(NEXSTAR) — Where’d the name “Texas” come from, anyway?
According to the Texas State Historical Association, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to the state’s history, the word originated long before the area was an established part of the United States.
Even before the Spanish arrived in East Texas, Native Americans in the area used the word “Texas” widely. “Tejas” is the Spanish spelling of “taysha,” a Native American Caddo word that means “friend” or “ally.”
While it’s unknown how the Spanish learned of the name Texas, the idea of the “great kingdom of Texas,” was spreading even before explorers Alonso De León and Damián Massanet began their expedition of the area in 1689.
During the expedition, Massanet met Native Americans who referred to themselves as “thecas,” or “friends.” As he met the chief of the Nabedaches, a Native American tribe belonging to the Hasinai Confederacy, Massanet wrongly referred to the chief as the “governor” of a “great kingdom of the Texas.”
Despite many attempts to correct the effort, the name stuck, and it was forever solidified after Texas became the 28th State of the Union.
Texas’ state motto — “Friendship” — carries the original meaning of the word as used by the Hasinai and their allies, and its name is derived from the same origin.