California State Names (Etymology of Names)

California Name Origin and State Nicknames

California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is the most populous U.S. state, home to one out of eight Americans (38 million people), and is the third largest state by area (after Alaska and Texas). California is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east, Arizona to the southeast, and the Mexican State of Baja California to the south.

The name California comes from a mythical Spanish island ruled by a queen called Califia that was featured in a Spanish romance ("Las Sergas de Esplandian") written by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo in 1510. The Spanish explorers originally thought that California was an island. 

California Nicknames

  • The Golden State (official nickname in 1968)
  • El Dorado State
  • Golden West
  • Grape State
  • Land of Milk and Honey
  • The Land of Sunshine and Opportunity
  • Land of Milk and Honey
  • Land of Fruits and Nuts
  • Where Stars Are Buried
  • The Cereal Bowl of the Nation
  • The Eureka State
  • The Bear State (or Republic)
  • The Sunshine State (in disuse) (c.f. FL)

Origin of California State Name

The name "California" came from a knightly romance book that was published in 1510. It was about an island paradise near the Indies where beautiful Queen Califia ruled over a country of beautiful black Amazons with lots of pearls and gold. Men were only allowed there one day a year to help perpetuate the race. Cortez's men thought they found the island in 1535, because they found pearls. Later, Francisco de Ulloa found that the island was really a peninsula.

While there is some consensus that the area was named for the fictional island, scholars have also suggested that the name comes from the Catalan words calor ("hot") and forn ("oven") or from a Native America phrase, kali forno ("high hill").

California Nicknames

The state legislature made "The Golden State" the official nickname of California in 1968.

The Golden State

California's long association with gold make this a natural nickname for the state. From the naming of the state in the 16th century to the California Gold Rush of 1848 and the fields of yellow poppies (official state flower) that bloom in the springtime, gold, in one form or another, has been intertwined with the history and development of California.

By 1867 the state has been known as The Golden State, which became the state's official nickname in 1968 (appearing also on license plates).

It is particularly appropriate since California's modern development can be traced back to the discovery of gold in 1848 and fields of golden poppies can be seen each spring throughout the state. The Golden State Museum is also the name of a new museum slated to open in late 1998 at the California State Archives in Sacramento. The museum's exhibits will bring to life the momentous events of California's history through a series of innovative, interpretive exhibits.

El Dorado State

California was also sometimes known as El Dorado because of the Gold Rush of 1848.

Grape State

Because of its wine connections, The Grape State. The Grape State is based in the business of agriculture.

Land of Milk and Honey

A nickname promoting California as a land of opportunity with connections to "The Promised Land" of the Bible.

California Slogans

  • The Golden State
  • Find Yourself Here

California Postal Code

  • CA

California Resident's Name

  • Californian - Official (recommended by US GPO)
State Names
State Names & Nicknames

The Etymologies of US State Names