The state of Colorado takes its name from the Colorado River, literally red river, from the color of the muddy water. The name was applied by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. An earlier name for the river was Rio de Tison, or firebrand river. By 1540, the name Colorado was being applied to the territory now occupied by the US state.1
1Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, edited by Philip Babcock Gove (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1993), 449;
Illustrated Dictionary of Place Names: United States and Canada, edited by Kelsie B. Harder (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976), 114.
Copyright 1997-2017, by David Wilton