List of Indian state and union territory name etymologies

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The Republic of India was constituted in 1947 as a union of states. After the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, there was a rearrangement of state boundaries along linguistic lines, and many states were given names in their own languages. Many states are named due to their geographical characteristics, peculiar history or populations and colonial influences.


State name (# on map) In state language Meaning Notes
Andhra Pradesh (1) ఆంధ్ర ప్రదేశ్ (Telugu) Province of Andhras "Andhra" is the name of a dynasty mentioned in ancient Sanskrit literature, later used as a synonym for Telugu people; "Pradesh" means province. The earliest extant text to mention the word Andhra is Aitareya Brahmana.[1] According to the text (7.18), when Vishwamitra's elder sons refused to accept his adoption of Shunahshepa, he cursed their descendants to be exiled from Aryavarta; the Andhras were one of these descendant groups.[2][3]
Arunachal Pradesh (2) Arunachal Pradesh (English) State of dawn-lit mountains In Sanskrit, aruna means "dawn-lit" and achal "mountains". The state is located in the easternmost part of the country and gets first sunrise in the country.[4]
Assam (3) অসম (Assamese) "Uneven" or from "Ahom" Most scholars believe that Assam is derived from the Ahoms, who ruled Assam for six centuries. The word Ahom itself may be derived from Shan (syam in Assamese) or from the Sanskrit word "asama" (uneven, in the sense of "unequal" or "peerless"),[5] referring to its geology which is an equal mix of river valleys and hills.[6] See Etymology of Assam.
Bihar (4) बिहार (Hindi) Monastery From Sanskrit Vihara ("Buddhist monastery"). Foreign invaders often used abandoned viharas as military cantonments; the word Bihar may have come from the large number of viharas thus used in the area. Spelling the name with 'B' instead of 'V' is an East Indian tradition.
Chhattisgarh (5) छत्तीसगढ़ (Hindi) Thirty-six forts Chhattisgarh translates to "Thirty-six forts" in Hindi. There are several theories about what the term "Thirty-six forts" refers to; see Chhattisgarh#Etymology. According to the various theories, the term may refer to the 36 pillars of a temple, 36 former feudal territories or 36 houses. Another theory says that the term is actually a corruption of the word "Chedisgarh" that refers to the Chedi dynasty.
Goa (6) गोंय (Konkani) Uncertain, probably related to "cow" The name Goa came to European languages via Portuguese, but its precise origin is unclear. A number of theories about its origin are centered around the Sanskrit word go (cow).[7] For example, the legend of Krishna names a mountain where he saved the cow; the mountain was named "Gomantak", which later became Goa. For other theories, see Goa#Etymology.
Gujarat (7) ગુજરાત (Gujarati) Land of "Gurjars" The Gurjars, who ruled the area around the 8th century.[8][9]
Haryana (8) हरियाणा (Hindi) Abode of God or Green forest One theory is that the name derives from the Sanskrit words Hari (a name of Vishnu) and ayana (home), meaning "the Abode of God".[10] Another theory traces the name to the words hari (green) and aranya (forest).[11]
Himachal Pradesh (9) हिमाचल प्रदेश (Hindi) Land of the snow-clad mountains In Sanskrit, hima means "snow" and achal "mountain".
Jharkhand (10) ᱡᱷᱟᱨᱠᱷᱚᱸᱰ (‌Santali) Forest Land jhari means "dense forest" in Sanskrit. khand means "land."
Karnataka (11) ಕರ್ನಾಟಕ (Kannada) Lofty Land/ Land of "Kannadiga"s From karu (great/lofty) + nāḍu (land/country) = karunāḍu, which means "lofty land", referring to the Deccan plateau. karnataka is the Sanskritised adjectival form of karunāḍu, and means "of karunāḍu". In 1947, this state was formed from the princely state of Mysore. In 1956, the Kannada-speaking regions of neighboring states were added to Mysore state. The name was changed to Karnataka in 1973. See Etymology of Karnataka for more details.
Kerala (12) കേരളം (Malayalam) Land added on or Land of "Cheras" or Land of Coconut Trees There are two main theories about the derivation of "Kerala". (1) According to Hindu mythology, parts of Kerala were created by Lord Parasurama, who reclaimed the land from the sea. Hence the name is derived from chernna ("added") and alam ("land"), hence the Sanskrit keralam, "the land added on". (2) The Chera dynasty, which ruled most of Kerala from the 1st to the 5th centuries AD, gave its name to the region; chera alam later became Keralam. This is often disputed in academic circles because the word Kerala existed even before the rule of Cheras. One of Ashoka's inscriptions describes Keralaputra as a land on the Mauryan border.
