10 Arkansas Nicknames and the Stories Behind Them

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A large white building with columns and a domed roof next to trees, steps, and a road
Despite being a somewhat lesser-known state, Arkansas has many unique monikers

Widely viewed as a rough and rugged frontier state during its early years, Arkansas has shed its backwoods image and is today a hub for industry and tourism. But despite considerable growth and development over the past century, there's a reason Arkansas is officially known as the Natural State. You can still find plenty of scenic beauty in every part of the state.

Arkansas has a lot of other nicknames as well, like the Wonder State and the Land of Opportunity. There are also historic nicknames dating back to the state's original westward settlers. These include monikers like the Bear State and Toothpick State, which definitely aren't as accurate as they used to be.

If you're ready to learn about some more Arkansas nicknames, here are 10 of the most common alternate names for the state and the fascinating stories behind them.

10 Nicknames for Arkansas

The Natural State is one of the well-known Arkansas nicknames
Many Arkansas nicknames, like the Natural State, relate to the area's natural beauty

The Natural State

The Natural State is the official nickname of Arkansas. It was adopted by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1995. However, it has been used by the Arkansas State Park system to promote eco-tourism since the 1970s.

The nickname represents the natural beauty of Arkansas, including its many unique and protected outdoor spaces. You'll find 52 state parks throughout Arkansas. There are also seven national park sites. Arkansas license plates even proclaim it as the Natural State.

Toothpick State

In years past, Arkansas was often known as the Toothpick State, and not for any reasons relating to dental health. In the mid-1800s, a toothpick was a nickname for a long, narrow knife commonly carried by settlers on the American Frontier. The Bowie knife, once called an Arkansas Toothpick, even originated here.

But the Toothpick State nickname for Arkansas didn't focus on the positive uses of the knives. Instead, it referred to the danger and violence present in the state at the time. The most famous example of such occurred in 1837 when Arkansas Speaker of the House John Wilson stabbed and killed fellow representative Joseph Anthony over a disagreement on the floor of the Arkansas General Assembly.

A wooden sign with a picture of a white barn and "Crater of Diamonds State Park"
The Diamond State nickname relates to diamonds found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Diamond State

Arkansas earned the Diamond State nickname after diamonds were discovered by "Diamond John" Huddleston. He found the first two sparkling gemstones on his Murfreesboro farm in 1906. Today, this site is the location of Crater of Diamonds State Park, which is open to the public. It's also the only active diamond mine in the country.

One interesting Arkansas fact is that the largest diamond ever found in the United States, Uncle Sam, was discovered at Crater of Diamonds in 1924. The stone, which had a rough weight of more than 40 carats, is now on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

These days, this Arkansas nickname is represented on the state license plate, with an image of a diamond highlighted right in the center. It's also well-known to most locals and lots of visitors, many of whom come to Arkansas to try and find diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park.

Razorback State

Arkansas' most widely known nickname (at least in the sports world) is the Razorback State. This moniker refers to the University of Arkansas athletics teams known as the Razorbacks. Razorback hogs are native to Arkansas, with the razorback name coming from the hair that stands up along their spine. They're destructive animals, and the males have long, dangerous tusks.

The teams of the University of Arkansas were first called the Razorbacks in 1909. That's when football coach Hugo Bezdek told reporters that his players were like a "wild band of Razorback hogs" in their 7-0 defeat of Louisiana State University.

The moniker was so popular that the school officially switched from the Cardinals to the Razorbacks the following year, cementing the Razorback State nickname.

An aerial view of a city next to a river and a white bridge under a blue sky
Arkansas' manufacturing and logistics companies led to the Land of Opportunity name

The Land of Opportunity

Arkansas was officially known as the Land of Opportunity between 1953 and 1987. It was the state's nickname for nearly four decades before being replaced by the current moniker, the Natural State.

However, the name dates a little earlier than the 1950s, with the slogan "Opportunity Land" appearing on Arkansas license plates in 1941. Following World War II, business leaders from Central Arkansas began a campaign to improve the state's rural image.

