• In 1781 the State of Massachusetts Bay became the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • In 2020 the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations became the State of Rhode Island (when most people who didn't live there had long been unaware that the abbreviated name was not the full official name).

Both of these changes were accomplished by a referendum to alter the constitution of the state.

Are there other instances?

(I knew of the old name of Rhode Island from having read (1) the Declaration of Independence, promulgated in 1776, (2) the Articles of Confederation, proposed by Congress in 1777 and ratified and effective in 1781, (3) the Definitive Treaty of Peace that ended the war of American independence, signed in 1783 and ratified and effective in 1784, and (4) the Constitution of the United States, proposed by Convention in 1787 and ratified and effective in 1788. But in 2000 when I visited Rhode Island, I didn't know whether that old name was still official until I saw, posted in an elevator, one of those certificates that the elevator had been found in compliance with regulations. The old name was esoteric except in Rhode Island.)

  • 2
    What are the boundaries here? US States since the Declaration of Independence? I assume territories being renamed upon statehood would not count, nor would new states being created out of existing ones(Maine, West Virginia)?
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 1, 2021 at 18:54
  • @T.E.D. Boundaries? well, the 49th parallel, and.... Oh, that's not what you meant. No, I'm just talking about changing the name of any of the states that already had the status of states withing the Union at the time of the name change. Sep 1, 2021 at 19:06
  • 1
    I think Maine was called Maine when it was still a part of Massachusetts, and Kentucky was called Kentucky when it was still a part of Virginia. Sep 1, 2021 at 19:08
  • 3
    A list of all US states can be found here. Feel free to click on each of the roughly fifty links, and check the History section of each; alternately, use this as a starting point, and change the state name at the end of the web address from the web browser's address bar with the name of each of the other fifty states. Happy research !
    – Lucian
    Sep 1, 2021 at 19:16
  • 1
    @MichaelHardy: Site rules explicitly request stating or specifying one's prior research (thus implying the very existence of at least some basic research to begin with); as such, not even having bothered consulting freely available pertinent resources, online or offline, seems like a huge red flag to me. Were you to have browsed through each of the hundred articles (main & history) prior, written down those explicitly mentioned to have undergone a name change, and googled the rest, then ask a question about them, specifically, that would have made for a pretty decent post.
    – Lucian
    Sep 3, 2021 at 19:17

1 Answer 1


This doesn't fit your criteria exactly, but it's as close as you're going to come.

The settlers of what later became Utah proposed that a "State of Deseret" be formed out of a large swath of the American West.

Under the Compromise of 1850, the Utah Territory was organized, but some settlers wouldn't give up the name. Brigham Young and others apparently held shadow legislative sessions under the rubric of the "State of Deseret", and some attempts at drafting a state constitution used that name.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.