Skip to main content

The Volunteer State

Tennessee State Nicknames

Tennessee sunset in Great Smoky Mountain National Park; photo by Scott Oves on Flickr (use permitted with attribution).

Nicknames for the State of Tennessee

Tennessee has had several nicknames, but the most popular and well-known is "The Volunteer State," a nickname earned during the War of 1812 (thousands of volunteer soldiers from Tennessee played a prominent role in this war, especially during the Battle of New Orleans). This reputation for volunteering was reinforced during the Mexican War when the secretary of state asked for 2,800 Tennessee volunteers and got 30,000 respondents. All State Nicknames

Tennesseans are sometimes referred to as "Volunteers" or "Big Benders" (both derived from state nicknames), or "Butternuts" (first applied to Tennessee Civil War soldiers because of the tan color of their uniforms, and later this nickname was sometimes applied to people across the entire state).

Other Tennessee Nicknames:

"Big Bend State" - referring to the Indian name for the Tennessee River: “the river with the big bend.”
"Hog and Hominy State" - now obsolete, this nickname was applied originally because the corn and pork products of Tennessee were in such great proportions between 1830 and 1840.
"The Mother of Southwestern Statesmen" - this nickname was applied because Tennessee furnished the U.S. with three presidents and a number of other leaders who served with distinction in high government office.