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List of Mexican state name etymologies

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This article provides a collection of the etymologies of the names of the states of Mexico.

State name Language of origin Source word Meaning and notes
Aguascalientes Spanish aguas calientes "Hot waters". When the city was first founded in 1575, it was given this name for the abundance of hot springs in the region, which still are exploited for numerous spas and for domestic use.
Baja California Spanish "Lower California". The Spanish colony of California was divided into two—upper and lower—in 1804. The Mexican territory of Upper California, or Alta California, would in 1848 become the United States states of California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona and Wyoming. See also: Origin of the name California.
Baja California Sur Spanish "Southern Baja California". See also: Origin of the name California.
Campeche Mayan Kaan Peech The state takes its name from the city of Campeche, which was founded in 1540 by Spanish Conquistadores as San Francisco de Campeche atop the preexisting Maya city of Canpech or Kimpech. The native name means “place of snakes and ticks.”
Chihuahua Nahuatl xicuahua[1] The state takes its name from its capital city, Chihuahua. This name is thought to derive from the Nahuatl Xicuahua, or "dry, sandy place".[1]
Chiapas Nahuatl Chi(y)apan
Coahuila Nahuatl Origin disputed. May mean "serpent that flies" (coatl "snake" + huila "to fly") or "place of many trees" (quautli "trees" + la "abundance")
Colima Nahuatl Coliman The state takes its name from its capital city, Colima.
Durango Basque The state is named after its capital city, Durango, which was named after the city of Durango, Biscay in the Basque Country, northern Spain. During colonial times it was part of the Spanish realm of Nueva Vizcaya, "New Biscay", a province of New Spain.
Guanajuato Purépecha Quanax Huato[2][3] "Place of the monstrous frogs".[3] The state is named after its capital city, Guanajuato.
Guerrero Spanish "Warrior". Named after Vicente Guerrero, a hero of the Mexican War of Independence and an early president of Mexico. The surname Guerrero, meaning "warrior" in Spanish, is derived from guerra "war", a Germanic loanword related to the English word war.
Hidalgo Spanish Named after Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, considered the initiator of the Mexican War of Independence in 1810. See also: Hidalgo (Spanish nobility)
Jalisco Nahuatl Xālixco "Place with sand on the ground".[4]
México Nahuatl Mēxihco The state is named after the Mexica.
Michoacán Nahuatl Michhuahcān "Place of possessors of fish".
Morelos Spanish Named after José María Morelos, one of the leaders of Mexico's struggle against Spain during the War of Independence.
Nayarit Cora "Place of Nayar", referring to a 16th-century Cora chief[5][6]
Nuevo León Spanish "New Leon". Named after the Kingdom of León, one of the historical realms that formed Spain.
Oaxaca Nahuatl Huāxyacac After the city of Oaxaca, whose name in turn derives from the Nahuatl for "on the nose of the huajes", huajes being a type of tree with an edible pod quite common locally.
Puebla Spanish "People". The state is named after its capital city, Puebla.
Querétaro Purépecha Crettaro "Place of cliffs".[7]
Quintana Roo Spanish Named after Andrés Quintana Roo, a hero from the War of Independence.
San Luis Potosí Spanish Named after Louis IX, and the mines of Potosí in Bolivia.
Sinaloa ? ? Origin of name is disputed. May mean "round pitahaya (cacti)" or "cut corn" [8]
Sonora Opata[9] xunuta[9] "In the place of the corn".[9]
Tabasco Nahuatl? ? The name appears in the chronicles of Bernal Díaz del Castillo during the conquest era, who says it comes from the name of a river in the area.
Tamaulipas Huastec Nahuatl Tamaholipa "Place with high mountains".[10]
Tlaxcala Nahuatl Tlaxcallān "Place of tortillas". The state is named after the capital of Tlaxcala, which is named after the pre-Columbian city-state of Tlaxcallan.
Veracruz Spanish vera cruz "True Cross." The state is named after the port of Veracruz. This name was given to the first Spanish city in New Spain by Hernán Cortés in 1519, in the form La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, "The Rich Village of the True Cross".
Yucatán Chontal Maya Yokot'an A apocryphal story goes that when the Spaniards first waded ashore on the Yucatán Peninsula, they asked the members of the local population, who were watching, "What is this place?" The local indígenas, not understanding Spanish, asked "What did you say?" (Yuca-hatlanás?). The Spanish assumed that anyone would understand their language, and took it to be the name.

Another legend has it that when Spaniards asked a local native "Where are we?", the native answered "Yuc Atan", meaning "I'm not from here", which Spaniards assumed as the name of the place.

The most likely derivation is from the native Chontal Maya people, who call themselves Yokot'anob or Yokot'an, "speakers of Yoko ochoco."

Zacatecas Nahuatl zacatēcah "People from the Place of Grass". The state is named after its capital city, Zacatecas.


  1. ^ a b Jimenez Gonzalez, Victor Manuel (2015). Chihuahua, Guía de viaje del Estado: Barrancas del Cobre - Tren Chihuahua al Pacífico - Ciudad Juárez, todo el Estado de Chihuahua. Solaris Comunicación. p. 47.
  3. ^ a b Meade, Julie (2016). Moon San Miguel de Allende: Including Guanajuato & Querétaro. Hachette UK. ISBN 9781631211607.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-08-13. Retrieved 2007-08-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Nayarit". Tour by Mexico. Retrieved 2007-08-07.
  6. ^ "El Nayar". Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México. Archived from the original on 2007-05-02. Retrieved 2007-08-07.
  7. ^ Querétaro: Nomeclatura Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine. Enciclopedia de los Estados de México.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ a b c "Sonora". Tour by Mexico.
  10. ^ "Tamaulipas". Nations Encyclopedia.