Massachusetts State Names (Etymology of Names)

Massachusetts Name Origin and State Nicknames

Massachusetts, officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, the State of New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. Massachusetts is the 7th smallest, but the 14th most populous and the 3rd most densely populated of the 50 United States.

Massachusetts was named for an Algonquian Indian word that means "a big hill place." State Nickname - Bay State

Massachusetts Nicknames

  • Bay State
  • Old Bay State
  • Old Colony
  • Pilgrim State
  • Puritan State
  • Baked Bean State
  • The Spirit of America
  • The Codfish State

Origin of Massachusetts State Name

Massachusetts takes its name from the Massachusett tribe of Native Americans, who lived in the Great Blue Hill region, south of Boston. The Indian term, roughly translated as, "at or about the Great Hill". The Indian term supposedly means "at or about the Great Hill," an apparent reference to the tallest of the Blue Hills, a recreation area south of the town of Milton.

There are, however, a number of interpretations of the exact meaning of the word. The Jesuit missionary Father Rasles thought that it came from the word Messatossec, "Great-Hills-Mouth": "mess"(mass) meaning "great"; "atsco" (as chu or wad chu) meaning "hill"; and sec (sac or saco) meaning "mouth". The Reverend John Cotton used another variation: "mos"and "wetuset", meaning "Indian arrowhead", descriptive of the Native Americans' hill home. Another explanation is that the word comes from "massa" meaning "great"and "wachusett", "mountainplace".

Massachusetts, like Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky, is called a "Commonwealth". Commonwealths are states, but the reverse is not true. Legally, Massachusetts is a commonwealth because the term is contained in the Constitution. In the era leading to 1780, when the state Constitution was ratified, a popular term for a whole body of people constituting a nation or state was the word "Commonwealth". This term was the preferred usage of some political writers. There also may have been some anti-monarchic sentiment in using the word "Commonwealth". The name, which in the eighteenth century was used to mean "republic", can be traced to the second draft of the state Constitution, written by John Adams and accepted by the people in 1780. In this second draft, Part Two of the Constitution, under the heading "Frame of Government", states, "that the people...form themselves into a free, sovereign, and independent body politic, or state by the name of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts". The people had overwhelmingly rejected the first draft of the Constitution in 1778, and in that draft and all acts and resolves up to the time between 1776 and 1780, the name "State of Massachusetts Bay"had been used. Thereafter, John Adams utilized the term "Commonwealth"when framing the Massachusetts Constitution. In his "Life and Works", Adams, wrote: "There is, however, a peculiar sense in which the words republic, commonwealth, popular state, are used by English and French writers, who mean by them a democracy, a government in one centre, and that centre a single assembly, chosen at stated periods by the people and invested with the whole sovereignty, the whole legislative, executive and judicial power to be included in a body or by committees as they shall think proper".

Massachusetts Nicknames

Massachusetts is a commonwealth, and is usually known as the Bay State, a nickname that goes right back to its early settlers in 1789.

She is also occasionally referred to as the Old Colony State, the Puritan State, and the Baked Bean State.

Bay State

Alludes to the colony of Massachusetts Bay, founded in 1628 and Massachusetts Bay.

Old Bay State

Alludes to the colony of Massachusetts Bay, founded in 1628 and Massachusetts Bay. Old Bay State appearing some 50 years later after the nickname Bay State

Old Colony

Plymouth colony. The earlier Plymouth settlement gave Massachusetts Old Colony, a name which first appeared around 1798,

Pilgrim State

First colonists also led to the state sometimes being known as the Pilgrim State.

Puritan State

First colonists also led to the state sometimes being known as the Puritan State.

Baked Bean State

There are reports of it also being called the Baked Bean State, an allusion to the fact that the puritans would serve baked beans on Sundays.

The Spirit of America and The Codfish State

But Massachusetts license plates declare The Spirit of America or The Codfish State

Massachusetts Slogans

  • Make It Yours (on its license plate)
  • The Spirit of America
  • You're more likely to live here (billboard on the side of Fenway Park)

Massachusetts Postal Code

  • MA

Massachusetts Resident's Name

  • Massachusettsan - Official (recommended by US GPO)
  • Bay Stater (official term used by state government) - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Massachusite (traditional) - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
State Names
State Names & Nicknames

The Etymologies of US State Names