State Nicknames You’ve Never Heard Before

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Everyone loves a good nickname. Did you know that every state in the U.S. has at least one popular nickname? Some are well-known like the "Empire State” (New York) or the "Sunshine State" (Florida). Others are a bit more confusing like the “Tar Heel State” (North Carolina). Here are some of the lesser-known state nicknames that you’ve likely never heard before.

Arkansas: Rackensack

Up close shot of toothpick collection standing upright in a container
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In the early 1800s, Arkansas didn’t have the greatest reputation. One of the earliest nicknames for Arkansas was the "Toothpick State." No, they didn’t produce the most toothpicks. The toothpick was a common, inexpensive knife that early Arkansans carried on their belts. After a state representative was murdered with one in 1837, the state earned this unfortunate nickname.

At the same time, Arkansas was also referred to as "Rackensack." No one is quite sure where the name originated, but it was used to describe rural Arkansans — the majority of the state population. The name Rackensack is still used as a synonym for redneck. The 1900s saw a push to change the public image of Arkansas, so the state government adopted the official nickname “Land of Opportunity.”

Delaware: Diamond State

Jeweler with tool holds up diamond gemstone to the light with scattered diamonds on table
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Most people know Delaware by its official nickname the "First State," but it has a second, lesser-known nickname as well. When the U.S. emerged as a new nation, Thomas Jefferson had an affinity for Delaware. He thought that it had the best position on the East Coast and referred to it as a jewel among the states. Thereafter, Delaware became known as the "Diamond State."

Georgia: Empire State of the South

Aerial view of metropolitan skyline in Georgia on a clear autumn afternoon
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In the mid-1800s, the United States was divided between north and south. Of course, slavery was one of the major issues that caused the rift, but there were economic differences as well. Southern states were generally rural and agriculturally driven, while the northern states were typically urban manufacturers.

Georgia was an outlier. It was a southern state, but its people still wanted to be leaders in industry and manufacturing. It was given the nickname, “Empire State of the South” to represent its economic development. People who weren’t happy with Georgia attempting to emulate the north gave it the derogatory nickname, “Yankee-Land of the South” instead.

North Carolina: Old North State

Drone Aerial of Downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, NC, USA Skyline
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How can North Carolina be called the "Old North State" if it’s in the South? Well, in 1700 before the U.S. claimed its independence, Carolina was the southernmost colony. In 1710, the colony was divided into two. The older, northern region of the colony was named North Carolina and the southern half was named South Carolina. Since it was the older and more northern of the two, North Carolina took on the nickname “Old North State.” The nickname was even written into a state song and a state toast.

Ohio: Mother of Presidents

Aerial view of Downtown Columbus Ohio with Scioto river
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If you had to guess which state produced the most presidents, you’d probably assume it was one of the older states on the East Coast. After all, they’ve had the most opportunity to get a native into the White House. While Virginia natives did win the presidency four out of the first five presidential elections, Ohio produced more U.S. presidents than any other state — depending on how you look at it.

Officially, Virginia produced eight presidents, while Ohio produced only seven. However, William Henry Harrison, who was technically a Virginia native, grew up and made his career in Ohio, which shifted the record to have Ohio up by one. Thus, Ohio residents adopted the state nickname, “Mother of Presidents.”

Rhode Island: Little Rhody

Newport County, Rhode Island, United States
Credit: DenisTangneyJr/ iStock

In what might be the cutest nickname of all the states, Rhode Island is affectionately known as "Little Rhody" because of its small size. Rhode Island is the smallest state in the U.S. and therefore, deserves the cutest nickname. Variations include “Little Rhodie,” “Little Rhode,” and “L’il Rhody.”

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