Indiana University Hoosier Nickname Explained

The flagship campus of the Indiana University system is the site located in Bloomington, Indiana where Indiana University with a student population of over 40,000 proudly go by the nickname the Indiana Hoosiers.

The official name for citizens of the state of Indiana is the Hoosiers. The name Hoosiers derives from the nickname officially adopted by the State of Indiana over 150 years ago when a group of state representatives chose to henceforth be known as the “Hoosier State.” While the exact origin of the now well-known term is not precisely known it is believed that the word has been around since at least 1830.

One of the most commonly recognized explanations for the derivation of the word Hoosiers is that it comes from the Cumberland dialect of old England where a similar sounding word (“hoozer”) was said to mean anything of substantial size, such as a hill. While Indiana topography is not traditionally thought of as being mountainous it can in fact be quite hilly. Based on geographical surroundings those who initially inhabited what is now the hilly Southern region of Indiana were often referred to as hill dwellers and subsequently adopted the Hoozer nickname which was later adapted to Hoosiers.

While the previously described explanation is still unsubstantiated conjecture there are other theories as to how the term Hoosiers was created and tied to the good people of Indiana. One of the more colorful explanations is based on the wide open spaces that dominated the Indiana landscape. In the early days of settling, cabin dwellers would have to yell out at approaching individuals to determine if they were friend or foe. A common message often shouted was one asking, “Who’s there?” When heard from a far enough distance and with a certain ascent the phrase “who’s there” can be jumbled into sounded akin to Hoosier.

Another tale dating back to the early settling days describes the scene as one with prevalent violence and common fighting in the streets. The settlers were said to be so vicious that it was near common place for missing teeth and bitten off ears to be left behind after intense brawls. The result of these fights relates to the Hoosier nickname because as legend has it hearing an onlooker quip “whose ear?” was a common occurrence. It is widely believed that this explanation relating the phonics of “whose ear” with “Hoosier” should be taken with at least a few grains of salt.

Regardless of which explanation you buy into it is clear that the state of Indiana has an interesting history and the memory of that past is preserved in both the state nickname (The Hoosier State) and in the flagship university: the Indiana University Hoosiers.

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