Arkansas State Names (Etymology of Names)

Arkansas Name Origin and State Nicknames

Arkansas is located in the southeastern United States, in the West South Central Census Bureau division. It's known for its abundant parkland and recreational areas, with terrain encompassing mountains, caves, rivers and hot springs.  Arkansas covers an area of 53,179 square miles and ranks as the 29th largest state by size. The state borders six U.S. states: Missouri to the north, Tennessee and Mississippi across the Mississippi River to the east, Louisiana to the south, Oklahoma to the west, and Texas to the southwest.

Arkansas is from the Quapaw (Sioux) word "acansa," which means "downstream place" or "south wind."

Arkansas Nicknames

  • The Natural State
  • Bowie State
  • Toothpick State
  • Hot Water State
  • The Land of Opportunity
  • Bear State
  • Wonder State
  • Razorback State
  • What a State!
  • Rackensack
  • Diamond State

Origin of Arkansas State Name

Arkansas is the name of an Indian tribe. At the time of the early French exploration, a tribe of Indians, the Quapaws, lived West of the Mississippi and north of the Arkansas River. The Quapaws, or OO-GAQ-PA, were also known as the downstream people, or UGAKHOPAG. The Algonkian-speaking Indians of the Ohio Valley called them the Arkansas, or "south wind."

The French Jesuits learned of a tribe probably called Quapaw, or Oo-gaq-pa, which the Algonquins pronounced Oo-ka-na-sa, and Marquette wrote Arkansoa; LaSalle wrote Arkensa; DeTonti, Arkancas; and LaHarpe, Arkansas.

When the state was admitted to the Union in 1836, it was spelled Arkansas. During the early days of statehood, Arkansas' two US Senators were divided on the spelling and pronunciation. One was always introduced as the senator from "ARkanSAW" and the other as the senator from "Ar-KANSAS." In 1881, the state's General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that the state's name should be spelled "Arkansas" but pronounced "Arkansaw."

The pronunciation, Ark-an-Saw, preserves the memory of the Indians who were the original inhabitants of our state, while the spelling clearly dictates the nationality of the French adventurers who first explored this area

Arkansas Code, Title 1, Chapter 4, Section 1-4-105.

Title 1 General Provisions
Chapter 4 State Symbols, Motto, Etc.
Section 1-4-105

1-4-105.Pronunciation of state name.

Whereas, confusion of practice has arisen in the pronunciation of the name of our state and it is deemed important that the true pronunciation should be determined for use in oral official proceedings.

And, whereas, the matter has been thoroughly investigated by the State Historical Society and the Eclectic Society of Little Rock, which have agreed upon the correct pronunciation as derived from history and the early usage of the American immigrants.

Be it therefore resolved by both houses of the General Assembly, that the only true pronunciation of the name of the state, in the opinion of this body, is that received by the French from the native Indians and committed to writing in the French word representing the sound. It should be pronounced in three (3) syllables, with the final "s" silent, the "a" in each syllable with the Italian sound, and the accent on the first and last syllables. The pronunciation with the accent on the second syllable with the sound of "a" in "man" and the sounding of the terminal "s" is an innovation to be discouraged.

History.Concurrent Resolution No. 4, Acts 1881, p. 216; C. & M. Dig., ? 9181a; Pope's Dig., ? 11867; A.S.A. 1947, ? 5-102

Arkansas Nicknames

The Natural State

"The Natural State," was officially adopted as the Arkansas official nickname by the Eightieth General Assembly of 1995. Arkansas is known throughout the country for its natural beauty, clear lakes and streams and abundance of natural wildlife. This nickname replaced the official Land of Opportunity nickname following the slogan Arkansas Is a Natural that was used to promote tourism and outdoor recreation.


Arkansas Legislature Archives
1-4-106. State nickname.
Because of our unsurpassed scenery, clear lakes, free-flowing streams, magnificent rivers, meandering bayous, delta bottomlands, forested mountains, and abundant fish and wildlife, the official nickname for the State of Arkansas is proclaimed to be "The Natural State".
History. House Concurrent Resolution, No. 26, Acts 1953, p. 1511; A.S.A. 1947, ? 5-110; Acts 1995, No. 1352, ? 1.

Wonder State

However, the first official nickname for Arkansas came in 1923 when the legislature designated the state as The Wonder State.

Land of Opportunity

Was more officially known as The Land of Opportunity for many years.

Bear State

The earliest known nickname for Arkansas seems to be Bear State, recorded first in 1858, and this is a nickname to which several states have laid claim. Arkansas's earliest recorded nicknames, the "Bear State" and the "Toothpick State,"made reference to characteristic features of the region. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Arkansas was noted for its population of Louisiana black bears (Ursus americanus luteolus), one of sixteen black bear species found in the United States. Human activities reduced the population of native black bears to fewer than fifty by the middle of the twentieth century.

Bowie State

Refer to Bowie knives. It was also sometimes known as The Bowie State ( alluding to the Bowie knife, the favorite weapon of the area, and which was sometimes called "a toothpick knife")

Toothpick State

Refer to Bowie knives handles. It was also sometimes known as The Toothpick State (alluding to the Bowie knife, the favorite weapon of the area, and which was sometimes called "a toothpick knife")  The messy dispatching by knife of one Arkansas state representative by another in 1837 cemented the new state's renown as a violent place.

Hot Water State

Reference to hot springs. Hot-water State (because of the number of hot springs in the area).

Razorback State

Arkansas has had the unofficial nickname of The Razorback State


 The derivation of the word "Rackensack" has been analyzed with no single sure source ever identified, but by the end of the 1840s, it was established as a burlesque synonym for rural Arkansas, particularly the hills of the western part of the state.

Diamond State

John Wesley Huddleston, a farmer and sometime prospector, first found diamonds on the site in 1906. Huddleston's discovery sparked a diamond rush in Pike County. Diamond-bearing soil was also found on Millard M. Mauney's property that was adjacent to Huddleston's. Prospectors and fortune hunters rushed to the area, and soon the town of Kimberly developed to accommodate the influx of people.

Arkansas Slogans

  • The Wonder State (1923-1953)
  • (Formerly Land of Opportunity) (1953-1987)
  • The Natural State (1987-present; also on Arkansas license plate)

Arkansas Postal Code

  • AR

Arkansas Resident's Name

  • Arkansan - Official (recommended by U.S. GPO)
  • Arkansawyer - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Arkie - Official, unofficial or informal alternates

State Names
State Names & Nicknames

The Etymologies of US State Names