You might already know all the states in Nigeria, but have you ever wondered how the 36 states in Nigeria got their names? I guess is the major reason you came across this post. Do not worry, I will provide all the answers you need right in this article. You will also get to see the states in Nigeria that are named after a river, and the ones that did not get their names from any geographical feature in Nigeria.

The information you will find in this article will be very useful especially if you are asked this same question in your school, or maybe you just want to know about Nigeria as a country and her 36 states.

Also read: Map of Nigeria Showing Details of the 36 States and FCT

How the 36 States in Nigeria Got Their Names

How the 36 States in Nigeria Got Their Names (Rivers, Heroes, and Other Geographical Feaures)

if you are still yet to know how many states in Nigeria and their names, they are outlined below. The information also contains how the 36 states in Nigeria got their names – ranging from names of rivers to popular heroes.


Abia actually got its name from an acronym, which stands for the four main group in the state as at the time it was created in 1991. They are Aba, Bende, Isuikwuato, and Afikpo.


Adamawa was named after a warrior, Modibbo Adama Bin Ardo Hassan. He conquered the region in the beginning of the 19th century.

Akwa Ibom

Akwa Ibom is named after the Qua Iboe (or Kwa Iboe) river.


Anambra got is name from Oma Mbala (Anyim Oma Mbala), which is a popular river located in the state. Actually the white men that arrived the state early in history cannot pronounce the right igbo word, so they changed it to the present name it is bearing now.


There are three versions that explains how Bauchi got its name.

  • The first version said Bauchi’ is Hausa word meaning the southern flanks of Hausa land. Tribes living in the southern parts of the Hausa land were referred to as “kasashen bauchi” and the area they lived in later came to be known simply as Bauchi.
  • The second version the state was named for Baushe, a famous hunter who settled there before the 19th century.
  • The third states that ‘bauchi’ is Hausa word for slavery since it was a center for slave raiders.


Bayelsa got its name from the combination acronyms which stand for the three local government areas which were pulled out from the old Rivers state. They are Brass LGA known as BALGA, Yenegoa LGA known as YELGA, and Sagbama LGA known as SALGA. The mathematics involved in the formation of their names is BA + YEL + SA = BAYELSA


Benue derived its name from the way the white men pronounced “Binuwe”, the Batta word for “Mothers of Waters”.


Borno is the alternative name of the Kanuris – the predominant ethnic group in the state. Their predominance gave inspiration for the naming of the state.

Cross River

Cross River was named from a river called Ovono or Cross River.


Delta is derives its name from where the River Niger forms a delta as it enters the Atlantic Ocean.


Ebonyi is the anglicized version of “Aboine”, which is a river that cuts through Abakaliki, the state capital.


The Bini people who reside in the area had always referred to themselves as Edo or Iduu. This inspired the name of the state.


 “Okiti” is a term that is said to denote a settlement of many hills. It later became ‘Ekiti’.


as a result of the numerous hills and rocks found in the area, the resident igbo people called it “Enu Ugwu”, meaning “top of the hill”. The name “Enugu” is not gotten from the anglicised version.


Gombe, is the dialect of Fulani language (Fulfuide) which is spoken in the area.


Just like most Nigerian states, Imo got its name from a river too. It is the popular Imo Mmiri.


Jigawa derived its name from its distinctively golden-coloured soil


The meaning of Kaduna is Hausa is crocodiles. Therefore, the state got its name from the many crocodiles in the Kaduna River.


Kano was the name of a blacksmith from the Gaya tribe who settled in the area while sourcing for ironstone. The state was named after him.


The state was named after the wife of a popular local ruler called Janzama. Her name was Katsina.


Kebbi was named after the Ka’abba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.


The popular confluence in Nigeria is located in the state, Kogi is said to have been derived from ‘kogin’, the Hausa word for river.


River Niger used to be called River Kwara by the Nupes at the Northern border of the state. The state was named after this.


Portuguese was the first set of Europeans to set their foot in Lagos. As a result of the many lagoons and rivers located in the area, they named it Lagos. Lagos is the Portuguese word for “lakes.


Nasarawa is a native word for ‘victorious’. The state was named by the founder of Nasarawa kingdom, Makama Dogo.


The state was named after River Niger.


Ogun was also named after a river – the Ogun River


Ondo is a word used for settlers. The state was named after the settlers of the old Ondo Kingdom.


Osun was also named after a river – the River Osun.


Oyo was named after the old Oyo Empire.


The state was named after the picturesque Jos plateau. Jos got its name from the mispronunciation of the town ‘Gwosh’.


Rivers got its name as a result of the many water bodies present in the area.


Sokoto is the anglicized version of the Arabic word ‘suk’ meaning ‘market’ or ‘place of commerce’. The state itself was named after the defunct Sokoto Caliphate.


Taraba got its name from the Taraba River


Komadugu Yobe (Waube or Ouobe) or River Yobe (or River of Yo) inspired the name of the state.


The state was named after Zamfarawa, one of the subdialects of the Eastern Hausa group.


Reading to this point, I am sure you must have seen how the 26 states in Nigeria got their names plus some other information related to each state you might never know before. If you are asking the question; which states in Nigeria is named after a river?, I am sure you must have gotten your answer right in this article too. If you find this information useful, kindly share it with your friends on various social media by sing the social share icons found below. Also, visit this site often to get more facts about Nigeria.