Somebody from Arizona is an Arizonan, somebody from Montana is called a Montanan, and somebody from Indiana is called a... Hoosier? I mean, Indianan is a word, but perhaps it's not as popular because it sounds redundant, and the word Indian was already taken of course. Reflecting on this, it seems inevitable that a new demonym had to be created, but what does Hoosier even mean? Well, no one seems sure, so let’s delve into a realm of guesswork. We know that it became popular by the 1830s, but before that, it could have been everything from a combination of who’s there? to an Indian word for “corn”. The most possible explanation, however, is that it was a dialectal term for “redneck” or “hillbilly”. This could have been from an earlier word spelled like hoozer and probably pronounced differently, with Anglo-Saxon origins. Nothing is for sure, though, as with all etymologies.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.