Arizona October 19, 2015
Most People Don’t Know The Meaning Behind These 16 Arizona Towns
The origin and meaning behind Arizona’s name is heavily debated by historians. Some attribute it to a word or phrase from several different indigenous tribes, such as Alĭ ṣonak (or, “place of small springs”) from the Tohono O’odham language. Other historians claim it is an Anglicized version of Zona Arida , the Spanish phrase for “arid land.” Others still claim it comes from a Basque phrase, haritz ona , meaning “good oak trees.”
While we may never truly know where our state got its name, we can at least count on knowing the origins behind the naming of our cities. A good deal of them were named after town founders but others just make you scratch your head in wonder. While we have a lot of little towns with strange names, here are just 16 to impress someone the next time you stroll into one of these towns.
1. Bullhead City
Prior to becoming Bullhead City, the area hosted a short-lived settlement called Hardyville from 1864 to 1883. In the 1940s, the area experienced a revival as Davis Dam was being built and served as headquarters for construction. At the time, the dam was named “Bullhead Dam,” after a similarly named rock formation along the Colorado River. The city derived its name from the dam.
2. Chino Valley
Most people who speak Spanish interpret
chino as “Chinese” but in this case, it actually refers to the curly grama grass that grows in the area.
Here’s another city named after the regional plants. The city’s Chamber of Commerce notes that settlers named the area for a circle of cottonwood trees that sat near the Verde River. I wonder if those trees are still there?
A popular story goes that Eloy’s name came from a settler’s exclamations to God. However, according to a local historian featured in the
, the name actually has a less romantic origin. Instead, the name is a railroad acronym, East Line of Yuma.
A popular origin story for this town’s name is that it came from a rejected proposed name for the United States. Coined by New York state senator and representative, Dr. Samuel Latham Mitchil, Fredonia is a conjunction of “freedom” and the Latin suffix “-ia” to mean “land of freedom.”
6. Gila Bend
I have to admit that as a kid, I thought the name for this town came from a horde of gila monsters living in the area. That’s not the case though as the name actually comes from a large bend in the Gila River, which is located right at the edge of the city.
If you thought the relation between this city’s name and Goodyear Tires, you would be right! In 1917, about 16,000 acres was purchased by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and was later named after the company’s founder.
This city was named for the nearby Mammoth Mine and was originally known as the Mammoth Mining Camp when it was first established in 1872.
The name for this little place comes from the Tohono O’odham phrase,
Ṣon ʼOidag, which refers to the small springs emerging from the ground in the area.
The name for this town in Navajo County is a combination of the last names of two settlers: Erastus Snow and William Flake.
The name for this town came from the local silver mine called Lake Superior, which happened to be owned by Michigan stockholders.
In 1938, this city was founded by Flora Mae Statler who uttered that she would be “surprised” should the town ever grow. Thus came the name for the area that would eventually grow to house more than 117,000 residents.
An interesting side note: for years, city officials and historians assumed that Statler’s husband, a real estate developer, was the founder. However, found property documents revealed that Statler held title over the land years before she even met her husband.
13. Teec Nos Pos
This community is known as
translates to tree (or trees) and
refers to a round or circular shape. According to the
, there are two possible origins to this story: either there was a group of cottonwood trees that sat in a circle in the area or a tree that once grew here formed a nearly perfect rounded tree top. Either way, it makes for a unique community name.
When Arizona was a territory, this area was known as Hayden’s Ferry. In 1879, however, the area was renamed by a settler named Phillip Darrell Duppa who felt the area had a resemblance to the Vale of Tempe near Greece’s Mount Olympus.
15. Tuba City
What seems like an odd name for a town is actually an anglicized version of
Tuuvi, who was a leader in the nearby Hopi village of Moencopi.
Cuk Ṣon comes from the Tohono O’odham language and refers to the area around “A” Mountain (Sentinel Peak). The spelling comes from the Spanish version of the phrase, Tucsón, with a hard “c” sound.
Did the origin behind any of these town names surprise you? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Facebook page! Also, let us know if you would like to read a follow up article with the origins behind more town names.