Texas State Names (Etymology of Names)

Texas Name Origin and State Nicknames

Texas is the second most populous (after the State of California) and the second-largest of the 50 states (after Alaska) in the United States of America, and the largest state in the 48 contiguous United States. Geographically located in the South Central part of the country, Texas shares an international border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Le?, and Tamaulipas to the south and borders the U.S. states of New Mexico to the west, Oklahoma to the north, Arkansas to the northeast, and Louisiana to the east.

The Caddo Indians of eastern Texas called their group of tribes the "Tejas," meaning "those who are friends".

Texas Nicknames

  • Lone Star State
  • Beef State
  • Jumbo State
  • Super-American State
  • Banner State
  • Blizzard State

Origin of Texas State Name

From an Indian word meaning "friends." Texas comes from the word "teysha" meaning "hello friend" in the language of the Caddo Indian tribes. Spanish explorers and settlers used this word to refer to the friendly tribes throughout Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

The state motto of Texas is "Friendship." The word, Texas, or Tejas, was the Spanish pronunciation of a Caddo Indian word meaning "friends" or "allies." (Acts of 1930, fourth called session of the 41st Legislature, p. 105.)


 Author: Phillip L. Fry

The word texas (tejas, tayshas, texias, thecas, techan, teysas, techas?) had wide usage among the Indians of East Texas even before the coming of the Spanish, whose various transcriptions and interpretations gave rise to many theories about the meaning. The usual meaning was "friends," although the Hasinais applied the word to many groups-including Caddoan-to mean "allies." The Hasinais probably did not apply the name to themselves as a local group name; they did use the term, however, as a form of greeting: "Hello, friend."

How and when the name Texas first reached the Spanish is uncertain, but the notion of a "great kingdom of Texas," associated with a "Gran Quivira" had spread in New Spain before the expedition of Alonso De Le? and Dami? Massanet in 1689. Massanet reported meeting Indians who proclaimed themselves thecas, or "friends," as he understood it, and on meeting the chief of the Nabedaches (one of the Hasinai tribes) mistakenly referred to him as the "governor" of a "great kingdom of the Texas."

Francisco de Jes? Mar?, a missionary left by Massanet with the Nabedaches, attempted to correct erroneous reports about the name by asserting that the Indians in that region did not constitute a kingdom, that the chief called "governor" was not the head chief, and that the correct name of the group of tribes was not Texas. Texias, according to Jes? Mar?, meant "friends" and was simply a name applied to the various groups allied against the Apaches. Later expeditions by the Spanish for the most part abandoned the name Texas or else used it as an alternative to Asinay (Hasinai).

Official Spanish documents continued to use it but later narrowed it to mean only the Neches-Angelina group of Indians and not a geographic area. Other putative meanings have less evidence from contemporary accounts to support them: "land of flowers," "paradise," and "tiled roofs"-from the thatched roofs of the East Texas tribes-were never suggested by first-hand observers so far as is known, though later theories connect them with tejasor its variant spellings. Whatever the Spanish denotations of the name Texas, the state motto, "Friendship," carries the original meaning of the word as used by the Hasinai and their allied tribes, and the name of the state apparently was derived from the same source.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910; rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959). "Letter of Don Damian Manzanet to Don Carlos de Siguenza," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 2 (April 1899). William W. Newcomb, The Indians of Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961).

