'Arizona' placename origin identified as Basque (or maybe everyone knew that except this columnist)





OK, remember a couple of weeks ago when we discussed the origin of Arizona's name? I said it was a Spanish corruption of"Aleh-Shonak," which was a Native American village south of present-day Nogales and near the site of a big silver strike in 1736.

I said this with great confidence -- yea, even hubris -- because I read it in a book by good old Marshall Trimble, our official state historian. I mean, if you can't believe our official state historian, who can you believe?

Well, it turns out good old Marshall Trimble doesn't believe it anymore. He sent me a note the other day to let me know he now agrees with Don Garate, historian and chief interpreter at Tumacacori National Historical Park.

Garate says the name came from the Basque words aritz ona, which means"good oaks." I guess there were a lot of oak trees around the site where the silver was found.

Anyway, it seems there was a ranch or a ranching community named Arizona in Sonora, a few miles south of the present U.S.-Mexican border. It was founded by Bernardo de Urrea, who was a Basque.

Related Links

  • Don Garate tells the story of Arizona's name



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