Geek Trivia

Which U.S. State Has The Longest Official Name?

Rhode Island
Mississippi
California
Ohio
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Answer: Rhode Island

While we refer to different U.S. states by simple names like “Michigan” (named after the French form of the Ojibwa word “mishigamaa”, meaning “large water” or “large lake”), not all of the official titles for states are simple one or two word names.

The state of Rhode Island, for example, has the longest official name of any U.S. state (which is a tad ironic, given that Rhode Island is also the smallest U.S. state by area). If you’re a Rhode Islander that wants to refer to your state by its full and glorious title, you should refer to your homeland as the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”.

So what’s the deal with the name? The name is a combination of two historical colonies that were merged into one. First, there’s Rhode Island (now commonly called Aquidneck Island), the largest of several islands in Narragansett Bay. Depending on how you ask, the island was either named by the explorer¬†Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524, who likened the area to the island of Rhodes in Greece or it was named by explorer Adriaen Block in the 1610s who described the island as “an island of reddish appearance” or “een rodlich Eylande” in his native Dutch, likely due to either the red autumn foliage or the reddish clay soil.

On the mainland, Roger Williams—a theologian driven out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and searching for a place of religious and political tolerance—and others founded Providence Plantation across the bay from Rhode Island: the name was a reference to divine providence and the word plantation was an English term for colony.

Later, when the two areas merged together, the official name of the region became¬†“Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”, and the lengthy name, though rarely spoken in totality, has stuck ever since.