6 Most Famous Kentucky Nicknames

Kentucky is a state in the southeastern region of the United States and became the 15th state admitted into the union after its breakaway from Virginia on June 1, 1972. Kentucky comes from the Iroquois word “ken-tah-ten,” meaning “land of tomorrow.” The other possible meanings for Kentucky from the Iroquois language include: “meadow,” “prairie,” and “the river of blood.” With over 4.5 million people, Kentucky is the 26th largest state by population.

While it stands out for its fried chicken, Kentucky is also known for its culture that includes the famous horse racing derby, its excellent bourbon, bluegrass music, college basketball, and automobile manufacturing. In this article, we will be exploring a list of known nicknames for the state of Kentucky, as well as their origins.

Did you know that Kentucky has a booming alcohol industry? The state generates over $9 billion in revenue annually from the sale of bourbon alone, with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association disclosing that there are nearly two bourbon barrels for every Kentucky resident. That folks, is a lot of alcohol!

Popular Nicknames for Kentucky

Let us dive into the list of known nicknames for the state of Kentucky:

1. The Bluegrass State

Bluegrass refers to a type of grass belonging to the scientific genus Poa and gets its name from the bluish-purplish tint the stalks take on when they go to seed. Kentucky is known as the “Bluegrass State” because bluegrass is found in many of the lawns and pastures throughout the state (particularly in the northern part of Kentucky – including the metropolitan areas of Lexington and Louisville). Bluegrass is also a name given to a music genre originating from Kentucky.

2. The Corn-cracker State

One theory behind Kentucky’s moniker as the “Corn-cracker State” is that it refers to the poorer people living in the state’s mountainous regions. Another is that it is derived from a crane that was common in Kentucky and known for its “craking” sound described as a “Corn-crake.” As this theory goes, the nickname is a distortion of “Corn-crake.”

3. The Dark and Bloody Ground State

Kentucky’s alias as the “Dark and Bloody Ground State” is steeped in a turbulent past. The states of Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio were once known by this fascinating name even before the Indians started fighting back the encroachment of white settlers. It was likely called “dark” because of its heavy forests, a favorite hunting territory of several native peoples, including the Delawares, Shawnees, Hurons, and Miamis. The region became bloodier following the invasion of British-American settlers and U.S. forces on Indian territory.

4. The Tobacco State

Kentucky has always been a big producer of tobacco. As far back as 1880, Kentucky accounted for 36 percent of the total national tobacco production, and was first in the country, with nearly twice as much tobacco produced as Virginia, then the second-place state. On the evidence of the data, Kentucky’s nickname as “The Tobacco State” is deserved.

5. The Hemp State

Kentucky was the greatest producer of hemp in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries when it was the source of three-fourths of U.S. hemp fiber. However, its production declined due to tobacco’s prominence as a cash crop and its latter classification as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act. In recent years, Kentucky has seen renewed interest in hemp following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that has seen increased production of the plant and a return to the halcyon days of being the “hemp state.”

6. The Rock-Ribbed State

The term “rock-ribbed” describes the attribute of being firm and inflexible in doctrine or integrity. Kentucky has been described in books as “The Rock-Ribbed State” as a testament to the unflinching resolve of the people of Kentucky.

That brings our list to a close. Are there any other nicknames for Kentucky that we’ve omitted? Tell us in the comments below.

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Stephen Agwaibor is a writer, editor and journalist with an academic background in economics. His writing interests cover various topics, including science, politics, business and social commentary.
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