Dictionary.com

When the Spanish first began exploring the Pacific Coast of North America, they mistakenly believed that California was an island. (Some of the earliest and most fascinating maps of the state depict it as separated from the mainland.) This is considered one of the greatest, albeit short-lived, cartographic errors. 

Early mapmakers began labeling the “island” as California, the name of a mythical island in a book called Las Sergas de Esplandián, “The Adventures of Esplandián,” written by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. The book was part of a popular series of Spanish romance stories.

In the book, the mythical California is ruled by Queen Califa and populated only with female warriors who brandish gold weapons. They even harness their animals in gold because it is the only mineral on the island.

The legend of Califa and her island was well known among New World explorers. In 1536 when Hernán Cortéz arrived in Baja California, he believed he had landed on the legendary island.

Over three hundred years later gold was discovered in California, making the legend partially true and earning the state its nickname: The Golden State.

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161 Comments

  1. chemosi -  December 6, 2012 - 8:21 am

    Wow! This should be a GRE passage! Lol!

    Reply
  2. ????? -  June 20, 2012 - 3:21 pm

    Well, this article was a waste of time!
    Why can’t they write well on dictionary.com?

    Reply
  3. Jeanne -  June 9, 2012 - 1:14 pm

    Actually, it’s a little more complicated than this. Those of you who have noted the connection to Latin are correct. The original name came from the Latin “calida fornax” which means “hot oven”, an appropriate designation for the extreme lower portion of the peninsula of Baja California, which was the first part of the “Californias” explored by the Spanish from the 1530s onward. Temperatures in the extreme south of Baja California Sur easily reach well into the 100s on a daily basis in the summer. The name “California” eventually was used to refer to the entire peninsula of Baja (Lower) California, comprising what are now the states of Baja California Sur and Baja California Norte–in Mexico– as well as what is now the state of California, USA, originally known as Alta California–upper California.

    The confusion with the mythical island of Calafia came later with the misrepresentation of the peninsula of Baja California as an island, and what with the similar-sounding name, caused many to mistakenly connect the two. The discovery of gold both in Alta California as well as in Baja California only served to reinforce the idea of a connection. Many places in both upper California and in Baja California have places named for the legendary Queen Calafia, which, by the way is pronounced ca-LA-fia with the accent on the second syllable, not ca-la-FEE-a as the street in San Clemente, CA and other places is usually pronounced.

    Reply
  4. ann -  June 7, 2012 - 2:28 am

    quite interesting

    Reply
  5. Carl -  June 4, 2012 - 10:37 am

    I’m having a hard time believing real people actually posted all these comments.
    It’s an article about California’s name, not the bear on the flag, not the state’s nickname. Google it – it’s true that the gold rush contributed to the state being nicknamed “the golden state.”
    Come on people.

    Reply
  6. Bob -  May 24, 2012 - 12:34 pm

    Wow! In ‘when Jessie went to sea’ I wondered why many people dreamed of going to america. They said ” Oh I can’t image it, the streets paved with gold!” It wasn’t. I bet it was the story. It was so amazing to the poor guys wanted to go.

    Reply
  7. Brian N. -  May 4, 2012 - 11:55 am

    You all should watch King of California instead. Evan Rachel Wood’s character explains it a lot better than this article:

    “You want to know how California got it’s name? It’s not named after some explorer, or king. Nope. Someone made the name up – a writer. He just pulled it out of his imagination in the 16th century, in Spain. He made up this place where there was unlimited gold, and pearls, and beautiful fierce women who wore gold armor, and rode wild beasts. And he called it California. It’s true. It was a best seller back then. Charlie told me that. He said I could like it up if I didn’t believe him. But I didn’t need to.”

    So, California has been wonderful and amazing and fun even before it existed. You should probably back off, Betsy.

    Reply
  8. Betsy -  April 14, 2012 - 6:50 am

    My grandmother was once sassed by a Californian.

    She and my grandfather were staying in a hotel in San Francisco. They were having breakfast, and she asked the waitress if they had any biscuits. (We live in LA – Louisiana, mind you, not Los Angeles.) The waitress yelled, “BISCUITS?!” And then she added, very snottily, “No, and we don’t have grits, either!” (My grandmother doesn’t even LIKE grits.)

    Reply
  9. Betsy -  April 14, 2012 - 6:42 am

    @jay that’s not a black bear, dummy, that’s a grizzly!

    Reply
  10. Wytchkraft -  April 9, 2012 - 10:18 am

    I’ve learnt in school that the name California comes from the latinism ‘Calidax Fornax’ something like “heat oven” due to its high desert temperatures (Baja California) That is the same source the author used to write his adventure book.

    Reply
  11. Gene Fellner -  March 23, 2012 - 8:03 am

    Gilgamesh: You forgot Montana, from Spanish “Montaña del Norte.”

    Florida was never part of Mexico. France had always vied with Spain for possession and ultimately prevailed, but ultimately the British took the colony in 1763, long before the Mexican independence movement gained traction.

