Discover Why Indiana Is Called the Hoosier State

Written by Oak Simmons
Published: May 25, 2023
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Indiana became the 19th state when it was admitted into the union in 1816. When Indiana first became a U.S. state, it was still mainly inhabited by indigenous people. Indigenous people have lived in what was later called Indiana since approximately 8000 BCE. Indiana’s name, which means “Indian Land,” is due to this history. However, Indiana also has a state nickname, which is The Hoosier State. What is a hoosier, and why is Indiana called The Hoosier State? In this article we will discover the origins of Indiana’s nickname and explore more of Indiana’s state insignia.

Hoosier Hill

Hoosier Hill is the highest point in Indiana at 1,257 feet.

©Skye Marthaler / CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

What is A Hoosier?

A hoosier means a person who lives in Indiana. Today, the word is a part of the names of many Indiana organizations and businesses. Additionally, the Indiana Hoosiers is the name of the sports teams from Indiana University Bloomington. However, the origins of the word hoosier are up for debate. Since The Hoosier State is an unofficial nickname, there is no official date for its adoption. However, according to the Indiana Historic Bureau, The Hoosier State has been Indiana’s nickname for over 150 years. We know that the word became popular in the 1830s and 1840s due to a poem written by John Finley in 1833 called “The Hoosier’s Nest.” However, there is no definite answer about the earlier origins of the word. John Finley’s poem is an ode to early colonial life in the state of Indiana.

The emigrant is soon located-

In Hoosier life initiated:

Erects a cabin in the woods,

Wherein he stows his household goods.

“The Hoosier’s Nest” by John Finley

The word hoosier exploded in popularity after “The Hoosier’s Nest” was published, but there is evidence that it was used before that. For example, in January 1832 the word appeared in a newspaper called the Indiana Democrat. The word also appeared in a letter to General John Tipton from 1831. There are many theories and folk stories as to the word’s origins, but all lack historical evidence. Regardless of its origins, the word today connotes the kindness, hospitality, and industriousness of people from Indiana.

Hoosier State Insignia

Hoosier State Animals

Indiana has two official state animals: a state bird and a state insect. These are the northern red cardinal and Say’s firefly, respectively.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

northern cardinal pair on tree branch

Northern cardinal males are a bold crimson red, while females are tan with red accents.

©Cathy Keifer/

The northern cardinal is a songbird native to the Eastern and Southern United States, Southeastern Canada, and Mexico. Northern cardinals are territorial and sing in order to defend their territory. These birds are the state bird of seven states, more states than any other species.

Say’s Firefly (Pyractomena angulata)

Pyractomena angulata firefly

Say’s firefly is one of the 43 species of Lampyridae in Indiana.

©Judy Gallagher / Flickr – License

The Say’s firefly became Indiana’s state insect in 2018. Say’s firefly is native to Indiana and even named for a hoosier, Thomas Say. Thomas Say was a prominent entomologist and zoologist who lived from 1787 to 1834. These fireflies are visible from early May to mid-July.

Indiana State River

The Wabash River

The official river of The Hoosier State is the Wabash River.


Indiana’s state river is the Wabash River, which drains most of Indiana and flows into the Ohio River. Indiana’s state song “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” is a ballad by Paul Dresser about the river. The name Wabash comes from the French word “ouabache,” which comes from the Miami-Illinois word “waapaahšiiki.” “Waapaahšiiki” means ‘it shines white.”

State Flower

Close-up of pink peonies in open field

Peonies bloom in May and June; the flowers are shades of red, pink, and white.


The Indiana state flower is the peony (Paeonia). The Indiana General Assembly adopted the poeny as the state flower in 1957. Before that, the state flower was the zinnia from 1931 to 1957. Peonies bloom in May and June; the flowers are shades of red, pink, and white. In Indiana, peonies are used to decorate gravesites on Memorial Day.

State Tree

Tulip Tree

Tulip trees have large greenish-yellow and pink flowers.

©Irina Borsuchenko/

The official tree of The Hoosier State is the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), also known as the yellow poplar. The tulip tree was adopted as the state tree by the Indiana General Assembly in 1931. Tulip trees have large flowers that bloom in May or June. These trees can grow incredibly tall, up to over 160 feet! The tallest known tulip tree is 191 feet 10 inches.

State Snack

Field of corn

Some of the largest popcorn companies are based in Indiana, including Orville Redenbacher and Weaver.


In 2021, the Indiana General Assembly designated popcorn grown in Indiana as the official state snack of The Hoosier State. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Indiana grew 97,000 acres of popcorn in 2021!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Bube

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About the Author

Oak Simmons is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering North American wildlife and geography. They graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. A resident of Washington state, Oak enjoys tracking mammals and watching birds.

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