Citation Phillip L. Fry, "TEXAS, ORIGIN OF NAME," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/pft04), accessed March 30, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Texas Nicknames

Lone Star State

The Lone Star has been a symbol for Texas since its origins as an independent state. A single star was part of the Long Expedition (1819), Austin Colony (1821) and several flags of the early Republic of Texas. Some say that the star represented the wish of many Texans to achieve statehood in the United States. Others say it originally represented Texas as the lone state of Mexico which was attempting to uphold its rights under the Mexican Constitution of 1824. At least one "lone star" flag was flown during the Battle of Concepcion and the Siege of Bexar (1835). Joanna Troutman's flag with a single blue star was raised over Velasco on January 8, 1836. Another flag with a single star was raised at the Alamo (1836) according to a journal entry by David Crockett. One carried by General Sam Houston's Texans army (which defeated Mexican General Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto ) may have been captured and taken to Mexico. Another "lone star" flag, similar to the current one but with the red stripe above the white, was also captured the following year (1837) and returned to Mexico. The "David G. Burnet" flag, of "an azure ground" (blue background) "with a large golden star central" was adopted by the Congress of the Republic of Texas in December of 1836. It continued in use as a battle flag after being superseded in January of 1839. The 1839 design has been used to symbolize the Republic and the "Lone Star State" ever since.

Why the Lone Star- what did it symbolize? Some say it was a proclamation of independence and carried that meaning since the filibustering expedition of James Long in 1819. Others say it represented Texas's leadership among Mexicans partisans in revolt to restore the Constitution of 1824. Others believe it indicated the desire of many Texans to emulate and join the United States (a desire fulfilled with the annexation of 1845). In 1933, the Texas state legislature codified the colors of red, blue and white as representations of "bravery, loyalty, and purity."

Today most people associate the Lone Star with a feisty spirit of independence characteristic of true Texans. Businesses, festivals, and individuals adopt the symbol as a way to express their identity and allegiance. The Lone Star appears on car dealerships, restaurants, monuments, engraved invitations. The Texas state quarter, issued in 2004, shows a prominent Lone Star superimposed over the shape of the state. At its unveiling, Governor Rick Perry explained the message underlying the coin's design: "The Lone Star is one of the most identifiable symbols of Texas. . . . Its continued presence today reminds people that Texans are a different breed, set apart by their fierce individualism and their unyielding desire for freedom."

Beef State

Its huge cattle "industry" led it to be known as the Beef State .

Jumbo State

In 1882, P.T. Barnum brought the largest African elephant ever kept in captivity from London to the United States to be used in his circus. The elephant's name was Jumbo. The elephant came to signify anything that was unusually large. Texas, the largest state in the Union, became known as "The Jumbo State" at that time.

The Banner State

Probably originated from Texas' political influence based on her large population. Charles Ledyard Norton wrote, inPolitical Americanisms(Longmans, Green and Company, New York and London, 1890), "The state, county, town or other political sub-division that give the largest vote for a party candidate is termed 'the banner state.'..." Other states have been referred to as "Banner States," but this nickname's connection with Texas seems to have been more lasting.

The Blizzard State

Texas has been called "The Blizzard State" because of the frequent wind storms which sweep over the state. South Dakota is also referred to as "The Blizzard State."

Super-American State

In 1961, the New Yorker called it the Super-American State.

Texas Slogans

  • It's Like a Whole Other Country
  • {Formerly: Don't Mess With Texas (originally an anti-littering slogan, later widely used on promotional t-shirts)}
  • State of the Arts (on its license plate)

Texas Postal Code


Texas Resident's Name

  • Texan - Official (recommended by U.S. GPO)
  • Texian (Anglo-Texan - historical) - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Tejano (Mexican-Texan) - Official, unofficial or informal alternates
  • Texican (archaic) - Official, unofficial or informal alternates

The people of Texas usually call themselves Texans. However, Texian was generally used in the early period of the state's history.

"Texans/Texians" (tek'se-ans) adj. A citizen or the culture of the Texas section of the province of Coahuila y Texas, Republic of Mexico or the subsequent Republic of Texas. As president of the Republic, Mirabeau B. Lamar used the term to foster nationalism. Early colonists and leaders in the Texas Revolution, many of whom were influential during the Civil War and who were respected as elder statesmen well into the 1880s, used Texian in English and Texienne in French. However, in general usage after annexation, Texan replaced Texian. The Texas Almanac still used the term Texian as late as 1868.

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