Names and meanings of Nigeria’s 36 states

How the 36 states of Nigeria got their names

Abia is an acronym of the four main groups of people in the state as of the time it was formed in 1991. The groups were: Aba, Bende, Isuikwuato, Afikpo (ABIA).

Adamawa was named after a warrior, Modibbo Adama Bin Ardo Hassan, that fought in the region at the beginning of the 19th century.

Akwa Ibom is named after the Qua Iboe (or Kwa Iboe) River.

The name Anambra is the corrupted version of Oma Mbala (Ànyịm Ọma Mbala), a popular river in the area.

There are versions of stories on how Bauchi got its name.

First: That ‘Bauchi’ is a Hausa word meaning the southern flanks of Hausaland. Tribes living in the southern parts of the Hausaland were referred to as “kasashen bauchi” and the area they lived in later came to be known simply as Bauchi.

Second: That the state was named after Baushe, a famous hunter who settled there before the 19th century.

Third: That ‘bauchi’ is Hausa word for slavery since it was a centre for slave raiders.

Bayelsa is a combination of the acronyms of three local government areas which were pulled out of old Rivers state to form the new state namely: Brass (BA), Yenegoa (YE) and Sagbama (SA). The combination BA + YEL + SA equals BAYELSA

Benue state was named after the “Europeanised” corruption of ‘Binuwe’, the Batta word for ‘Mother of Waters’.

The alternative name of the Kanuris, the predominant ethnic group in the state, is ‘Borno’ which gave inspiration for the naming of the state.

Cross River
The state took its name from a River called Oyono or Cross River.

The state is where the River Niger forms a delta as it enters the Atlantic Ocean.

Ebonyi is the anglicised version of ‘Aboine’, a river that cuts through Abakaliki, the state capital.

The Bini people who dwell in the area had always referred to themselves as Edo or Iduu. This inspired the name of the state.

‘Okiti’ is a term that is said to denote a settlement of many hills. It later became ‘Ekiti’.

Due to the many hills and rocky terrain in the area, the people named it in igbo, “Enu Ugwu” meaning “top of the hill”. The state is named after the anglicised version, Enugu.

Gombe is the dialect of Fulani language (Fulfulde) spoken in the area.

Imo took its name from the popular river, Imo Mmiri.

Jigawa got its name from its distinctively golden-coloured soil.

‘Kadunas’ is the plural form of crocodile in Hausa. The state therefore got its name from the many crocodiles in Kaduna River.

Kano state was named after the name of a blacksmith from the Gaya tribe who settled in the area while sourcing ironstone.

The state was named after the wife of a popular local ruler known as Janzama. The wife’s name was Katsina.

Kebbi was named after the Ka’abba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Kogi is said to have been derived from ‘kogin’, the hausa word for river.

River Niger used to be called River Kwara by the Nupes at the Northern border of the state. The state was named after the Nupe name.

In 1472, the first set of Europeans to set foot in Lagos were the Portuguese. Due to the many lagoons and rivers in the town, they named it Lagos, which is the Portuguese word for ‘lakes’.

Nasarawa is a native word for ‘victorious’. The state was named by the founder of Nasarawa kingdom, Makama Dogo.

Niger state was named after River Niger.

Ogun state was named after River Ogun.

Ondo is a word used for settlers. The state was named after the settlers of the old Ondo Kingdom.

Osun state was named after River Osun .

The state was named after the Old Oyo empire.

Plateau state was named after the picturesque Jos plateau. Jos got its name from the mispronunciation of the town ‘Gwosh’.

Rivers State was named after the many water bodies present in the area.

Sokoto is the anglicised version of the Arabic word ‘suk’ meaning ‘market’ or ‘place of commerce’. The state was named after the defunct Sokoto Caliphate.

Taraba state got its name from the Taraba River.

Komadugu Yobe (Waube or Ouobe) or River Yobe (or River of Yo) inspired the name of the state.

Zamfara state was named after Zamfarawa, one of the subdialects of the Eastern Hausa group.