    Geographers, geologists and sociologists define the name “America” differently, so there’s no true universal meaning for the word. Spanish-speaking people call the Western Hemisphere “the Americas,” not “America.” So do others, including many anglophones, to avoid ambiguity. When speaking precisely, Latin Americans often refer to people of the USA as “norteamericanos,” literally “North Americans.” When being precise they call us “estadounidenses,” an adjective formed from “Estados Unidos.” They generally do not call themselves “Americans” in recognition of the fact that, justly or not, we have appropriated the name.

    The exception would be in “Aztlán,” the contiguous states of the Southwestern USA and northern Mexico with a turbulent history of migration and conquest resulting in a population and culture that is a hybrid of both countries and feels not totally at home in either. A song by Lost Tigres del Norte titled “Somos más Americanos,” “We Are More American,” recently triggered a fatal shooting in a karaoke bar in Texas, highlighting this sore point.

    It’s not clear if they include Canadians as norteamericanos, since they have the perfectly good name “canadiense” for them.

    As for an “American” language, there are many dictionaries and other reference books that specifically refer to themselves as authorities on “the American language.” To be precise, what we speak is the American dialect of English, or “American English,” with “Standard American” being the hybrid Hollywood-Manhattan accent, vocabulary and grammar of network radio and TV announcers, which has steadiy been leveling our regional dialects and accents in the postwar era.

    Reply
  12. Vixx Secundus -  March 21, 2012 - 2:21 pm

    Hayley*

    Reply
  13. Vixx Secundus -  March 21, 2012 - 2:20 pm

    Hayley on November 10, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    California girls… Incredible… So that’s how Katy got that idea? Interesting! Anyways, gotta eat pudding! See ya later, smarties!

    Sorry Haykey, but none of Katy’s songs are “her” ideas. She has writers for that who recycle other popular songs. Ever hear the line “I wish they all could be California girls?”

    Reply
  14. Me -  March 19, 2012 - 7:52 am

    Queen Latifah?! Now that makes sounds. What? you said Queen Califa? Oh so, my mistake. Darn – just think – it could have been Latifornia.

    Reply
  15. awesome -  March 14, 2012 - 4:25 pm

    ><GoLD!so interested…not. Were there golden toilets?!?

    Reply
  16. Gilgamesh -  March 13, 2012 - 5:49 pm

    California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New (Nuevo) Mexico (Méjico, Mégico), Texas (Tejas), and Florida are all Spanish names. All city names starting with San (Saint) in those states and others are Spanish names, e.g. San Fernando, San Diego, San Antonio, etc. Above states use to be part of México (accented e). Why now they belong to the USA? that’s another story! Only the citizens of the United States call themselves “americans”. America is a continent not a country. Americans are the people born or living in the American continent. The American continent is divided into three, North (includes: Greenland, Canada, USA, and México); Central (includes: Guatemala, Belize (Belice), Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panamá; South (includes: Venezuela, Colombia, Guyana, Surinam, Guayana, Perú, Brazil (Brasil), Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, and also the Caribean Islands (e.g. Cuba, Haití, Rep. Dominicana, Puerto Rico et al.). In all of them Spanish is predominant, with the exception of Greenland, USA, Canada, Haiti, Belize, Guyana, Surinam, Guayana and Brazil, where English, French, Dutch, and Portuguese, respectively, is spoken. My point is, why do you say that California sounds “american”? The “American” language does not exist!

    Reply
  17. Yea right -  March 13, 2012 - 4:21 pm

    fail this is lame

    Reply
  18. Scrivner -  March 8, 2012 - 10:19 pm

    To many who live both in the state and not, California IS an island, populated by elitists of every ilk. Great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there, even though I did as a child. Mostly good memories, but there were certainly times when it felt like I was living in a mythical place full of strange characters who seemed to have no idea that they are not the WHOLE country.

    Reply
  19. love -  March 1, 2012 - 4:06 pm

    kooollll…………… wow at the same time ………

    Reply
  20. Ken -  February 16, 2012 - 11:30 pm

    Maybe the early Spanish cartographers were just prescient about California being an island. It will be in about 20 million years as a result of the San Andreas Fault.

    Reply
  21. JmC -  February 7, 2012 - 2:53 pm

    WoW! This is great info and i love the story!

    Reply
  22. Surain -  January 5, 2012 - 8:34 am

    I’d be very interested in seeing the old maps with California as a seperate mass from the rest of the country.

    Reply
  23. Rosalind -  December 20, 2011 - 12:44 pm

    Wow….I love legends like that. What if that cartographing error hadn’t been fixed? How long do you think it would have taken to figure out California wasn’t an island? Something to think about……..

    Reply
  24. Ori -  December 17, 2011 - 11:46 am

    I went to Cali over the summer and I LOVED IT!

    Reply
  25. pablo -  November 14, 2011 - 1:43 am

    I bet they made that story up…. like whos going to know…. ppl will believe anything they read !!!!

