Historical information

The smallest state of the union, Rhode Island, also has the longest official name of any of the states: "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations". The state is one of the most densely populated and heavily industrialized for its size. For a state that is only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long, it is notable that its shoreline on Narragansett Bay in the Atlantic Ocean runs for 400 miles. Indeed, one of Rhode Island's nicknames is "the Ocean State."

The legendary mansions of Newport overlook the ocean at Narragansett Bay. Many of these spectacular homes are open for tourists and offer an inside glimpse into the lives of America's high society. The Breakers, the magnificent Vanderbilt mansion built in 1895, is one of the most elegant private homes that has ever graced the Newport shorefront.

The Name

This state was named by Dutch explorer Adrian Block. He named it "Roodt Eylandt" meaning "red island" in reference to the red clay that lined the shore. The name was later anglicized when the region came under British rule.

Source: Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut – 1994

The Nicknames

The Ocean State: (Official) This nickname was formulated to attract tourism to Rhode Island and appears on non-commercial license plates. "Ocean State" began appearing on Rhode Island license plates in 1972, replacing "Discover." The Rhode Island Tourism Division promotes over 400 miles of coastline. This is not all ocean frontage but includes Narragansett Bay extending inland from the Atlantic Ocean north to the center of the state. All Rhode Islanders live within a 30-minute drive to the Atlantic Ocean or Narragansett Bay.

Little Rhody: A traditional nickname for Rhode Island, obviously in reference to the state's small size. Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states in area. Variations include "Little Rhodie," "L'il Rhody," and "Little Rhode."

The Plantation State: This name is derived from the state's official name, "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations."

The Smallest State: This sobriquet* for Rhode Island, like the nickname "Little Rhody," is in reference to Rhode Island's size.

Land of Roger Williams: Roger Williams, who founded Providence Plantation in 1636, is the source of this sobriquet.

The Southern Gateway of New England: This historical nickname was bestowed because Rhode Island was the most southerly of the New England states with harbors suitable for ocean-going ships. These harbors allowed New England raw materials and finished goods to be shipped to other parts of the United State and foreign countries and allowed raw and finished goods from other parts of the United States and foreign countries to be delivered to New England.

Sobriquet (pronounced sO-bri-kA or sO-bri-ket) means "descriptive name."

Source: Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut - 1994 Shankle, George Earlie, Phd State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols H. H. Wilson Company, New York - 1938 (Reprint)