Madhya Pradesh (13) मध्य प्रदेश (Hindi) Central Province Prior to independence, the majority of this area was administered by the British as the Central Provinces and the Central Indian States. At independence, several of these districts were joined together as the Central Provinces and Berar. In 1950, these two regions were merged with Makrai and Chhattisgarh and the term "Central Provinces" was translated to Hindi as Madhya Pradesh.
Maharashtra (14) महाराष्ट्र (Marathi) Uncertain; possibly "Maha" (Great) + Sanskritized form of "Ratta dynasty" The most widely accepted theory among scholars is that the words Maratha and Maharashtra ultimately derive from a compound of maha (Sanskrit for "great") and rashtrika.[12] The word rashtrika is a Sanskritized form of Ratta, the name of a tribe or dynasty of petty chiefs ruling in the Deccan region.[13] Yet another theory is that the term is derived from maha ("great") and rathi or ratha (charioteer).[13] Another theory states that the term derives from the words maha ("Great") and rashtra ("nation"). However, this theory has not found acceptance among modern scholars who believe it to be the Sanskritized interpretation of later writers.[12]
Manipur (15) ꯃꯅꯤꯄꯨꯔ (Meitei/Manipuri) Jewelled Land From Sanskrit, mani ("jewel") + pur ("city"). It seems that naming the said name in account of the past prosperity of land.[14]
Meghalaya (16) Meghalaya (Khasi) The abode of clouds From Sanskrit, megha ("clouds") and alaya ("abode"). The state of Meghalaya has reputation of having highest rainfall as compared to other states of country. The wettest place in the world Mawsynram, is located in Meghalaya; said feature of the land is reflected in its name.[15]
Mizoram (17) Mizoram (Mizo) Land of the highlanders mi means "people" and zo means "hill" and "ram" means country. The states of Nagaland and Mizoram are exceptions where Sanskrit words are not used in the state name. Mizoram was named after the Mizo tribal dialect and refers to their land.[16]
Nagaland (18) Nagaland (English) Land of the Nagas. Naga is an exonym used to describe several tribes in the region. The origin of the word "Naga" is uncertain, but one theory states that it originated from the Burmese word Naka, meaning people with earrings or pierced noses.[17] The British explorers which comes into contact with Myanma in 1795 and with Nagas since 1832, heard about Na-Ka group and anglicised it as Naga, as found in British anthropological and official records. Another theory points to the usage by people of Assam where Naga meaning 'naked', is used for 'primitive man living in natural surroundings in uncorrupted form'.[18]
Odisha (19) ଓଡ଼ିଶା (Odia) Land of the "Odias" The name of the state is derived from the Sanskrit odra vishaya or odra desha that referred to the Odra people who inhabited the central part of the region. Sanskrit and Pali literatures mention the Odra people as odrah and oddaka.
Punjab (20) ਪੰਜਾਬ (Punjabi) Land of five rivers A combination of the Persian words punj ("five") and ab ("water"). The five rivers are the Beas, Sutlej, Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum.
Rajasthan (21) राजस्थान (Hindi) Land of Kings From raja "king" and -sthan land, abode" from Sanskrit sthā́na).[19][20]
Sikkim (22) सिक्किम (Nepali) New Palace The most widely accepted origin of the name Sikkim is that it is a combination of two words in Limbu: su ("new") and khyim ("palace" or "house"), in reference to the palace built by the state's first ruler, Phuntsog Namgyal. The Tibetan name for Sikkim is Denjong, which means "valley of rice".
Tamil Nadu (23) தமிழ்நாடு (Tamil) Homeland of "Tamils" nadu in the Tamil language means "homeland" or "nation" hence Tamil Nadu means "homeland of Tamils". The origin of the world "Tamil" itself is uncertain: theories range from "self speech" to "sweet sound" (see Tamil language#Etymology).
Telangana (24) తెలంగాణ (Telugu) Land of Telugus A popular etymology derives the word "Telangana" from Trilinga desa ("land of three lingas"), a region so called because three important Shaivite shrines were located here: Kaleshwaram, Srisailam and Draksharama.[21] Other theories also exists: see Telangana#Etymology.
Tripura (25) ত্রিপুরা (Bengali, kokborok) Three cities Several theories exist pertaining to the origin of Tripura's name (see Tripura#Name). Possible origins are from Kokborok (tui, "water" + pra, "near") and Sanskrit (tri, "three" + pura, "city").[22]
Uttar Pradesh (26) उत्तर प्रदेश (Hindi) Northern Province Prior to independence, the majority of the territory now comprising Uttar Pradesh was administered by the British under various names—the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, the United Provinces of British India, and simply United Provinces. The latter name was retained at independence. In 1950, the commonly used initials U.P. were preserved by adoption of the name Uttar Pradesh, meaning "Northern Province."
