The Garden State. The Soprano State. New Joisey. Whatever you call it, New Jersey holds a special place in the hearts of those who call it home. But how did New Jersey get its name? Today, let’s explore the origin story of the New Jersey name and how this legacy has shaped the Garden State we know today.

Long before European settlers ever arrived, what would one day become New Jersey was originally occupied by indigenous peoples. In fact, records suggest that the native civilizations living in New Jersey date back well over 10,000 years. Prior to being dubbed New Jersey, the natives referred to this territory as Lenapehoking. While there was a rich diversity of communities living here, the primary population at the time was the Lenni-Lenape tribe. Records also suggest that the Lenni-Lenape may have referred to this area as Scheyichbi, which translates to “the edge of the water”. A suiting name for this coastal community, this land had been named long before colonists ever reached these shores.

Exploration to the North American continent began in the 15th century, and continued to increase in population for the coming centuries. While Giovanni da Verrazzano is credited as the first European to explore New Jersey, Henry Hudson was the man behind New Jersey’s initial settlements. Before the British arrived, New Jersey was claimed for the Dutch and was subsequently dubbed “New Netherlands”. This region became known for its remarkable trading abilities, quickly forging relationships with European settlers from Scandinavian nations. Although New Jersey does technically have its origins with a Dutch population, it would not be long before the British arrived and with them, New Jersey’s newest moniker.

In 1664, the British officially took control of this territory and absorbed the region as one of its colonies. Upon British arrival, control of the land was split in two, with one side being bestowed upon Sir George Carteret and the other afforded to John Berkeley. The two named the subsequently region East Jersey and West Jersey. The Jersey name is an homage to the Isles of Jersey, where both Berkeley and Carteret had spent significant portions of their lives. When East and West finally joined forces in 1702, the region kept the name, finally finding its official name: New Jersey.

From its colonial roots to the present day, New Jersey, and more specifically Trenton, continue to maintain a connection to its roots. In fact, Trenton has its very own sister city in the Isle of Jersey: St. Heiler! The sister cities initiative is a program between the United States and European cities wherein two communities connect for the purposes of mutual cultural and commercial endorsement. A unique way to forge alliances with our friends across the Atlantic, the sister cities initiative plays a crucial role in forging a truly global community. To learn more about our friends across the pond in St. Heiler, please visit their website, linked here: St. Heiler.

While this land has taken many forms over the years, what remains the same is how lucky its residents are to call this place home. No matter what you call the Garden State, New Jersey will always be a place you can call home.

About Author