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Have you ever wondered how Minnesota, the northernmost state in the contiguous United States, got its unique name? The story behind it is a fascinating one that involves Native American languages, French explorers, and political maneuvering. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the rich history of Minnesota’s name, tracing its origins and evolution over time. From the Dakota word “mni sota” to the official state name of “Minnesota,” this is the story of how a place came to be known by its distinctive name.

Scroll to the bottom of this page or CLICK HERE to watch our travel video “The Fascinating Story of How Minnesota Got Its Name”

Do you ever wonder how Minnesota got its name? It’s a neat thing to think about, isn’t it?

You know I never actually knew how Minnesota got its name until we did some research for this article.

Mni sota: Sky-Tinted Water…

Minnesota derives its name from the Dakota Sioux word “Mnisota,” which means “cloudy water” or “sky-tinted water.” The Dakota Sioux were the first inhabitants of this region and used the Mnisota River as a primary source of water for fishing, transportation, and irrigation. 

The French explorers who arrived in the region in the 17th century called the river the St. Pierre River, but they later adopted the Dakota Sioux name as “La Rivière Mnisota.”

The Mnisota/Minnesota/St. Pierre River flows into the Mississippi River, which became a significant trade route for French and British fur traders in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1803, the United States acquired the region in the Louisiana Purchase, and American settlers began moving to the area in the mid-19th century. In 1849, Minnesota became a territory, and in 1858, it became the 32nd state in the United States.

The name “Minnesota” was officially adopted in 1851 when the territorial government established the Minnesota Territory, which included the present-day states of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The name was chosen to honor the Dakota Sioux, who were the original inhabitants of the region and had a significant impact on its history and culture.

Who named Minnesota?

The name “Minnesota” was not given by a single individual, but rather evolved over time through a combination of Dakota Sioux, French and English influences.

Oh for Cute!!

If you love Minnesota as much as we do, you’ll probably love these cute items. They’ll definitely have you saying, “oh for cute”! Hehe…

What are nicknames for Minnesota?

Minnesota has several nicknames, including:

1. The Land of 10,000 Lakes

This is our most popular nickname. Minnesota is known for its numerous lakes, with an estimated 11,842 lakes covering over 10 acres each. This nickname emphasizes the state’s abundance of natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities.

2. The North Star State

This nickname reflects Minnesota’s location in the northern part of the United States and its association with the North Star, which has long been used for navigation.

3. The Gopher State

This nickname originated in the late 1800s when Minnesota was known for its abundance of gophers, a type of small burrowing rodent. The nickname was later adopted by the University of Minnesota’s sports teams, which are known as the Golden Gophers.

What’s your favorite nickname? Have you heard any other nicknames for Minnesota? Be sure to leave a comment below. Oh – and if you’re not from Minnesota, let your fellow travelers know where you live…and what the nickname for your hometown or home state is. It’s fun to learn how to talk like a local.


So there you have it. We can thank the Dakota Sioux, the French and the British for naming our great state. Come and visit us here in Minnesota…I promise you’ll have a heckuva fun time!

Have a super day!

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About the Authors
Jack and Kitty Norton are Emmy Award winning travel experts. They have spent a lifetime on the road: as traveling musicians, documentary filmmakers and television producers. They now focus on writing for their travel blog ( and making fun videos for their YouTube channel. Jack and Kitty offer travelers fun and quirky things to do in Minnesota, the Midwest and beyond. High school sweethearts turned married soulmates, the couple lives in the small college town of Winona, Minnesota and would love to have you over for some hotdish.

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