Uttarakhand (27) उत्तराखण्ड (Hindi) Northern Land In 2000, the new state of Uttaranchal ("northern mountains") was split from Uttar Pradesh. In 2007, the name was changed to Uttarakhand ("northern land").
West Bengal (28) পশ্চিমবঙ্গ (Bengali) West part of Bengal The term West Bengal originated after the Partition of Bengal province in 1905 by the colonial administration. The origin of the word "Bengal" itself is uncertain (see Etymology of Bengal). Possible origins include the name of a tribe that settled in the area around 1000 BCE and the Austric word for the sun god. Another theory states that the word "Bengal" is derived from the words Bonga (God of the [Santals]) + Aal (Device used in Agriculture).

Union Territories[edit]

Indian OceanBay of BengalAndaman SeaArabian SeaLaccadive SeaSiachen GlacierAndaman and Nicobar IslandsChandigarhDadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and DiuDadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and DiuDelhiLakshadweepPuducherryPuducherryPuducherryArunachal PradeshAssamBiharChhattisgarhGoaGujaratHaryanaHimachal PradeshLadakhJharkhandKarnatakaKeralaMadhya PradeshMaharashtraManipurMeghalayaMizoramNagalandOdishaPunjabRajasthanSikkimTamil NaduTripuraUttar PradeshUttarakhandWest BengalAfghanistanBangladeshBhutanMyanmarChinaNepalPakistanSri LankaTajikistanDadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and DiuDadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and DiuPuducherryPuducherryPuducherryPuducherryGoaGujaratJammu and KashmirKarnatakaKeralaMadhya PradeshMaharashtraRajasthanTamil NaduAssamMeghalayaAndhra PradeshArunachal PradeshNagalandManipurMizoramTelanganaTripuraWest BengalSikkimBhutanBangladeshBiharJharkhandOdishaChhattisgarhUttar PradeshUttarakhandNepalDelhiHaryanaPunjabHimachal PradeshChandigarhPakistanSri LankaSri LankaSri LankaSri LankaSri LankaSri LankaSri LankaSri LankaSri LankaDisputed territory in Jammu and KashmirDisputed territory in Jammu and Kashmir
A clickable map of the 28 states and 8 union territories of India
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A):
    • Andaman: Italian traveler Niccolò de' Conti (c. 1440) mentioned the word Andaman meant "Island of Gold". A theory that became prevalent in the late 19th century and has since gained momentum is that the name of the islands derives from Sanskrit via the Malay Handuman, named for the deity Hanuman.[23]
    • Nicobar: The name "Nicobar" is probably derived from the Chola dynasty name for the islands, Nakkavaram (literally, "naked man" in Tamil) which is inscribed on a Tanjore inscription of 1050 CE.[24][25]
  • Chandigarh (B): "Chandi's fort". No actual fort ever existed; a large Chandi temple "protected" the locals, hence the name. The goddess Chandi appears as a form of the goddess Kali or Parvati.
  • Dadra and Nagar Haveli (C): From the towns of Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
  • Daman and Diu (D): From the towns of Daman and Diu.
  • Jammu & Kashmir
  • Lakshadweep (E): "Hundred Thousand Islands". In Sanskrit, laksha means "a hundred thousand" and dweep means "island".
  • Leh-Ladakh
  • National Capital Territory Delhi (F): The etymology of "Delhi" is uncertain. The very common view is that its eponym is Dhillu or Dilu, a king of the Mauryan dynasty, who built the city in 50 BC and named it after himself.[26][27][28] The Hindi/Prakrit word dhili ("loose") was used by the Tomaras to refer to the city because the Iron Pillar built by Raja Dhava had a weak foundation and was replaced.[28] Coins in circulation in the region under the Tomaras were called dehliwal.[29] Some other historians believe that the name is derived from Dilli, a corruption of dehleez (Persian: دهليز‎) or dehali (Sanskrit: देहली). Both terms mean "threshold" or "gateway" and are symbolic of the city as a gateway to the Gangetic Plain.[30][31] Another theory suggests that the city's original name was Dhillika.[32]
  • Puducherry (G): formerly known as Pondicherry: from Puducheri, from Tamil pudu "new" + cheri "settlement" or "camp".[33]


  1. ^ E.J. Rapson (1989). Catalogue of the Coins of the Andhra Dynasty, the Western Ksatrapas, the Traikutaka Dynasty and the "Bodhi" Dynasty. Asian Educational Services. pp. 250–. ISBN 978-81-206-0522-0.
