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" (seeQUIVIRA) 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.
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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).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Phillip L. Fry,
“Texas, Origin of Name,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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