    Reply
  26. Sean mac Giolla Rua -  November 11, 2011 - 3:52 am

    Was under the impression that the etymology was derived from Cali (hot) and Forno (oven). i.e. The hot oven.

    Reply
  27. To -  November 11, 2011 - 3:02 am

    Fff

    Reply
  28. Beauty -  November 11, 2011 - 12:49 am

    Too many new words for me ,but i can understand the major meaning in the article. I try to learn English well and communicate with you in English .

    Reply
  29. Hayley -  November 10, 2011 - 11:05 pm

    California girls… Incredible… So that’s how Katy got that idea? Interesting! Anyways, gotta eat pudding! See ya later, smarties!

    Reply
  30. ManiacDan -  November 10, 2011 - 10:44 pm

    “the mythical California is ruled by Queen Califa and populated only with female warriors who brandish gold weapons. ”

    Am I the only one who thought about Wonder woman when he/she read this part??

    Reply
  31. no -  October 23, 2011 - 5:25 pm

    cool but who needs to know this?

    Reply
  32. Amanda -  October 12, 2011 - 10:07 pm

    What’s to say the myths aren’t true? What we think of as California was once in fact an island, populated by Amazons with no comprehsion of our current time’s significant value assigned to gold. Their gold would have been like our aluminum foil THERE WAS SO MUCH OF IT. The value WE assign to it is a complete mental construct devised from a perception of LACK…And sure, there were maps made in times that stretch beyond our feeble comprehension of time, by civilizations that we today would probably consider “barbaric” because they don’t possess an I-phone or whatever. Our conception of “history” only goes “surface deep”. We are looking in all of the wrong places. The answer is ALWAYS WITHIN. Just scrape your way past all of “dogma or recorded science’s” views.
    Even today California seems almost “magical” … a place where dreams go to either bear fruitation or crumble to dust. Either way it is a place where ideas are born, depending on where you stand. I can see it being a “land of ledgends and myths” until the day that it sinks into the sea and becomes the next milenial’s Atlantis. …Dig the part about the island being ruled by huge women warriors…maybe it’s just me. I’m thinking I might enjoy that book…is it readily available in English translation? Either way I was just coming here to look up a word……cool article.

    Reply
  33. TommyWillB -  October 12, 2011 - 8:17 am

    I understood that when the first settlers came to California, the called this the Golden State because of the shimmering golden native grasses (no replaced by invasive species). Thus I thought the name much pre-dated the Gold Rush.

    Reply
  34. Bryan H. Allen -  October 6, 2011 - 6:05 pm

    OK.  The joke is on me.  Ha ha.  «καλή φουρνιά» is proper, modern Greek for “good vintage/‌bunch/‌batch”.  «Καλιφόρνια» is the modern Greek for “California”.  Plainly, I failed to accept my prescription for others: “Think outside the boxes” (limiting presumptions).  “ip foo” made an erudite pun, and it fell through my mental grasp for a day.  Mea culpa.  Είμαι ένοχος (Google translation here).

    For anyone who may read this, the ambient circumstance which lead me to write a comment yester­day may be elusive.  Throughout the morning of October 05, 2011, The Hot Word displayed the column for December 27, 2010 (282 days old—or stale).  That surprised me.  (Behold the spurt of 31 comments 10/04-05/2011.  Was the blogger overwrought?  Out sick?  ¿Qué pasó?)

    Also, for the record, nothing in my comment was satire about Middle-Eastern politics.  Recent world events merely furnished a convenient, dream-world context for introducing even more exotic repre­sentations of my home state’s name.

    BHA in L.A, CA, US

    Reply
  35. Bryan H. Allen -  October 5, 2011 - 12:32 pm

    This is The Hot Word’s freshest column yet!  Please be considerate, and recycle it when you finish reading it!  (What goes around comes around.)

    However, ip foo (September 25, 2011 at 5:50 pm) did offer an interesting innovation: καλή φουρνιά.  Tell me, is that Κοινή Greek, modern Greek, or Ipfonic Greek?  I propose that California seek statehood recognition at the United Nations.  Should it be called כַּאלִיפֿוֹרְנִיאַ, קָלִיפוֹרְנְיָה, كَلِفُرْنِيَة, or كَالِيفُورْنِيَا?  Perhaps a two-state solution would be more equitable—urban versus rural or north versus south?   Hurry!   Urban settlement will soon destroy the state’s legacy of farmland (if not domestic fiscal and economic warfare first)!

    Please go back to sleep, and have more-pleasant dreams…zzzz

    BHA in L.A., California, US

    Reply
  36. Leo -  October 5, 2011 - 11:36 am

    I like chocolate :P

    Reply
  37. Joao Bosco Miquelao -  October 5, 2011 - 11:24 am

    As a young boy I heard it differently: The Spanish felt the weather so warm that they named the land ‘heat of the oven’ – cali+fornia in Spanish.

