Idaho State Names (Etymology of Names)

Idaho Name Origin and State Nicknames

Idaho is a state in the northwestern region of the United States. Idaho is the 14th largest, the 39th most populous, and the 7th least densely populated of the 50 United States. Idaho is a mountainous state with an area larger than that of all of New England. It is surrounded by the states of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and the Canadian province of British Columbia. The network of dams and locks on the Columbia River and Snake River make the city of Lewiston the farthest inland seaport on the Pacific coast of the contiguous United States.

The exact origin of the name remains a mystery. According to local knowledge, the name Idaho originated from the Nez Perce language and stands for "the Land of many Waters", a kidney-shaped drainage area in north central Idaho in which a multitude of rivers come together. These rivers include the Snake, the Salmon, the Clearwater, North Fork Clearwater, the Selway, and more. The famed steamboat was probably named 'Idaho' because it voyaged along the Columbia river to "the Land of many Waters".

Idaho Nicknames

  • Gem State
  • Gem of the Mountains
  • Land of Famous Potatoes
  • Spud State

Origin of Idaho State Name

Originally suggested for Colorado, the name "Idaho" was used for a steamship which traveled the Columbia River. With the discovery of gold on the Clearwater River in 1860, the diggings began to be called the Idaho mines. "Idaho" is a coined or invented word, and is not a derivation of an Indian phrase "E Dah Hoe (How)" supposedly meaning "gem of the mountains."

Idaho Nicknames

Gem State or Gem of the Mountains

In 1863, Congress designated the Idaho Territory with the erroneous understanding that Idaho was a Shoshone word meaning Gem of the Mountains. This has led the state to be nicknamed Gem of the Mountains, or most succinctly in more recent times, The Gem State.

The mountains of Idaho contain veins of gold, silver, lead, zinc, cobalt, copper, and many other rare minerals. Among these rare minerals are gems - star garnets (the state gem), jasper, opal, jade, topaz, zircon, and tourmaline.

Land of Famous Potatoes

But Idaho's famous potatoes aren't ignored, and Land of the Famous Potato and Spud State are sometimes seen.

Idaho Slogans

  • Great Potatoes. Tasty Destinations.
  • (formerly) Famous Potatoes (on its license plate)

Idaho Postal Code

  • ID

Idaho Resident's Name

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

The Etymologies of US State Names