Map of Tennessee; United States of America. Photo by Malia/Flickr (Noncommercial Use Permitted with Attribution/No Derivative Works).
What does "Tennessee" mean?
The name "Tennessee" evolved from Creek and Cherokee words (many state names originate from Native American languages). All State Name Origins
Exact details for the origin of "Tennessee" have been lost over time, but Spanish explorer Captain Juan Pardo was the first to record the name in 1567; at some point he and his soldiers encountered a Native American village called "Tanasqui" in Cherokee country.
Historical accounts (maps, documents, letters) refer to "the land of the Tannassy" with many spellings, such as: Tennassee, Tunasse, Tanase, Tunesee, Tonice, Tinnace, Tanasee, Tannassie, Tannessee, Tannasie, Tenessee, Tenesay, Tenasi, Tansai, Tunissee, Tanase, Tanasqui Tenesee, Tanisee, Tanei, Tunese, Tinassee Tunnissee, Tennisee, Tennesy, Tennecy, Tunassee, Tanasee.
The first known historical record using the modern spelling of "Tennessee" is an official correspondence from the Governor of South Carolina in the 1750's. Tennessee became the 16th state on June 1, 1796.