    Reply
  38. indsay -  October 5, 2011 - 11:24 am

    actually evelyn, the first to realize that spain had discovered a new continent was Amerigo Vespucci, an italian sailor. In 1507, a geerman mapmaker included one of amerigo”s letters in popular geography and suggested that the new land be called “America”.

    Reply
  39. Just Meh -  October 5, 2011 - 10:47 am

    But wait… I thought Diamonds were a girl’s bestfriend…? Oh well, GIRLS PWN!!!

    Reply
  40. clare -  October 5, 2011 - 9:03 am

    this is pretty cool!!!!!!!!!!!! let’s go California!

    Reply
  41. angela -  October 5, 2011 - 8:49 am

    Hey (:

    Reply
  42. azar -  October 5, 2011 - 8:12 am

    There’s also a small village in Portugal named California. And the explorer who discovered californa was in fact portuguese.

    Reply
  43. Cindy -  October 5, 2011 - 7:40 am

    My beautiful Golden state, how you should just be ruled by women :)

    Reply
  44. Michael -  October 5, 2011 - 6:13 am

    California is so geologically unstable that in a few million years it really will be an island. Then there actually is gold there. And Hollywood has taken care of the golden Amazon women part. Huh, maybe the Spanish weren’t too far off…

    Reply
  45. Joe D -  October 5, 2011 - 5:09 am

    Why did the Spaniard explorers think California was an island? Because when they sailed down the west coast to what is now Baja California and sailed around the tip, it would have given them the impression that it was an island. As for the bear on the flag, it’s a grizzly bear, not a black bear. Grizzlies use to roam free throughout the state (probably more north than south) but were exterminated by those coming from the east in covered wagons, like my great, great grand parents.

    Reply
  46. JWnTX -  October 5, 2011 - 2:27 am

    There wasn’t enough gold even in Queen Califa’s mythical California for the fools in the California legislature now.

    Reply
  47. myu -  October 5, 2011 - 2:08 am

    The California bear is one of the state’s state animals, is it not?

    Yeah, that’s what’s up with the bear. It’s also there to represent something, but at this point, I’m not sure what.

    Reply
  48. Wright -  October 5, 2011 - 12:28 am

    But I knew this already!
    I guess they only teach you this stuff in California. I live here and learned about it in school when I was young… also about the grizzly bear on the flag.

    Reply
  49. hope and change -  October 4, 2011 - 11:57 pm

    Whatever California used to be, it ain’t no more. Thank you very much, Nancy, Barbara, and Jerry.

    Reply
  50. Nick -  October 4, 2011 - 11:31 pm

    courtney on December 28, 2010 at 4:27 am

    how is the name california a spanish word? it sounds american.

    Really Courtney…REALLY? What word in the American English language sounds like California? Remember your history, California was discovered by Spanish explorers, then was part of Mexico and then California became part of the USA. I didnt knwo that Spanish explorers spoke English.

    Think things through. Google it before you make yourself look like an ass online. People like you should NEVER reproduce.

    Reply
  51. Why do you care -  October 4, 2011 - 9:34 pm

    live in california yet doesn’t even know this…
    gotta tell classmates and ancient civ teacher

    Reply
  52. Matt -  October 4, 2011 - 8:57 pm

    A land made of all gold? King midas must have gotten to it. What would they eat?!

    Reply
  53. skye4 -  October 4, 2011 - 8:46 pm

    On 12/28/2010, Courtney said:

    “how is the name california a spanish word? it sounds american.”

    Please tell me you’re kidding.

    Reply
  54. steve -  October 4, 2011 - 7:32 pm

    i thought the bear on the state flag was a brown bear. i also thought there were still grizz in CA. sure i seen some TV footage of them there that wasn’t all that old.
    enlightenment anyone

    Reply
  55. pimorton -  October 4, 2011 - 7:16 pm

    Perhaps Montalvo was influenced by Nostradamus and was talking about a future Island of California, after the San Andreas Fault finally gives way.

    Reply
  56. Richard -  October 4, 2011 - 6:49 pm

    Ohh, wow, califorinia was even popular before it became part of america

    Reply
  57. lil_JBfan -  October 4, 2011 - 6:47 pm

    this is really interesting!

    Reply
  58. Paula -  October 4, 2011 - 6:30 pm

    zzzzx: “I would just like to say that Los Angeles does NOT sound ‘american’ it in fact it sounds as spanish as it is its meaning in spanish is ‘the angels’”

    Either you have a hard time understanding sarcasm, or you’re worried that others do. I’m not sure which, but I give credit accordingly.

    Reply
  59. Rachel -  October 4, 2011 - 6:19 pm

    hey califa wat do u mean by i miss u ca?

    Reply
  60. Rachel -  October 4, 2011 - 6:19 pm

    hi every1. im rachel. i saw ur comments and wanted to say something. u peeps r weird. wat if the bear was not in the article? Hoo cares? just shut up! ya i mean u. peace out! 8)

    Reply
  61. davylotinel -  October 4, 2011 - 6:14 pm

    hey everyone! the bear is there only because it was another mistake. the original flag drawer drew a pig, but he drew it so bad it was mistaken for a bear. This is the closest article you can get to the bear on the flag for now I bet.

