Why Delaware? The Untold Story Behind its Nickname “The First State”

Delaware, one of the smallest states in the United States, holds a rich history that extends to its very name. The state’s moniker is derived from a combination of historical events and cultural influences.

Additionally, Delaware has earned the nickname “The First State,” a title that carries significant historical weight. Let’s delve into the fascinating story behind Delaware’s name and explore the meaning behind its prominent nickname.

The Origin of the Name “Delaware”

Delaware is named after the Delaware River, which itself was named in honor of Sir Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, an English nobleman and the first colonial governor of Virginia. In 1610, Captain Samuel Argall bestowed the name “Delaware” upon the river as a tribute to Lord De La Warr, who was instrumental in supporting English colonization efforts in the early 17th century.

The Lenape Connection

While the state’s name has European origins, its land was originally inhabited by the Lenape, a Native American tribe. The Lenape people, also known as the Delaware Indians, played a significant role in the region’s early history. The name “Delaware” acknowledges the cultural and historical interactions between European settlers and the indigenous Lenape people.

“The First State” Moniker

Delaware proudly holds the distinction of being the first state to ratify the United States Constitution on December 7, 1787. This important milestone earned Delaware the nickname “The First State,” highlighting its role as a trailblazer in the formation of the newly established United States. The state’s swift ratification set a precedent for other states to follow, solidifying Delaware’s place in history.

Historical Significance of “The First State”

Delaware’s quick ratification of the Constitution showcased the state’s commitment to the principles of the fledgling nation. It demonstrated a willingness to embrace a united federal government and contributed to the establishment of the Union. “The First State” nickname serves as a reminder of Delaware’s pivotal role in shaping the foundation of the United States.

Contemporary Implications

While Delaware’s nickname is rooted in historical events, it continues to be a point of pride for residents. The title “The First State” reflects not only the state’s historical significance but also its ongoing commitment to civic engagement and participation in the democratic process.


Delaware’s name and nickname are intricately woven into the tapestry of American history. The origin of its name pays homage to both European settlers and Native American inhabitants, acknowledging the diverse cultural influences that shaped the region. As “The First State,” Delaware’s historical significance continues to resonate, symbolizing the state’s commitment to the ideals upon which the United States was founded.

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