TEXAS, ORIGIN OF NAME
TEXAS, ORIGIN OF NAME. The word texas (tejas, tayshas, texias, thecas?, techan, teysas, techas?) had wide usage among the Indians of East Texas even before the coming of the Spanish, whose various transcriptions and interpretations gave rise to many theories about the meaning. The usual meaning was "friends," although the Hasinais applied the word to many groups-including Caddoan-to mean "allies." The Hasinais probably did not apply the name to themselves as a local group name; they did use the term, however, as a form of greeting: "Hello, friend." How and when the name Texas first reached the Spanish is uncertain, but the notion of a "great kingdom of Texas," associated with a "Gran Quivira" (see QUIVIRA) had spread in New Spain before the expedition of Alonso De León and Damián Massanet in 1689. Massanet reported meeting Indians who proclaimed themselves thecas, or "friends," as he understood it, and on meeting the chief of the Nabedaches (one of the Hasinai tribes) mistakenly referred to him as the "governor" of a "great kingdom of the Texas." Francisco de Jesús María, a missionary left by Massanet with the Nabedaches, attempted to correct erroneous reports about the name by asserting that the Indians in that region did not constitute a kingdom, that the chief called "governor" was not the head chief, and that the correct name of the group of tribes was not Texas. Texias, according to Jesús María, meant "friends" and was simply a name applied to the various groups allied against the Apaches. Later expeditions by the Spanish for the most part abandoned the name Texas or else used it as an alternative to Asinay (Hasinai). Official Spanish documents continued to use it but later narrowed it to mean only the Neches-Angelina group of Indians and not a geographic area. Other putative meanings have less evidence from contemporary accounts to support them: "land of flowers," "paradise," and "tiled roofs"-from the thatched roofs of the East Texas tribes-were never suggested by first-hand observers so far as is known, though later theories connect them with tejas or its variant spellings. Whatever the Spanish denotations of the name Texas, the state motto, "Friendship," carries the original meaning of the word as used by the Hasinai and their allied tribes, and the name of the state apparently was derived from the same source.
Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910; rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959). "Letter of Don Damian Manzanet to Don Carlos de Siguenza," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 2 (April 1899). William W. Newcomb, The Indians of Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961).
Image Use Disclaimer
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Phillip L. Fry, "TEXAS, ORIGIN OF NAME," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/pft04), accessed February 08, 2016. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Get Texas history everyday,
with day by day
Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles