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What was Tennessee’s real name?

Unveiling the Historical Name of Tennessee: The Journey from Tanasi to Statehood

The state of Tennessee, known for its rich musical heritage and pivotal role in American history, was not always called by its current name. Before it became the 16th state of the United States, this region was known by a different name, rooted deeply in its indigenous origins.

The Indigenous Roots: Tanasi

Tennessee’s original name, “Tanasi,” was derived from the Cherokee village located on the banks of the Little Tennessee River. It was first recorded by European settlers in the 18th century and was used to refer to the region that is now Eastern Tennessee. The name itself is believed to mean “meeting place,” “wind river,” or “river of the great bend,” reflecting the geography and the cultural significance of the area to the Cherokee people.

From Tanasi to Tennessee

As European settlers expanded westward, the name Tanasi evolved into “Tennessee,” a label that would eventually represent the entire state. The transformation of the name paralleled the state’s development, from its admission to the Union on June 1, 1796, to its current status as a symbol of the American South.


Q: What does the name “Tanasi” mean?
A: The name “Tanasi” is believed to mean “meeting place,” “wind river,” or “river of the great bend,” although its exact meaning is not definitively known.

Q: When did Tennessee become a state?
A: Tennessee became the 16th state of the United States on June 1, 1796.


Indigenous: Originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native.
Cherokee: A member of a Native American people originally from the southeastern United States.
Settlers: People who move to an area to live and establish a community.