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Rhode Island State Names (Etymology of Names)

Rhode Island Name Etymology and State Nicknames


RI 3D MapRhode Island, officially the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, is a state in the New England region of the United States. Rhode Island is the smallest in area, the eighth least populous, but the second most densely populated of the 50 US states behind New Jersey. Rhode Island is bordered by Connecticut to the west and Massachusetts to the north and east, and it shares a water boundary with New York's Long Island to the southwest.

Rhode Island was either named for the Isle of Rhodes (in the Mediterranean Sea) or for its red clay (the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block may have named it "Rood Eylandt" meaning Red Island, in Dutch).

Rhode Island nicknames

  • The Ocean State (Official)
  • Plantation State
  • Little Rhody
  • The Smallest State
  • Land of Roger Williams
  • The Southern Gateway of New England

Origin of Rhode Island State Name

Rhode Island name taken from the Greek Island of Rhodes.

This state was named by Dutch explorer Adrian Block. He named it "Roodt Eylandt" meaning "red island" in reference to the red clay that lined the shore. The name was later anglicized when the region came under British rule.

Source: Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut – 1994

Rhode Island Nicknames


The Ocean State: (Official)

Adopted July 8, 1971 The state of Rhode Island first started licensing vehicles in 1904. The first license plates were issued in 1904, were made of porcelain and featured black and white numbers with “Registered in RI.” The current standard issue plates feature the light blue wave on white background with dark blue numbers with the official plate nickname “Ocean State.”

This nickname was formulated to attract tourism to Rhode Island and appears on non-commercial license plates. "Ocean State" began appearing on Rhode Island license plates again in 1972, replacing "Discover." The Rhode Island Tourism Division promotes over 400 miles of coastline. This is not all ocean frontage but includes Narragansett Bay extending inland from the Atlantic Ocean north to the center of the state. All Rhode Islanders live within a 30-minute drive to the Atlantic Ocean or Narragansett Bay.

Little Rhody

A traditional nickname for Rhode Island, obviously in reference to the state's small size. Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states in area. Variations include "Little Rhodie," "L'il Rhody," and "Little Rhode."

The Plantation State

This name is derived from the state's official name, "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."

The Smallest State

This sobriquet* for Rhode Island, like the nickname "Little Rhody," is in reference to Rhode Island's size.

Land of Roger Williams

Roger Williams, who founded Providence Plantation in 1636, is the source of this sobriquet.

The Southern Gateway of New England

This historical nickname was bestowed because Rhode Island was the most southerly of the New England states with harbors suitable for ocean-going ships. These harbors allowed New England raw materials and finished goods to be shipped to other parts of the United State and foreign countries and allowed raw and finished goods from other parts of the United States and foreign countries to be delivered to New England.

Sobriquet (pronounced sO-bri-kA or sO-bri-ket) means "descriptive name."

Source: Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut - 1994 Shankle, George Earlie, Phd State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols H. H. Wilson Company, New York - 1938 (Reprint)

Rhode Island Slogans

  • (formerly Hope)
  • Unwind

Rhode Island Postal Code

  • RI

Rhode Island Resident's Name

  • Rhode Islander - Official  (recommended by U.S. GPO)
  • Rhodean  - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Swamp Yankee  - 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.