Mapping the True Meaning of Places in Canada and the U.S.

Expedia.ca has created a gorgeous map that details the original meaning of every state, province and territory in Canada and the United States. // (c) 2017 Expedia.ca
Expedia.ca has created a gorgeous map that details the original meaning of every state, province and territory in Canada and the United States. // (c) 2017 Expedia.ca

Author James Baldwin once wrote, “Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.”

If that’s true, Expedia.ca (the Canadian sister site to Expedia.com) has created a gorgeous map that details the original meaning of every state, province and territory in Canada and the United States.

Let’s say you think that the residents of California are all a bunch of crazy wackadoos, or in the words of the American president, merely “out of control,” you might be partially right. Because the original meaning of California is “The Mythical Island of Califia.”

Some of the map names weren’t too much of a stretch. For example, the original meaning of Canada’s Northwest Territories is, well, Northwest Territories. But other locations, such as Ontario, Canada, have a much more romantic translation: Sparkling Water.

The Literal Translation of Places in Canada & the United States

The Literal Translation of Places in Canada & the United States, courtesy of Expedia.ca

Not entirely surprisingly, many of the states along the U.S. eastern seaboard pay homage to their crown heritage. New York, of course, was the New Home of the Duke of York.

Meanwhile, most of the states located along the Mississippi River, from Wisconsin (River Running Through a Red Place), to Missouri (Dugout Canoe) to Arkansas (Land of Downriver People) to Mississippi (Great River), pay tribute to the mighty waterway.

Similarly, the states that straddle the Rocky Mountains, from Idaho (Gem of the Mountains) to Utah (People of the Mountains) to Montana (Mountainous), derive their name from majestic mountain range.

In Canada, a handful of provinces pay homage to their crown heritage, like Alberta, for example, which is the Land of Princess Louise Caroline Alberta. Most of the rest honor the waterways that run through the nation, from British Columbia (River of Columbia) to Manitoba (The Narrows of the Great Spirit) to Quebec (Narrow Passage.)

What we love best about the map however, aside from its gorgeous design, is that Expedia.ca has sourced every single state name reference. So, while the origins of some of the state names may sound overly optimistic and flowery, Expedia tells you exactly who said it first.

By the way, if you’re planning a trip to Alaska, Expedia.ca does not expect you to enter “That Which the Sea Breaks Against” in their search tool. Plain old Alaska will do just fine.

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Monica Poling, the editor of Travel Glitter, is a Starbucks-addicted, video-game obsessed travel writer with a weakness for hotel rooms with a view, luxury spas, and sometimes Hello Kitty. Her dream trips include ice fishing in Ohio's Put-In Bay, driving Highway 50, the "Loneliest Road," across Nevada and sailing around the horn of South America.

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