    Reply
  62. Jack Elliott -  October 4, 2011 - 5:58 pm

    Funnily enough I have been working on a post for my blog over the last week regarding exactly this topic. An interesting coincidence. For anybody interested in a more lengthy and detailed scholarly write up regarding the full story about California as an island and the naming of California check out “The Island of California: A History of the Myth” by Dora Beale Polk. I checked it out from my local public library.

    Reply
  63. Califa -  October 4, 2011 - 9:42 am

    oh! how i miss you california

    Reply
  64. AMAB -  October 4, 2011 - 9:13 am

    CA is the Golden State because of the Gold Rush. Hence the 49ers football team. It is also cool though that it means HOT OVEN!!! If that is the case, what does Florida mean…. it is a HOTTER OVEN!!!

    Reply
  65. ip foo -  September 25, 2011 - 5:50 pm

    cute story, what about, cal forn
    cali ferne, καλή φουρνιά -> califurnia

    Reply
  66. Lauren -  September 25, 2011 - 2:33 pm

    Wow, Courtney. You’re so smart. Good job.

    Reply
  67. Anon -  September 24, 2011 - 1:30 pm

    Evelyn, im pretty sure courtney is in elementary school.

    Reply
  68. K Dunn -  August 3, 2011 - 12:42 pm

    I thought “California” meant “You money is Our money”

    Reply
  69. Herb -  July 1, 2011 - 1:33 pm

    Cortés or Cortez. You can look it up …

    Reply
  70. JP Fernz -  July 1, 2011 - 5:02 am

    California was a part of New Spain for over two centuries. It was a province divided in Alta (Higher) California and Baja (Lower) California. Hernan Cortes explored the region in different voyages during the 16th century and he is credited with naming California. The Gulf of California is now also known as Sea of Cortes. After the war on 1846 Alta California became part of the USA and the “Alta” part of its name was dropped. Baja California remained in Mexico keeping the “Baja” as part of its name.

    Reply
  71. EViking -  June 22, 2011 - 9:05 pm

    There is another legend. A native chief used to bring large hunks of gold to the appease the Spanish. No one knew where it came from. Where the gold was weighed, is now the location of one of the oldest missions in California. Could there be a connection?

    Oh, and the bear is supposed to be on the flag. There used to be grizzly bears in California but they were hunted to extinction. Not so long ago really. There could conceivably be a person living who saw the last big California Grizzly.

    Reply
  72. John -  June 22, 2011 - 10:58 am

    Jen, what r u high on?…..“rolling golden hills” is NOT the reason California is called the “Golden State”. For your edification: It is called the Golden State because of the GOLD RUSH!
    Heard of it? What? No? Well, you need to research it. Just like the rest of the ignorants.

    Reply
  73. rbrtwbrwn -  June 22, 2011 - 10:37 am

    I am close to agreeing with Jen, but I thought it was their state flower, the California poppy, that gave the hills their golden color and the state its nickname.

    Reply
  74. Evelyn -  June 22, 2011 - 10:34 am

    Courtney, you need to go back to elementary school and learn a little bit about American history. All of our culture is derived from the mixing of other cultures during the formative years of the US. So saying California sounds American rather than Spanish is a ridiculous and ignorant statement. Spanish came first, then “American”.

    Reply
  75. Jen -  June 22, 2011 - 9:58 am

    Part of the reason why California is called the “Golden State” is because of it’s “rolling golden hills”. When the mountains’ & hills’ grass turns dry, it turns into this beautiful gold color.

    Reply
  76. Ray Shell -  June 22, 2011 - 9:46 am

    That’s so cool! I think it is such a coincidence that they would have a legend about the state being famous for its gold before they even discovered it.

    Reply
  77. RAIV -  June 22, 2011 - 9:03 am

    @ Anonymous

    English-speakers tend to write Cortéz. The why beats me (maybe the final letter sounds like your z instead of s), but the correct spelling is Cortés.

    Reply
  78. Faceoff112163 -  May 17, 2011 - 8:55 pm

    It’s sound s interesting like when the early discoverer of California “said it was an island”. Where them they got this notion.

    Reply
  79. hello friend -  May 17, 2011 - 8:40 pm

    hahaha omg that is hilarious! it sounds like a mistake I would make lol

    Reply
  80. dsafgrat -  May 17, 2011 - 8:21 pm

    There is really supposed to be a pear on californias flag,not a bear.

    Reply
  81. anonymous -  May 17, 2011 - 8:15 pm

    lol I live in California and I never knew that was how they named California!

