F.L. Guffefeld, Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain
F.L. Guffefeld, Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain

The Quick 13: Where the 13 Colonies Got Their Names

F.L. Guffefeld, Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain
F.L. Guffefeld, Wikipedia Commons // Public Domain

You probably knew that Rhode Island is not an island—so how did it gets its name? Read on for the full scoop on it and the other 12 original colonies.

1. NEW HAMPSHIRE

This New England colony started out as the Province of New Hampshire. It was named by John Mason after the county of Hampshire in England (home of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens).

2. MASSACHUSETTS

Massachusetts was originally the Province of Massachusetts Bay. It was named after an Algonquian tribe, the Massachusett, which translates to something along the lines of "people of the great hill" or "at the place of large hills," referring to the famous Blue Hills.

3. RHODE ISLAND

Rhode Island is just a colloquialism—the official name is the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Basically, Italian explorer Giovanni Verrazzano compared what is now Block Island to the Island of Rhodes in size. And in 1636, Roger Williams was given some land at the top of Narragansett Bay by Indian chiefs Canonicus and Miantonomi. Williams decided to call the land "Providence Plantations" because he felt that God had guided him there. The story is longer than this, and it's actually really interesting. You can check it out at the Rhode Island Office of the Secretary of State.

4. CONNECTICUT

Connecticut got its name thanks to the Connecticut River (which obviously wasn't named that at the time). The word comes from the Indian word "Quinnehtukqut," which means, roughly, "beside the long tidal river." So the Connecticut River is called "Beside the Long Tidal River River," sort of.

5. NEW YORK

You'll see in a minute that King Charles I and II basically included shout-outs to their friends and family all over the 13 colonies. And New York is one of them. It was originally called New Netherland when the Dutch founded it—it was when the British took over in 1664 that it received its current name. But why? To honor King Charles II's brother, the Duke of York and Albany (see?).

6. NEW JERSEY

New Jersey got its name from an island in the English Channel, named, appropriately, Jersey.

7. PENNSYLVANIA

This colony, of course, was named after founder William Penn. And "sylvania" is Latin for woods or woodland, so "Pennsylvania" means Penn's woods. If you're curious about how Penn got to name the state after himself, here's a clue—the 1680 charter was provided by King Charles II, and the Penn family were great friends of the English monarch.

8. GEORGIA

Georgia is another one named for a King—King George II, of course. George granted the charter in 1733, stipulating that the territory bear his name. It was the last of the 13 colonies.

9. VIRGINIA

This colony was named after Queen Elizabeth I, the "virgin queen" who married England instead of a husband. West Virginia wasn't a separate state until 1861.

10. MARYLAND

The Free State received its name by edict, not by choice. Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, received a charter from Charles I of England for this new colony. But there was a catch: the colony must be named after Charles' wife, Queen Henrietta Mary (she went by Queen Mary).

11, 12. NORTH CAROLINA AND SOUTH CAROLINA

These two colonies were considered one big unit until they divided up in 1729. By this time, King Charles II was in power and provided the charters, specifying that they be named after his father, King Charles I. The Latin version of Charles is "Carolus," from which "Carolina" is derived.

13. DELAWARE

According to the book State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols, the state of Delaware is named after the Delaware River. The Delaware River, in turn, is named after Sir Thomas West, Lord de la Warr.

And, a bonus: Vermont, which was not one of the 13 colonies, is named because, after seeing the Green Mountains, Samuel de Champlain referred to it as "Verd Mont" (green mountains) on a map in his native French.

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Why Macedonia Is Getting a New Name
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For the first time since becoming an independent nation in 1991, the Republic of Macedonia is rebranding itself. As CNN reports, the Balkan nation will soon be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia, a name change that will hopefully help to heal the country's tense relationship with Greece.

Macedonia adopted its former title after gaining independence from Yugoslavia 27 years ago, and the name immediately caused conflict. Its neighbor to the south, Greece has a region of its own called Macedonia. Greece claimed that Macedonia's name suggested a sense of entitlement to territory that belonged to them and took it as an insult.

Even decades later, the bad blood stirred by the decision remained. Greece's issue with the name has even prevented Macedonia from joining the European Union and NATO. The new title, which was agreed upon by Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on June 11, is meant to be a step towards better relations between the two countries.

"Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honorable and geographically precise—Republic of Northern Macedonia," Prime Minister Zaev said at a press conference, as reported by Reuters. Macedonia will hold a popular vote to officially change the name in a referendum later this year.

A country changing its name isn't uncommon, but reasons for the revision vary. In April 2018, the country formerly known Swaziland announced it would be called eSwatini, the name it went by prior to British colonization.

[h/t CNN]

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Why Did Russia Sell Alaska to the United States of America?
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Adam Weymouth:

America bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, a deal negotiated by William Seward, then US Secretary of State. That Russian heritage is still preserved in Alaska, in the surnames of those that live along the Yukon, names like Demoski and Kozevniko and Shaishniko, and in the onion domes of the Orthodox churches in the villages downriver. The U.S. purchase much derided at the time: the press dubbed it 'Seward’s folly," and the new acquisition as Walrussia.

The Russians had exhausted the fur trade after wiping out most of the sea otters, and they had then lost interest in Alaska, believing it had to have few other natural resources. Not sure what to do with their new half-billion acres, the U.S. governed [it] as a far-flung territory, with all the lawlessness that entailed. Statehood would not come until 1959, with the United States capitalizing on Alaska’s strategic military importance vis-à-vis Japan and Russia. But it was in 1967 that Seward’s folly hit pay dirt: The oilfield discovered on the North Slope would prove to be the largest in the United States.

Who can say what the situation would be if the Russians owned Alaska today? Russia would share a land border with Canada. The Russians would have benefited hugely from the 16 billion barrels of oil that have so far been extracted from Prudhoe Bay. The U.S. would have no claim on the Arctic, a place that will have huge political and economic importance as the icecap thaws during this century. It is quite possible that the world would look very different.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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