This committee hoped to promote Arkansas as an up-and-coming state open to investment and growth. The push worked, with the Land of Opportunity seeing major expansion in its manufacturing and logistics industries over the following decades.


It has yet to be determined where the Rackensack nickname originated. However, it's thought to have started as a comical mispronunciation of Arkansas. It's one of the state's oldest nicknames, dating back to at least the 1840s.

Rackensack is generally believed to have begun as a light-hearted insult to the state and the backwoods reputation it had at the time. The nickname, however, was widely adopted by the residents of Arkansas and appropriated in a much better light.

You can find the Rackensack moniker used by Arkansan writers and musicians throughout the state's history. Today, the Rackensack Folklore Society carries on the historic musical traditions of the Ozark region.

A person on the water in a red kayak surrounded by greenery-covered cliffs
Arkansas is called the Wonder State due to its abundance of natural wonders

Wonder State

Arkansas was officially known as the Wonder State between 1923 and 1947. The nickname was inspired by all the diverse natural wonders you can find in the region, from mountains to bayous and crystal-clear lakes. More importantly, for residents and state leaders at the time, it replaced the outdated Bear State moniker.

The Bear State, originating in bear hunting, which had long since ceased, gave people the wrong idea about the dangers of bears in Arkansas. Former governor Charles H. Brough spearheaded the movement to re-label Arkansas as the Wonder State in a countrywide promotional tour in the 1920s.

Bear State

For many decades, Arkansas was known unofficially as the Bear State. It may well be the oldest of Arkansas names. The Bear State moniker originated in the early 1800s when American settlers moving to the Arkansas territory encountered large populations of black bears throughout the region.

The state quickly became a renowned destination for bear hunting, with wealthy sportspeople traveling from as far as New England for expeditions. This caused Arkansas' bear populations to decrease drastically.

By 1940, there were estimated to be just 25 black bears left in the state. Thankfully, government protections, habitat conservation, and reintroduction efforts over the past century have helped boost the black bear population back above 3,000.

A row of white buildings surrounded by hedges and trees with a wide sidewalk in front
Hot Springs National Park's many natural springs led to the Hot Springs State moniker

Hot Springs State

Early in its history, Arkansas became known as the Hot Springs State. That's because the city of Hot Springs has been a renowned spa destination for nearly 200 years. Even before American settlement, the area was highly regarded among the local Native American population.

Today, Hot Springs National Park is home to over 40 natural hot springs. The park is also one of the country's oldest natural reserves, having been under federal protection since 1832 (decades before national park status was established).

The city of Hot Springs, Arkansas, still attracts plenty of visitors looking to go for a dip in the park's rejuvenating waters. During a visit, you can also take in the views from one of the top landmarks in Arkansas, the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.

Bowie State

The Bowie State is an Arkansas state nickname that refers to the famous Bowie style of knife, first forged in Washington, Arkansas, in the 1830s. Crafted by blacksmith James Black for Jim Bowie, the Bowie knife's popularity quickly spread through the region.

In the 1800s, when Arkansas was still a rugged frontier state, the Bowie knife was commonly called an Arkansas Toothpick because of its long, slender design. This gave rise to the Toothpick State nickname, which was viewed slightly more negatively than the Bowie State moniker.

In Summary

Arkansas has taken on numerous nicknames throughout its almost 200-year history as a state. From the earliest monikers like the Bear State and Rackensack (which was initially a little insulting) to the current official nickname of the Natural State, there's no shortage of ways to refer to Arkansas.

So, whether you're a sports fan who calls it the Razorback State or enjoy the naturally warm mineral waters of the Hot Springs State, you hopefully learned some new nicknames in this article. At the very least, you're bound to have discovered some new and unknown facts about where these nicknames originated.

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Written by Jonathan Davis

JDavis WRITER Jonathan is a Florida-based travel writer who can't seem to stay in one place for long. With more than two decades of trips under his belt, Jonathan has a wealth of information to share about travel within the United States and abroad.

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