The state of Mississippi is named for the river, which in turn is from the Algonquin name for the river. Which Algonquin dialect is the origin is not known; it is probably from several as similar names for the river appear in many of them. The name, befittingly, means great river, akin to the Ojibwa misi (big) + sipi (river).
The Mississippi Territory was organized and so named in 1798. It expanded several times over the years, eventually encompassing all of what is today the states of Mississippi and Alabama. In early 1817, what is today Alabama was split off and organized as a separate territory. Mississippi was admitted to the union later that year and Alabama two years later.1
1Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, edited by Philip Babcock Gove (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1993), 1446;
Illustrated Dictionary of Place Names, edited by Kelsie B. Harder (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976), 347.
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton