How many states in the United States start with the letter k.?

Hey there, have you ever wondered how many states in the good old US of A start with the letter K? If not, no worries- we’ve got the answer for you. As you embark on your next cross-country road trip adventure or play a trivia game with friends, this little factoid might just come in handy. The states that start with K are not too tricky to remember, but some of the state names themselves have interesting backstories. Before we reveal the magic number, take a guess-how many states do you think start with the letter K? If you said two, congrats! You’ve got it. The two states starting with K are Kansas and Kentucky. Not too hard, right? Now you’ve got one more fun fact in your back pocket for the next time you’re putting your geography knowledge to the test.

The Question at Hand

The question is simple: how many states in the good ol’ US of A start with the letter K? You may be surprised by the answer.

Only two states begin with K: Kansas and Kentucky. That’s it. Despite there being 50 states total, K is an underrepresented first letter. Both Kansas and Kentucky were once part of the Louisiana Territory. 1861 and 1792 saw their admittance as states, respectively.


Sunflower State Kansas is in the Midwest. Its capital and largest city is Topeka. Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas are its neighbors. So, the state is mostly prairie land, with areas of forest and hills in the east. Agriculture and ranching are major parts of the economy.


Bluegrass State Kentucky is in the south-central part of the country. Frankfort is both its largest and capital city. The states of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, the state of Tennessee, Virginia, as well as West Virginia encircle Kentucky. Kentucky is well-known for the Kentucky Derby, bluegrass music, horse racing, and bourbon whisky. Bourbon, coal, and tobacco are significant industries.

That’s right, the only two territories that start with the letter K are Kansas and Kentucky. They are few in number, but they are abundant in culture, history, and scenic beauty. You’ll know the answer the following time someone tests you on state names!

The Letter K and U.S. State Names

Can you tell me how many U.S. state names start with K? Surprisingly, there are only two states that begin with K: Kansas and Kentucky.

The Sunflower State

Kansas nicknamed the Sunflower State, was the 34th state to join the Union. Right in the Great Plains area, it shares borders with Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Kansas is a mostly flat state, with rolling hills and prairies as far as the eye can see. It’s known for agriculture, especially wheat farming and cattle ranching. The state capital and largest city is Topeka.

The Bluegrass State

The Bluegrass State, or Kentucky, was the fifteenth state to ratify the Union. In addition to Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, & West Virginia, Kentucky shares borders with seven other states in the southeast. The mountains that make up the Kentucky Derby’s horse racing, bourbon whisky, and bluegrass music are all found in Kentucky. Louisville is the largest city, and Frankfort is the state capital.

Despite the fact that most state names come from Native American languages or place names in England, these two Midwestern states got their names from rivers Kansas and Kentucky. Both the Kentucky River and the Kansas River bear Native American names. Kentucky River gets its name from an Iroquoian term that means “meadowland.”

That’s right, only two states start with the letter K: Kansas and Kentucky. Uncommon letter for U.S. state labels, but at least you have the solution now. And a few interesting trivia about these wonderful states!

Listing the States That Start With K

Kansas and Kentucky are two of the only states in the union that begin with the letter K. Let’s examine these states’ specifics in more detail.


Kansas was the 34th state to ratify the Union. Here are a few fascinating Kansas facts:

  • It occurs in the Midwest and Great Plains regions of the US.
  • Its capital and largest city is Topeka.
  • Kansas is the 15th largest state by area, covering 82,277 square miles.
  • The state is bordered by Nebraska to the north; Missouri to the east; Oklahoma to the south; and Colorado to the west.
  • Kansas is known for being at the center of the country, both geographically and culturally.


The Bluegrass State, or Kentucky, was the fifteenth state to ratify the Union. A few specifics about Kentucky.

  • Kentucky is located in the east-south-central region of the United States.
  • Its capital and largest city is Frankfort.
  • Kentucky covers 40,408 square miles, making it the 37th largest state by area.
  • The state is bordered by Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and the Mississippi River. •

Kentucky is known for horse racing, bourbon, bluegrass music, and the Kentucky Derby.

So there you have it, the only two states in America that begin with the letter K. While very different geographically, both Kansas and Kentucky have a rich history and culture. Exploring all 50 states can lead to discovering some interesting facts about this diverse country. Let me know if you have any other questions!

K States Fun Facts

The United States has four states that begin with the letter K: Kansas, Kentucky.


Kentucky is known as the “Bluegrass State” and was once part of Virginia. It was the 15th state to join the Union in 1792. Kentucky is home to Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest-known cave system in the world with over 400 miles of passageways. The Kentucky Derby horse race is held annually in Louisville, the state’s largest city.


Kansas became the 34th state on January 29, 1861. Nicknamed the “Sunflower State,” Kansas is a mostly flat state in the Great Plains known for its prairies, farms, and ranches. Wichita is the largest city and was once an Old West cow town. Kansas is also home to Dodge City, another famous frontier town, and the Little House on the Prairie farm.

Why Certain Letters Are More Common in State Names?

When it comes to the names of states in the US, some letters seem to come up more often than others. Ever wonder why? There are a few reasons certain letters like K, M, A, and S appear frequently in state names.


The geography and natural features of a region often influence what settlers choose to call it. The Tennessee River, Kentucky River, and Kansas River, for example, run through states like Tennessee, Kentucky, and Kansas. The Dakotas sent their name from the local Dakota tribes. Natural features like mountains (Montana), forests (Maine), and prairies (Nebraska) have also inspired state names.

