Alaska State Names (Etymology of Names)

Alaska Name Origin and State Nicknames

Alaska is a state situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent and is the largest and most sparsely populated. Bordering the state to the east is the Canadian Yukon Territory and the province of British Columbia, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia (specifically, Siberia) further west across the Bering Strait.

The name "Alaska" was introduced in the Russian colonial period when it was used to refer to the peninsula. It was derived from an Aleut, or Unangam (the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska) idiom, which symbolically refers to the mainland or shore of Alaska. Figuratively, it means object to which the action of the sea is directed. It is also known as Alyeska, the "great land", an Aleut word derived from the same root.

Alaska Nicknames

  • The Last Frontier
  • Land of the Midnight Sun
  • The Great Land
  • Seward's Folly
  • Seward's Icebox
  • Russian America
  • Territory of Baranov
  • Mainland State
  • The 49th State
  • Sourdough State
  • North Star State (this name also being claimed by Minnesota).
  • Up Over

Origin of Alaska State Name

The name Alaska comes from the language of the area's indigenous people and is derived from the Yupik word "Alyeska," meaning "great land" or "that which the sea breaks against."

The Aleuts lived on the Aleutian Islands, a chain that extends westward from a large peninsula in southwestern Alaska. The first large island is Unimak Island, where the village of False Pass and Shishaldin Volcano sit. From their perspective, the peninsula led to a large land, the continent of North America.

The name "Alaska" was also used by early Russian and British explorers and settlers to refer only to the peninsula. This name was used by the United States to refer first to the entire Territory and then to the State after its purchase in 1867.

Alaska Nicknames (no official nickname)

Alaska has no official nickname although, when it joined the union in 1959 a number of suggestions were made. Alaska is more commonly (but unofficially) known as The Last Frontier, or The Land of the Midnight Sun. Alaska license plates display North to the Future It was even at one time referred to as Up Over (in comic opposition to New Zealand and Australia, which are "Down Under").

The Last Frontier

Alaska, admitted as the 49th state on January 03, 1959 to the union is thought of as "America's Last Frontier" because of it's distance from the lower 48 states and it's rugged landscape, climate, and the sun shines nearly around the clock during Alaskan summers.

Land of the Midnight Sun

Refers to Alaska's northern locations where, for a period of time, in the summer, the sun never completely dips below the horizon. The sun is visible at midnight. Some parts of Alaska such as Barrow, the sun doesn't set for 84 days.

The Great Land

The name Alaska is derived from the Yupik word "Alyeska," meaning "great land" or "that which the sea breaks against." (previously used on license plates)

Seward's Folly

After the agreement to purchase Alaska, 1867 the name was given after Secretary of State William Seward, who proposed the often-ridiculed purchase and the official acceptance of the name Alaska.

Seward's Icebox

Derisive name given to the Alaska territory during the battle between Secretary of State William H. Seward and the United States Congress over the purchase of the land from Russia.

Russian America

Before it was purchased by the United States in 1867.

Territory of Baranov

For Alexander Baranov, the early Russian leader on this continent.

Up Over

Up Over (in comic opposition to New Zealand and Australia, which are "Down Under").

Sourdough State

Sourdough is associated with gold rushes. During the Alaska gold rush, it was practically illegal to enter the state without sourdough. It kept you alive. A sourdough is someone who has weathered some time in Alaska.

Alaska Slogans

  • North to the Future
  • Beyond Your Dreams
  • Within Your Reach

Alaska Area Codes

  • (907)

Alaska Postal Code

  • AK

Alaska Resident's Name

  • Alaskan - Official (recommended by U.S. GPO)
State Names
State Names & Nicknames

The Etymologies of US State Names