    By the way Courtny, whether California sounds Spanish or not, it is STILL Spanish (I personally think it sounds pretty Spanish…)

    Marco A. Cruz, I’ve seen it spelled both ways so I guess both are correct…

    It would be really weird if I went to Santa Cruz only to realize it was gold… ;)

    Reply
  82. ART -  May 17, 2011 - 7:35 pm

    GREATTTT :D

    Reply
  83. sherryyu -  April 12, 2011 - 4:01 pm

    LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  84. hi -  April 5, 2011 - 7:59 am

    what? u r so un real. i live in california and it will not sink in 2012. unless your stupid.

    Reply
  85. jo -  April 5, 2011 - 7:52 am

    i don’t even care, How did Utah get it’s name?

    Reply
  86. Luna -  April 5, 2011 - 7:25 am

    Wow!I didn’t Know that…… :P

    Reply
  87. zzzzx -  March 8, 2011 - 6:15 am

    I would just like to say that Los Angeles does NOT sound ‘american’ it in fact it sounds as spanish as it is its meaning in spanish is ‘the angels’

    Reply
  88. Neil Gándara -  February 26, 2011 - 9:28 am

    Curiously, the Chinese name for California translates as “Gold Mountain.” But this may be more for the fact that California became better known to the Chinese as a result of the Gold rush after 1849. Many Chinese laborers came in search of fortyniner gold and later built the railroads. To this day, San Francisco is home to the largest Chinatown district on the West Coast.

    Reply
  89. Wrath of Bong -  February 16, 2011 - 9:19 am

    I cannot read compas; it is retarded.

    Reply
  90. web hosting -  February 15, 2011 - 8:02 pm

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    Reply
  91. John -  February 10, 2011 - 9:10 pm

    Courtny asks: how is the name california a spanish word? it sounds american.

    It sounds as American as Los Angeles, San Francisco…

    Reply
  92. Anothny -  February 1, 2011 - 8:05 am

    :) :( :@ :o :P Ilikefaces

    Reply
  93. Jim -  February 1, 2011 - 8:04 am

    Cali forn means hot oven in Catalan (north east Iberian peninsula). Coincidence? I think not.

    Reply
  94. Marco A. Cruz -  January 5, 2011 - 4:25 pm

    The correct name is Hernán Cortés (with “s” instead “z”).

    Reply
  95. oluchi moses -  January 5, 2011 - 1:51 am

    it has be a good day to very one who made it possibly form generation to hear them . THANKS AND GOD WILL BLESS HIM OR HER

    Reply
  96. Alana Huxley -  January 2, 2011 - 5:47 pm

    Wow, this makes living in Cali interesting.

    Reply
  97. Rob -  December 31, 2010 - 3:07 pm

    @ AHodges – about that Led Zeppelin song “Going to California”.
    I heard it was about Joni Mitchell, whom Robert Plant had a thing for, and it was an allusion to her earlier song “I Had a King.” It is ironic how well the lyrics fit this legend too:
    “To find a Queen without a king,
    They say she plays guitar and cries and sings”

    Also, great song thanks for letting me listen to it again.

    Reply
  98. yo yo -  December 31, 2010 - 2:42 pm

    California means “El Calor de los Hornos”, that is, Heat of the Ovens

    Reply
  99. angel_of_knowledge -  December 30, 2010 - 9:15 pm

    It’s funny how much misunderstandings can shape the future.

    Reply
  100. Orazio -  December 30, 2010 - 9:27 am

    Many, many thanks for your nice and useful considerations. It’s surprising that everything, in human world, could be interpreted in a various and singular way. Really, nothing bears by pure change; so every assumption can have a piece of truth. We should enrich our mind by different and unknown ideas from others and, eventually, answer taking own reliable considerations.
    Have, you all, a very Happy New Year ! Orazio

    Reply
  101. LOL -  December 29, 2010 - 4:57 pm

    just imagine an island with golden sand LOL

    Reply
  102. Robert S. -  December 29, 2010 - 4:21 pm

    Maybe they got confused with Catalina Island, 26 miles off the coast of California.

    Reply
  103. jay bang -  December 29, 2010 - 2:38 pm

    hey that was so intesting

    Reply
  104. David Adams -  December 29, 2010 - 2:13 pm

    If explorers started exploring California from the South, they might have easily pictured it as an island. The Baja California peninsula is very, very long and has water on what must have seemed like all sides–until the eastern side explorers told the western side explorers, ” Whoa! Hold it! Stop! Mark twain! or Land, ho!” or whatever they said back then to let them know the water eventually stops on the eastern side.

    On the other hand, it will probably BECOME an island when the BIG ONE finally hits, and it breaks off from the US. We’ll find those old maps; pull them out and use them. It will be considered one of the greatest—albeit long-lived—cartographic foresights!

    Reply
  105. Anonynous -  December 29, 2010 - 2:13 pm

    Boring… =(

    Reply
  106. Isa -  December 29, 2010 - 2:06 pm

    To bad California will sink in 2012!!! :D

    Reply
  107. Roberto E. P. -  December 29, 2010 - 2:01 pm

    Hey Megan, “California” is the name of the mythical island where Queen Califa rules in the book “Las Sergas de Esplandián” (Second Paragraph).