Native American Names

Early European settlers commonly adopted names already given to places by Native Americans. About half of the 50 states have names derived from Native American words. For example, the word ‘Kansas’ comes from a Sioux word meaning ‘south wind. Kentucky comes from an Iroquois word ‘Ken-the-ten’ meaning “land of tomorrow”. Dakota, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Wyoming also have names originating from Native American languages.

Popular Letter Combinations

Certain letters just seem to roll off the tongue together in a pleasing way. The ‘k’ sound combined with vowels like ‘a’ and ‘e’ produces names that were attractive and melodious to early settlers, e.g. Kentucky and Kansas. The ‘s’ is also very common since it combines well with so many letters to create a variety of soothing syllables, e.g. Tennessee, Mississippi, and Missouri.

The history, geography, and linguistics of the United States have all influenced the choice of letters used prominently in state names. While the diversity of state names reflects the diversity of the country itself, the prevalence of certain letters points to how natural features, native words, and phonetic combinations have shaped the American vernacular.

The Origins and Meanings Behind the K-State Names

The United States officially has 50 states, but only 4 states start with the letter K: Kansas, Kentucky, and Alaska. So, the origins of these state names are quite interesting and often reflect the native tribes that inhabited the land, geographic features, or historical figures important to the region.


Kansas derives its name from the Kansa tribe of Native Americans that lived in the area. Early French explorers referred to the tribe as “Les Kansa,” and the English translation of this became the name of the state. So, Kansas entered the union in 1861 as the 34th state.


Kentucky also gets its name from a local Native American tribe. The word “Kentucky” comes from an Iroquois word “Ken-the-ten” meaning “land of tomorrow.” European explorers first recorded the name in the mid-1700s. Kentucky became the 15th state to join the union in 1792.


“Alyeska,” an Aleut word meaning “great land,” is where Alaska gets its name. The Aleut individuals are native to portions of mainland Alaska as well as the Aleutian Islands. Alaska became the 49th state in 1959, after European explorers first used the name in the 1700s.

You may have observed that state names that start with the letter K tend to be descriptors in the native tribes’ native tongues. It serves as a means of paying respect to the ancestors of the region and acknowledging their lengthy history. You might get a better understanding of a state’s name if you learn more about its indigenous people. So, you might learn that the name of the state has deeper significance and ties to the original inhabitants.

How State Name Spellings Have Changed Over Time?

There’s a new spelling for state names in the US. Numerous states derived their names from Native American words, with approximate English spellings. As linguists and historians discover more about native tongues, certain pronunciations are changes to more closely resemble the original word. Since the names of some states originate from places in England, those names remain.

The following are a few states that have Native American names:

  • Kanza people are the source of the name Kansas. The French “Cansez” spelling was replaced with a more Anglicised form, “Kansas.”
  • Its name comes from its people. The spelling changed over time, moving from different historical spellings such as “Massachusetts” as well as “Massachusets” to the current “Massachusetts.”
  • Mississippi: The name derives from the Anishinaabe word “Misi-ziibi,” which translates to “Great River.” Before settling on the spelling that is used today, the spelling was also known as “Misisipi” and “Mississippi.”

Some state addresses also come from Native American words, albeit with more imaginative interpretations:

  • Idaho—which means “gem of the mountains”—was proposed as the territory’s name during a lobbying campaign and was subsequently adopted. Although it might have been influenced by a Shoshone word, there is no proof that it was translated exactly.
  • Wyoming: The word comes from a Lenape word that means “large prairie place.” A congressman from Pennsylvania suggested the name and pushed for its adoption when the territory of Wyoming was created.

Some states receive their names after places in England that are spelling according to traditional English spellings:

  • Named for the English Duke of York, New York
  • The English county of Hampshire is the source of the name New Hampshire.
  • Maryland bears the name of the English queen, Queen Henrietta Maria, who wed King Charles I.

While a few state names have changed over time to better reflect their linguistic origins, others have remained mostly the same. All states have unique histories and cultures, but their names—whether they are English, Native American, or something else entirely—have a big impact on defining them.

Frequently Asked Questions About K States

Ever wonder what percentage of US states begin with a particular letter K? Believe it or not, several states begin with K. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about these K states:

Why do so many state names start with K? 

Many of the K states, including Kansas and Kentucky, got their names from Native American tribes, words, or places. Others, like the many lakes in Maine and the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland, got their names for geographical features. A few states bear the names of monarchs; Georgia has a name for King George II, and the Carolinas have names for King Charles I.

Are the K states mostly in one region of the U.S.? 

No, the 20 K states are located all across the country. While there are clusters in New England and the South, you can find K states in the Midwest, West, and along the Atlantic seaboard too.

Do people tend to get the K states mixed up? 

With 20 states starting with the same letter, it can get confusing! Some of the most commonly confused K-state pairs are Kansas/Kentucky, Maine/Maryland, and Massachusetts/Michigan. The best way to keep them straight is to study maps and learn about each state’s geography, history, and characteristics.

Why are there no K states west of the Mississippi River? 

State names starting with K were simply unpopular with legislators and settlers when the western half of the US was settled and states were formed. So, the majority of new nations bear the names of prominent local Native American tribes, Spanish explorers, or geographical features. By the mid-1800s, the craze for K names had largely faded.


So there you have it, only two states in America start with the letter K. Kansas and Kentucky represent the minority of state names that begin with this underutilized letter of the alphabet. While the list is short, the history and culture of these two states are rich and diverse. Next time someone challenges you with this bit of trivia, you’ll be ready to rattle off the answer with confidence. And who knows, maybe someday a new state will join the union and add another K to the list. For now, we’ll appreciate the small but mighty club that Kansas and Kentucky have formed. Two states, one letter, and a whole lot of heartland heritage.


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