The state of Wisconsin (originally recorded as Meskousing and Ouisconsin), was organized as a territory in 1836 and officially founded in 1848, but the name was in use for the area for centuries before that. It's an English spelling of a French spelling of a Native American word that referred to the modern-day Wisconsin River. The exact meaning and origin of that word is debated, and there are several theories to look at. It might be from the Menominee toponym Weskohsek-Sepew, meaning "a good place to live", or, as the Miami word Meskonsing, it could have meant "river running through a red place", which would have something to do with the red sandstone along its banks. Alternatively, a number of translations in Ojibwa have been proposed, including "red stone place", "where the waters gather", and "great rock". We'll probably never now for sure, but there are a lot of interesting options!
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.