    Very interesting post, I got lots of family in California.

    Reply
  108. Yalia -  December 29, 2010 - 1:31 pm

    I did NOT know that, hehe.

    Reply
  109. walid -  December 29, 2010 - 12:33 pm

    It seems that everything around us has a hidden story to be solved. Thanks alot for those who are working in this project, as it were…

    Reply
  110. donald RSA -  December 29, 2010 - 12:10 pm

    is it true? if so, this the first truth i have heared from america.

    Reply
  111. SweetPretzel -  December 29, 2010 - 12:04 pm

    Lol, that’s very cool :):)

    Reply
  112. Gary -  December 29, 2010 - 11:29 am

    This is delightful. Much like Columbus mistook the people he found as Indians and the land as America by some German guy who took the works of Amerigo Vasbucci (sp?).

    What else don’t we know?

    Keep up the good works Dictionary.com!

    Say! How about names, given and sur; can you guys do names?

    With much thanks and praise,

    Gary, aka, Hunting Dog, aka, Spear Holder!

    Reply
  113. meee -  December 29, 2010 - 10:37 am

    im from california! :)

    Reply
  114. Erica -  December 29, 2010 - 9:54 am

    I find that hilarious. We were an island then, and once that fault breaks we will be an island again!

    Reply
  115. gabriel vega -  December 29, 2010 - 8:44 am

    this is a cool story i just learned a bunch of stuff i didnt know lol

    Reply
  116. Logan Jarzorbacher -  December 29, 2010 - 8:22 am

    Very intresting story. I remeber hearing of such a legend when I was a little boy.

    P.S-Please excuse my email adress, drnutsacker@gmail.com, because I created it when I was 12.

    Reply
  117. Juan N -  December 29, 2010 - 7:58 am

    Is there a map showing the way California was depicted?

    Reply
  118. Jen -  December 29, 2010 - 7:11 am

    I wonder if Mr. de Montelvo received any royalties from that?

    Reply
  119. Adonis Ramos -  December 29, 2010 - 7:09 am

    Thanks: I thought its name came after two latin words: cali (CALOR/HOT) adn FORNIA (an old spanish word (FORNO) for HORNO/OVEN). Now I can talk to my students about this interesting information. Ciao

    Reply
  120. Meghan -  December 29, 2010 - 6:54 am

    So how did California get its name? Was it derived from Queen Califa? This post just tells how California got its nickname.

    Reply
  121. Calificano -  December 29, 2010 - 6:49 am

    more incorrect information. Manifest Destiny is a piece of shit.

    Reply
  122. bgates -  December 29, 2010 - 4:12 am

    Fascinating.

    Reply
  123. B wammy -  December 28, 2010 - 7:30 pm

    ooh la la

    Reply
  124. Sydney -  December 28, 2010 - 7:22 pm

    this is pretty COOL!!!

    Reply
  125. Squirrel Nutkin -  December 28, 2010 - 6:37 pm

    I’m guessing that it is no coincidence that a Spanish romance writen in that area uses a name like “Califa” for the female ruler, sounding like it was a made-up feminine version of Caliph in Spanish.

    Reply
  126. L -  December 28, 2010 - 5:51 pm

    that’s super cool!! Now I wanna visit Cali

    Reply
  127. Pinki -  December 28, 2010 - 5:41 pm

    @Forever Me: Yeah, me neither. Isn’t it funny that its name proved itself three hundred years later?

    Reply
  128. Marx Lenn Mendoza -  December 28, 2010 - 4:39 pm

    ahm so it means that california was derived the name of queen califa? that’s how i understand it…

    Reply
  129. Jasper Jane -  December 28, 2010 - 4:09 pm

    Sound’s interesting! Hope somebody make a movie on California, Gold, Queen Califa…..

    Reply
  130. Noetta -  December 28, 2010 - 2:22 pm

    Oh Brother!

    Reply
  131. Anonymous -  December 28, 2010 - 2:04 pm

    That’s very interesting. :)

    Reply
  132. David Marquez -  December 28, 2010 - 1:10 pm

    It is an absurdity to assert, that this fantasy island, would have been called ‘California’, supposedly because of some queen named “Califa”.

    If that had actually been the case, then this imaginary island would have been named ‘Califa’, and it is inconceivable, that there should be any reason for the author to add a completely unnecessary, and illogical suffix, such as ‘ornia’.

    The Latin “Calidus Fornay”, or the Frankish Germano/Latin “Cali ferne”, makes FAR better sense, than any so-called “Queen Califa”.

