9 Arizona Nicknames That Will Surprise You

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A paved road surrounded by colorful hills under a blue sky
Arizona has many nicknames based on its landscapes and geological formations

Arizona is situated in the southwest of the United States. It's known globally for being home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon. However, the state has much more to offer on top of this famous landmark. The area additionally has an array of other attractions, beautiful outdoor spaces, and a fascinating history.

Interestingly, there are also many Arizona nicknames to learn about that highlight the area's culture and unique characteristics. These names include the Grand Canyon State (which nearly didn't get legal status as Arizona's official nickname) and the historic Valentine State. If you want to discover more about these nicknames, read on for nine of Arizona's most talked-about monikers.

9 Nicknames for Arizona

Aztec State is one of the Arizona nicknames based on its history
Arizona is most likely called the Aztec State due to its ancient history

Aztec State

Nobody is one hundred percent certain about how Arizona derived its name, but some think it came from the Aztec word "arizuma," meaning "silver-bearing." This could be a reason for the creation of the Arizona name Aztec State. However, there is no proven historical reason for it.

Yes, the state is right next to Mexico, the home of the Aztecs. And yes, there is a landmark in Arizona called Montezuma Castle. Many historians agree that when settlers saw the ruins in the 1860s, they erroneously concluded that the legendary Montezuma, an Aztec emperor, had lived there; he and the monument were claimed as part of Arizonan history.

Another school of thought is the nickname stems from ruins found along the Salt River Valley and Gila Valleys and that the original buildings were built by the Aztecs. Although not extensively used, the Aztec State has stuck around as one of Arizona's nicknames.

The Baby State

Before Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states, Arizona was fondly referred to as the Baby State. It's not a mystery because it was admitted to the Union in 1912, 125 years after Delaware, the first entry. Arizonians still refer proudly to their "baby" status, which lasted until 1959. Interestingly, it was the last contiguous state to enter the Union.

The Valentine State

On February 14, 1912, Arizona gained entrance to the Union. Everyone knows that date's significance, so one of the area's nicknames is the Valentine State.

However, an alternative name, the Sweetheart State, is sometimes used as well. This name acts as a synonym for Valentine State because the state was born on the day that sweethearts exchange Valentines.

Rock formations during sunset with pink skies
Arizona is known as the Sunset State because of its idyllic scenery when the sun sets

Sunset State

Arizonans are convinced that their state has the best sunsets, not in the US, but in the world. Its beautiful sunsets have been described in numerous books and articles. For example, a guide series entitled Arizona: A Guide to the Sunset State dates back to the 1940s.

In 1917, just five years after statehood, Arizona adopted a state flag that seemed to have been inspired by its geography: red rays of the sun emanating from a blue strip representing the desert. If you've ever seen an Arizona sunset, you'll understand why the Sunset State is such a perfect nickname for Arizona.

Apache State

It is clear from its history why one of Arizona's unofficial monikers is the Apache State. The Apache migrated to the Southwest between 1000 to 1500 AD. Starting as hunter-gatherers, with the influence of the Spanish, they became formidable horsemen and stamped a mark on Arizona and its heritage.

Sadly, the US government implemented a policy of forced removal of the Apache people across the states. With the defeat of Geronimo in 1896, the Apache were forced onto reservations. Some of these areas still exist within the state. Additionally, Arizona museums are full of relics dedicated to these proud people if you want to learn more about their history and culture.

Abandoned wooden structures near rocky mountain ranges
Copper production was a major industry in Arizona

The Copper State

The prolific production of copper in the 1880s led to the Copper State being one of the Arizona state nicknames. Earlier in the century, gold and silver were the most popular metals within the mining community. However, copper began to outshine those two resources near the end of the 1800s.

The boom and bust economy was rampant in the gold and silver trade, leaving copper to outproduce and allowing the state to prosper. By 1907, Arizona was mining more copper than any other state. By 1912, the nickname the Copper State was well established, and to this day, it is commonly used to refer to the state.

The Desert State

Understanding why Arizona has often been called the Desert State is not a stretch. Geographically, large swathes of Arizona are deserts. Four major arid areas, Sonoran, Mojave, Painted, and Chihuahuan, are classified as deserts. Also, Arizona receives little rain and has an arid or semi-arid climate.

Arizona's capital, Phoenix, is set in the northern section of the Sonoran Desert, so the Arizona fact that Phoenix is the hottest US city is no surprise.

Massive rock formations with trees in the foreground
The Grand Canyon State is one of the most popular Arizona nicknames

The Grand Canyon State

The Colorado River's Grand Canyon is in the southwest corner of the Colorado Plateau. Grand Canyon State is the official and most used Arizona state nickname. You can see it printed everywhere: T-shirts, welcome signs, vehicle license plates, and so on.

Arizona's nickname has been the Grand Canyon State since about the 1930s. This wonder is the state's premier tourist draw, attracting over five million visitors annually. It's also one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Interestingly, the Grand Canyon State didn't become official until 2011. That was after a young Californian girl had written to Arizona's official state historian, Marshall Trimble, asking what Arizona's official state name was. Coming up empty, Trimble set the wheels in motion, and Congress passed a bill naming the state the Grand Canyon State.

In 2008, the US Mint issued a bicentennial commemorative quarter dedicated to Arizona and its status as the Grand Canyon State.

Sand Hill State

Arizonans are scratching their heads at this name for Arizona, which suddenly appeared on the side of a Starbucks mug as part of its "Been There" campaign. The artist of the mug mentioned the area's desert landscape as the reason for using the moniker.

However, locals mentioned that there aren't really sand hills across the Arizona desert. Overall, Arizonans generally felt that Starbucks could have chosen a better nickname to place on the mug, as there are quite a few to choose from.

In Summary

As you will have seen from this article, Arizona has many alternate names. These range from nationally known monikers, like the Grand Canyon State, to lesser-known nicknames, such as the Sunset State and the Valentine State.

There are even a few puzzling ones, like the Sandhill state, that locals don't understand why it adorns the Arizona Starbucks mugs. No matter how many of these names you already knew, you're guaranteed to have discovered some new facts about Arizona. Perhaps learning more about these monikers even enticed you to visit this southwestern state!

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Written by Audrey Wilson

AudreyMW FORMER WRITER Born and living in South Africa, Audrey has lived in four countries extensively and traveled to many others across the globe. Travel is in her blood, and she plans to see more of the world.

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