of the state of Michigan. "Water Wonderland" appeared on Michigan license plates beginning in 1954. It was modified to "Water-Winter Wonderland" in 1965. This modified legend appeared on Michigan license plates from 1965 through 1967.

The Peninsula State

Some references to Michigan during the early twentieth century also called the state "The Peninsula State."

Michigan Slogans

  • Great Lakes, Great Times; More To See.
  • (formerly Water/Winter Wonderland)

Michigan Postal Code

  • MI

Michigan Resident's Name

  • Michiganian - Official (recommended by US GPO)
  • Michigander - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Mashugana - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Michiganer - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Michiganese - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Michigine - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Wolverine - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Michiganite - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Yooper/Troll (for residents of the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula, respectively) - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Flatlander (for residents of the mid and southern portions of the Lower Peninsula) - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
State Names
State Names & Nicknames
The etymologies of some US state names are more obvious than others, derived from the Spanish or French tongue. Though, more than half of the US state names come from Native American tribal languages, with several still a mystery to scholars and historians.
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