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What’s the nickname for North Carolina?

North Carolina’s Moniker: The Tar Heel State

North Carolina, a southeastern U.S. state with a diverse landscape ranging from Atlantic Ocean beaches to the Appalachian Mountains, is affectionately known as “The Tar Heel State.” This nickname, steeped in history and state pride, has origins that date back to the state’s early industry and the Civil War.

The term “Tar Heel” was initially used in reference to the workers in North Carolina’s turpentine forests and tar pits. During the colonial period, the state was a leading producer of tar, pitch, and turpentine, which were essential for waterproofing wooden ships. The workers involved in this industry would often find their feet covered in tar, leading to the moniker “Tar Heels.”

During the Civil War, the nickname took on a new layer of meaning. It is said that North Carolina soldiers fought so valiantly and stuck to their battle lines so tenaciously that they were likened to having tar on their heels. The term, once used derisively by other Confederate states, became a symbol of pride for North Carolinians.

Today, “The Tar Heel State” is more than just a nickname; it’s a badge of honor that represents the resilience, determination, and history of the people of North Carolina. It is celebrated in various aspects of the state’s culture, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s mascot, Rameses, and its athletic teams, known as the Tar Heels.


Q: Why is North Carolina called “The Tar Heel State”?
A: North Carolina is called “The Tar Heel State” due to its historical production of tar, pitch, and turpentine from its vast pine forests and the legendary steadfastness of its Civil War soldiers.

Q: Is “Tar Heel” used in a positive way?
A: Yes, “Tar Heel” is used positively and is a source of pride for North Carolinians, symbolizing their state’s history and the tenacity of its people.


Tar Heel: A nickname for a resident of North Carolina or someone associated with the state, derived from the state’s history of tar production and the steadfastness of its Civil War soldiers.

Turpentine: A fluid obtained by the distillation of resin from live trees, mainly pines, used in making varnishes and as a solvent.

Pitch: A thick, sticky substance derived from the distillation of tar that is used in waterproofing and roofing.