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Arizonan vs Arizonian: which one is right?

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Posted at 8:56 PM, Feb 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-11 16:51:37-05

PHOENIX, AZ — Steven Spielberg, Emma Stone, and Meghan McCain are all famous Arizonans. Or are they Arizonians?

Our question about how to refer to those who hail from the Grand Canyon State came up because of a newspaper column in the Lone Star State.

Dallas Morning News columnist Dave Lieber wrote about his thoughts on our state's debate about electricity competition.

In it, he called us Arizonians. But on my recommendation, Lieber changed the reference to it Arizonans.

But if there are Floridians and Alabamians, could he have been on to something with Arizonians?

We reached out to Arizona State University linguist and professor Elly Van Gelderen to find out.

"There is no right or wrong," she said. But Van Gelderen says we were actually Arizonians first.

She says the Oxford English Dictionary shows the earliest recorded reference in an 1857 article from a newspaper in Evansville, Indiana that described "great excitement between the Sonorians and the Arizonians."

It was used in Territorial newspapers too.

According to the Arizona State Library, Tubac-based newspaper called The Weekly Arizonian started publishing in 1859.

The use of the word continued into the early 1900s with the Duncan Arizonian which began publishing in 1908.

The first reference of Arizonan doesn't show up until 1866 in a Jackson, Mississippi newspaper.

Van Gelderan says it's not clear when Arizonan became more popular but it is by far.

"Whether one is better or not, that's not up to me to say," she said.

So whether you're a modern-day Arizonan or an old school Arizonian, you can't go wrong.