North Dakota State Names (Etymology of Names)

North Dakota Name Origin and State Nicknames

North Dakota is the 39th state of the United States, having been admitted to the union on November 2, 1889. It is located in the Upper Midwestern region of the United States, bordered by the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north, the states of Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south, and Montana to the west. North Dakota is the 19th most extensive but the 4th least populous and the 4th least densely populated of the 50 United States.

Dakota was what the Sioux Indians called themselves.

North Dakota Nicknames

  • Peace Garden State
  • Flickertail State
  • Roughrider State
  • Sioux State
  • Dakota
  • Land of the Dakotas
  • The Great Central State

Origin of North Dakota State Name

On March 2, 1861, President James Buchanan signed the bill creating the Dakota Territory, which originally included the area covered today by both Dakotas as well as Montana and Wyoming. The name was taken from that of the Dakota or Sioux Indian Tribe. Beginning about 1877, efforts were made to bring Dakota into the Union as both a single state and as two states. The latter was successful and on November 2, 1889, both North and South Dakota were admitted. Since President Benjamin Harrison went to great lengths to obscure the order in which the statehood proclamations were signed, the exact order in which the two states entered is unknown. However, because of alphabetical position, North Dakota is often considered the 39th state.

Dakota is the Sioux Indian word for "friend".

North Dakota Nicknames

Peace Garden State

The International Peace Garden straddles the international Boundary between North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba. In 1956 the North Dakota Motor Vehicle Department, on its own initiative, placed the words Peace Garden State on license plates; the name proved so popular that it was formally adopted by the 1957 legislature (North Dakota Century Code (NDCC), Section 39-04-12).

Flickertail State

Flickertail refers to the Richardson ground squirrels which are abundant in North Dakota. The animal flicks or jerks its tail in a characteristic manner while running or just before entering its burrow. In 1953 the Legislative Assembly defeated Senate Bill (S.B.) No. 134 that would have adopted the Flickertail facsimile as the official emblem of the state.

Roughrider State

This name originated in a state-supported tourism promotion of the 1960s and 70s. It refers to the First US Volunteer Cavalry which Theodore Roosevelt organized to fight in the Spanish-American War. In fact, the "Roughriders," which included several North Dakota cowboys, fought dismounted in Cuba due to logistical problems. In both 1971 (House Bill No. {H.B. No.} 1383) and 1973 (G.B. No. 1443) the Legislative Assembly defeated bills intended to change the words Peace Garden State on state license plates to Roughrider Country.

Dakota / Land of Dakotas

An attempt to drop the word North from the state name was defeated by the 1947 Legislative Assembly (House Concurrent Resolution {H.C.R.} J). Again in 1989, the Legislature rejected two resolutions (Senate Concurrent Resolutions Nos. {S.C.R. No.} 4031 and 4032) intended to rename the state Dakota.

Peace Garden State

International Peace Garden on the Canadian border.

Sioux State

Dakota is a Sioux word.

The Great Central State

North Dakota is sometimes called "The Great Central State" because it of its location in the center of the great western Wheat Belt.


North Dakota Slogans

  • A Better Place to Be
  • (Raise Up formerly)
  • First in Flight (on its license plate)

North Dakota Postal Code

  • ND

North Dakota Resident's Name

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

The Etymologies of US State Names