From names of rivers to popular heroes, see how all the 36 Nigerian states got their names.

  1. Abia
    Abia is an acronym drawn from the four main groups of people in the state as of the time it was formed in 1991: Aba Bende Isuikwuato Afikpo.
  2. Adamawa
    Adamawa was named after a warrior, Modibbo Adama Bin Ardo Hassan, that conquered the region at the beginning of the 19th century.
  3. Akwa-Ibom
    Akwa Ibom is named after the Qua Iboe (or Kwa Iboe) River.
  4. Anambra
    The state got its name from the corrupted version of Oma Mbala (Ànyịm Ọma Mbala), a popular river in the area.
  5. Bauchi
    There are three versions of how Bauchi got its name are:

‘Bauchi’ is a Hausa word meaning the southern flanks of Hausaland. Tribes living in the southern parts of the Hausaland were referred to as “kasashen bauchi” and the area they lived in later came to be known simply as Bauchi. The second version of the history is that the state was named after Baushe, a famous hunter who settled there before the 19th century. The third states that ‘bauchi’ is Hausa word for slavery since it was a centre for slave raiders.

  1. Bayelsa
    Bayelsa is a combination of the acronyms of three local government areas which were pulled out of old Rivers state — Brass LGA known as BALGA, Yenegoa LGA known as YELGA and Sagbama LGA known as SALGA. The mathematics involved in the formation of their names is BA + YEL + SA = BAYELSA
  2. Benue
    The state was named after the “Europeanised” corruption of ‘Binuwe’, the Batta word for ‘Mother of Waters’.
  3. Borno
    The alternative name of the Kanuris, the predominant ethnic group in the state, is ‘Borno’ which gave inspiration for the naming of the state.
  4. Cross River
    The state took its name from a River called Oyono or Cross River.
  5. Delta
    The state is where the River Niger forms a delta as it enters the Atlantic Ocean.
  6. Ebonyi
    Ebonyi is the anglicised version of ‘Aboine’, a river that cuts through Abakaliki, the state capital.
  7. Edo
    The Bini people who dwell in the area had always referred to themselves as Edo or Iduu. This inspired the name of the state.
  8. Ekiti
    ‘Okiti’ is a term that is said to denote a settlement of many hills. It later became ‘Ekiti’.
  9. Enugu
    Due to the many hills and rocky terrain in the area, the people named it in igbo, “Enu Ugwu” meaning “top of the hill”. The state is named after the anglicised version, Enugu.
  10. Gombe
    Gombe is the dialect of Fulani language (Fulfulde) spoken in the area.
  11. Imo
    Just like many of the Nigerian states, Imo took its name from the popular river, Imo Mmiri.
  12. Jigawa
    Jigawa takes inspiration from its distinctively golden-coloured soil.
  13. Kaduna
    ‘Kadunas’ is the plural form of crocodile in Hausa. The state therefore got its name from the many crocodiles in Kaduna River.
  14. Kano
    Kano was the name of a blacksmith from the Gaya tribe who settled in the area while sourcing ironstone. The state was named after him.
  15. Katsina
    The state was named after the wife of a popular local ruler known as Janzama. Her name was Katsina.
  16. Kebbi
    It is said that Kebbi was named after the Ka’abba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
  17. Kogi
    Since the popular confluence in Nigeria is located in the state, Kogi is said to have been derived from ‘kogin’, the hausa word for river.
  18. Kwara
    River Niger used to be called River Kwara by the Nupes at the Northern border of the state. The state was named after this.
  19. Lagos
    In 1472, the first set of Europeans to set foot in Lagos were the Portuguese. Due to the many lagoons and rivers in the town, they named it Lagos, which is the Portuguese word for ‘lakes’.
  20. Nasarawa
    Nasarawa is a native word for ‘victorious’. The state was named by the founder of Nasarawa kingdom, Makama Dogo.
  21. Niger
    This was named after the River Niger.
  22. Ogun
    This state was also named after a river — Ogun River.
  23. Ondo
    Ondo is a word used for settlers. The state was named after the settlers of the old Ondo Kingdom.
  24. Osun
    This state was also named after a river — the Osun River.
  25. Oyo
    The state was named after the Old Oyo empire.
  26. Plateau
    The state was named after the picturesque Jos plateau. Jos got its name from the mispronunciation of the town ‘Gwosh’.
  27. Rivers
    Rivers State was named after the many water bodies present in the area.
  28. Sokoto
    Sokoto is the anglicised version of the Arabic word ‘suk’ meaning ‘market’ or ‘place of commerce’. The state itself was named after the defunct Sokoto Caliphate.
  29. Taraba
    Taraba state got its name from the Taraba River.
  30. Yobe
    Komadugu Yobe (Waube or Ouobe) or River Yobe (or River of Yo) inspired the name of the state.
  31. Zamfara
    This state was named after Zamfarawa, one of the subdialects of the Eastern Hausa group.

Culled from

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