Life in the Thirteen Colonies

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What are the names of the 13 colonies, and who or what are they named after?

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The thirteen colonies were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. They were mostly named after people or places in England, but a few were named after the Native Americans.

New Hampshire was named for a county in England, Hampshire, but both Massachusetts and Connecticut were named for Native American words. Massachusetts was named after the Algonquin tribe, Massachusett, which translates to "people of the great hill." Connecticut comes from the Native American word Quinnehtukqut, which means "beside the long tidal river."

The origination of Rhode Island’s name is a little more complex. In 1524, the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano wrote about an island in Narragansett Bay that resembled the island of Rhodes in Greece. The pilgrims assumed the island he mentioned was what we know today as Rhode Island and gave it that name.

New York was originally called New Netherland under the Dutch, but when the British took it over in 1664, they renamed it to honor of King Charles II’s brother, who was the Duke of York and Albany.

Pennsylvania was named after the founder of the colony, William Penn. Sylvania means "woods" in Latin, so Pennsylvania translates to "Penn’s woods." It is the only colony that was named after its founder.

New Jersey was simply named after Jersey, which is an island in the English Channel, and Delaware was named after Sir Thomas West, who was Lord de la Warr.

The remaining colonies were all named to honor English royalty. Maryland received its name from Queen Henrietta Maria, known as Queen Mary, the wife of King Charles I. Virginia was named for the Virgin Queen, Queen Elizabeth I. Based on Carolous, the Latin equivalent of "Charles," both North and South Carolina are named for King Charles I, and Georgia was named after King George II.

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