  2. ^ Arthur Berriedale Keith (1920). Rigveda Brahmanas: The Aitareya and Kausitaki Brahmanas of the Rigveda. Harvard University Press. p. 307. ISBN 978-81-208-1359-5.
  3. ^ Arthur Berriedale Keith (1995). Vedic Index of Names and Subjects. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 23–. ISBN 978-81-208-1332-8.
  4. ^ G. K. Ghosh, Shukla Ghosh (1995), Indian Textiles: Past and Present, p.229 Arunachal Pradesh may be termed as the land of rising sun since it in this part of the country that Sun ray first kisses Indian soil. In other words Sun rises first in Arunachal Pradesh before rest of our country.
  5. ^ Suresh Kant Sharma (ed.). Discovery of North-East India. 3. Mittal. p. 1. ISBN 978-81-8324-037-6.
  6. ^ "Assam Etymology". Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  7. ^ Teotonio R. De Souza (1990). Goa Through the Ages: An economic history. Concept Publishing Company. p. 5. ISBN 978-81-7022-259-0.
  8. ^ Gujarat Government. "Gujarat state official site". The State took its name from the Gujara, the land of the Gujjars, who ruled the area during the 700's and 800's.
  9. ^ Ramesh Chandra Majumdar; Bhāratīya Itihāsa Samiti (1954). The History and Culture of the Indian People: The classical age. G. Allen & Unwin. p. 64.
  10. ^ Haryana Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  11. ^ Bijender K Punia (1994). Tourism management: problems and prospects. APH. p. 18. ISBN 978-81-7024-643-5.
  12. ^ a b Maharashtra State Gazetteers: General Series. Directorate of Government Print., Stationery and Publications. 1967. p. 208. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  13. ^ a b K. Balasubramanyam (1965). the mysore. Mittal Publications. p. 174. GGKEY:HRFC6GWCY6D. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  14. ^ Mee, Foley, Erin B.,Helene P. (2011), Antigone on the Contemporary World Stage, Oxford University Press, p. 111
  15. ^ "Meghalaya Etymology". Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  16. ^ "Mizoram Etymology". Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  17. ^ Inato Yekheto Shikhu (2007). A re-discovery and re-building of Naga cultural values. Daya Books. p. 4. ISBN 978-81-89233-55-6.
  18. ^ A. S. Atai Shimray (2005), Let Freedom Ring?: Story of Naga Nationalism, p.29
  19. ^ Tara Boland-Crewe, David Lea, The Territories and States of India, p. 208.
  20. ^ Charles Rockwell Lanman, A Sanskrit Reader: Text and Vocabulary and Notes, Harvard University Press, 1884, pp. 229 and 273, ISBN 81-208-1363-4.
  21. ^ Phillip B. Wagoner (1986). Mode and meaning in the architecture of early medieval Telangana (C. 1000-1300). University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  22. ^ Acharjya, Phanibhushan (1979). Tripura. Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 1. ASIN B0006E4EQ6.
  23. ^ William Wolfson Hunter; James Sutherland Cotton; Richard Burn; William Stevenson Meyer (1908). "Imperial Gazetteer of India". Great Britain India Office, Clarendon Press. ... The name has always been in historical times some form of Andaman, which more than probably represents Handuman, the Malay from Hanuman, treating the islands as the abode of the Hindu mythological monkey people or savage aboriginal ... Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. ^ John Keay (2001). India: A History. Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-3797-5. ... and 'Nakkavaram' certainly represents the Nicobar islands ...
  25. ^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica. 1998. ISBN 978-0-85229-633-2. Retrieved 16 November 2008. ... The name Nicobar probably is derived from Nakkavaram ("Land of the Naked") ...
  26. ^ "Chapter 1: Introduction" (PDF). Economic Survey of Delhi, 2005–2006. Planning Department, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi. pp. 1–7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 November 2016. Retrieved 21 December 2006.
  27. ^ Bakshi, S.R. (1995) [2002]. Delhi Through Ages. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD. p. 2. ISBN 81-7488-138-7.
  28. ^ a b Smith, George (1882). The Geography of British India, Political & Physical. J. Murray. pp. 216–217. Retrieved 1 November 2008.
  29. ^ "Our Pasts II, History Textbook for Class VII". NCERT. Archived from the original on 23 June 2007. Retrieved 6 July 2007.
  30. ^ A dictionary of Urdu, classical Hindi, and English[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ Cohen, Richard J. (October–December 1989). "An Early Attestation of the Toponym Dhilli". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 109 (4): 513–519. doi:10.2307/604073. JSTOR 604073.
  32. ^ Austin, Ian; Thhakur Nahar Singh Jasol. "Chauhans (Cahamanas, Cauhans)". The Mewar Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 14 November 2006. Retrieved 22 December 2006.
  33. ^