Oregon State Names (Etymology of Names)

Oregon Name Origin and State Nicknames

Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Oregon is bordered on its west by the Pacific Ocean, north by Washington, south by the State of California, east Idaho, and southeast Nevada. The Columbia River delineates much of Oregon's northern boundary, the Snake River largely its eastern. It is the 9th largest and 27th most populous state.

The origin is unknown. It may have come from the French word Ouragan (which means Hurricane) and was a former name of the Columbia River.

Oregon Nicknames

  • Beaver State
  • Webfoot State
  • Hard-case State
  • Union State
  • The Sunset State

Origin of Oregon State Name

The first written record of the name "Oregon" comes to us from a 1765 proposal for a journey written by Major Robert Rogers, an English army officer. It reads, "The rout... is from the Great Lakes towards the Head of the Mississippi, and from thence to the River called by the Indians Ouragon. ..." His proposal rejected, Rogers reapplied in 1772, using the spelling "Ourigan."

The first printed use of the current spelling appeared in Captain Jonathan Carver's 1778 book, "Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America 1766, 1767 and 1768." He listed the four great rivers of the continent, including "the River of Oregon, or the River of the West, that falls into the Pacific Ocean at the Straits of Annian."

Historians say Oregon was most likely named after one of two rivers. The Columbia River, which forms a coastline along the northern border, was at one time called the Oregon or Ouragan, which is French for "hurricane." Others believe the name was derived from a mapmaker's error in the 1700s. The Wisconsin River was named the Ouisconsink and was picked up by travelers

Oregon Nicknames

While most states have an official nickname, the Oregon Legislature never officially adopted one. Oregon's unofficial nickname is "The Beaver State".

Beaver State

The American Beaver (Castor canadensis) was named Oregon state animal by the 1969 Legislature. Prized for its fur, the beaver was over-trapped by early settlers and eliminated from much of its original range. Through proper management and partial protection, the beaver has been reestablished in watercourses throughout the state and remains an important economic asset. The beaver has been referred to as "nature's engineer," and its dam-building activities are important to natural water flow and erosion control. Oregon is known as the "Beaver State" and Oregon State University's athletic teams are called the "Beavers."

Webfoot State

For rain. Anyone who's been to Oregon will surely understand that this nickname comes from the amount or rain that falls in the state, most of it in the western 1/3 of the state.

Hard-case State

For the troubles early settlers faced.

Union State

The Oregon state motto also exists in a Latin motto version: "Alis Volat Propiis".

The Oregon motto is said to represent both sentiments of independence from Britain and the independent nature of the early settlers in their abilities to make a living in the new territory and create a new government.

The Oregon motto was adopted by Legislature in 1987. The phrase is much older than that, however. The Oregon motto was actually written 133 years earlier in 1854 by Judge Jessie Quinn Thornton and was put on the territorial seal.

The Oregon motto has had quite a turbulent history during these 133 years and was in fact not always entitled "She Flies With Her Own Wings".

In 1957, the Oregon state motto was changed to "The Union". Senate historian Cecil Edwards points to the public division of opinion in relation to slavery as the driving force behind changing the Oregon motto to "the Union".

The national pride of innovative achievements and history of independent nature of Oregon citizens did make the government change the Oregon motto back into "She Flies With Her Own Wings" in 1987.

The Sunset State

Oregon was called "The Sunset State" because of its far west location. At the time Oregon joined the Union, in 1859, it was the most westerly of all the states. This position was lost when Washington joined the Union in 1889 and again when Alaska joined in 1959.

Oregon Slogan

  • Pacific Wonderland (on its license plate 1959-1964)
  • Things Look Different Here (1987-2003)
  • We Love Dreamers

Oregon Postal Code

  • OR

Oregon Resident's Name

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

The Etymologies of US State Names