    Reply
  133. fernando casas -  December 28, 2010 - 12:50 pm

    Hey,
    Wow…that was really interesting and inlightening to me in part that I am from california, born and raised, and my family’s last name and bloodline are from strong Spaniard descent.It was also very intiguing how unintential truth was surfaced later on that there was infact gold in California as was stated in the myths of old.Thank you for giving me a chance to further my knowledge on the history of my home state.
    From the Golden State,
    Respectfully,
    Mr Fernando Casas

    Reply
  134. David Marquez -  December 28, 2010 - 12:49 pm

    I do believe, that credit should also be given to the French novel, “LA CHANSON DE ROLAND”, in which the fantasy land, of “Califerne”, first appears, and was after all, the inspiration for the name used in “SERGAS”.

    Reply
  135. paula shene -  December 28, 2010 - 12:09 pm

    Founded on misconception but a beautiful state not withstanding mudslides, droughts, earthquakes, and Hollywood. The Redwoods, the coast, the forest that still remain are a fitting highway on up into another beautiful state – Oregon.

    Reply
  136. Forever Me -  December 28, 2010 - 11:59 am

    Cool, I never knew this before!

    Reply
  137. The Writing Goddess -  December 28, 2010 - 11:41 am

    There’s actually a very cool sculpture garden in Northen San Diego County designed around the Queen CalifIA (guess some variations omit the second “i”) theme. http://www.queencalifia.org/

    HIGHLY recommended.

    Reply
  138. Charles Transue -  December 28, 2010 - 11:37 am

    Too bad its moniker doesn’t translate into curing its debt.

    Reply
  139. Don Douglas -  December 28, 2010 - 10:43 am

    I think “The Golden State” derives from the color of the hillsides in summer when the arid climate turns the grasses a golden color, not from the discovery of gold.

    Reply
  140. Mark C. P. -  December 28, 2010 - 9:58 am

    I never knew that there was that much history in the name California, but I wonder how the explorers thought it was an island.

    Reply
  141. Moot -  December 28, 2010 - 9:47 am

    They could use some of that gold about now.

    Reply
  142. Amado Espino -  December 28, 2010 - 9:20 am

    so there is a base for the confusion since the first part of california europeans arrived was baja california, which is a peninsula, easy to be taken for an island…california was divided under the spaniards in baja california, which means lower california, partly still mexican, and high or upper california.

    Reply
  143. Lilliana -  December 28, 2010 - 8:53 am

    what up with the bear? why not do an article on that?

    Reply
  144. jay -  December 28, 2010 - 8:53 am

    hey why is there an black bear in the california flag? i thought it was for fun but it is real. have a wnderfull day

    Reply
  145. CALIFORNIA | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  December 28, 2010 - 8:28 am

    [...] CALIFORNIA — Sliding slowly into the Ocean — Thus named prophetically by Cortez or by fault of an earthquake motion. — If Southern California had predicted all the rain — they wouldn’t have had to steal the Colorado River for the water — it’s insane. — Baja Ha — Lalalala lalala. –>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

    Reply
  146. TOM LAWSON -  December 28, 2010 - 8:25 am

    Nice Story. Unfortunately for Californian’s there’s no more gold in them hills….just massive debt!

    Reply
  147. Ami -  December 28, 2010 - 7:49 am

    That’s interesting

    Reply
  148. AHodges -  December 28, 2010 - 6:30 am

    This sheds new light on Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.” Nice!

    Reply
  149. Lilliana -  December 28, 2010 - 6:13 am

    Imagine thinking you discovered a mythical island! thanks for informing me I am going to have to look up an english copy of “Las Sergas de Esplandián.” Of course though, only girls would posess so much gold.
    GIRL POWER!!!!

    Reply
  150. c. Imam -  December 28, 2010 - 6:11 am

    I’m talking about Queen Califa. The ruler of Arabia used to call as Khalifa. This word is also taken in English as Caliph. Spain was ruled by Arabs hundred years, therefore several Arabic words in modified forms are entered into Spanish. But there is no ‘Kh’ sound in Spanish language. So, the writer Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo wrote the queen’s name as Califa.

    Reply
  151. Stephanie -  December 28, 2010 - 4:43 am

    Wow gold lol

    Reply
  152. courtney -  December 28, 2010 - 4:27 am

    how is the name california a spanish word? it sounds american.

    Reply
  153. Sebastian -  December 28, 2010 - 3:15 am

    Before the era of the frontier spirits, there was a myth of the island of California.

    Reply
  154. deepthi novel -  December 28, 2010 - 2:10 am

    very interestng

    Reply
  155. kongcheng -  December 28, 2010 - 1:23 am

    great article. so informative

    Reply
  156. Laurenzo -  December 28, 2010 - 12:06 am

    The golden state of California! Oooh, so thats how it got its name.
    Queen califa must have been a really spendthrift narcissist from the looks of it!

    But gold was discovered only 300 years later.

    Was there a hidden supply cache of gold or perhaps the original tribes or residents had furnished their properties with a cheaper, inferior element lets say, fool’s gold, pyrite?

    I frankly wouldn’t be suprised. Back then it would have been pretty tedious to assay the value of true gold with the primitive technology they owned.

    Now whos going to blog about El Dorado?

    Reply

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