State of Missouri
Flag of MissouriState seal of Missouri
Nickname(s): Show Me State, Cave State, and Mother of the West
Motto(s): Salus populi suprema lex esto (Latin) Let the good of the people be the supreme law
State song(s): "Missouri Waltz"
Map of the United States with Missouri highlighted
Official languageEnglish
Spoken languages
CapitalJefferson City
Largest cityKansas City
Largest metroGreater St. Louis
AreaRanked 21st
 • Total69,714 sq mi
(180,560 km2)
 • Width240 miles (390 km)
 • Length300 miles (480 km)
 • % water1.17
 • Latitude36° 0′ N to 40° 37′ N
 • Longitude89° 6′ W to 95° 46′ W
PopulationRanked 18th
 • Total6,113,532 (2017 est.)[1]
 • Density87.1/sq mi  (33.7/km2)
Ranked 30th
 • Median household income$59,196[2] (22nd)
 • Highest pointTaum Sauk Mountain[3]
1,772 ft (540 m)
 • Mean800 ft  (244 m)
 • Lowest pointSt. Francis River at Arkansas border
230 ft (70 m)
Before statehoodMissouri Territory
Admission to UnionAugust 10, 1821 (24th)
GovernorMike Parson (R)
Lieutenant GovernorMike Kehoe (R)
LegislatureMissouri General Assembly
 • Upper houseSenate
 • Lower houseHouse of Representatives
U.S. SenatorsClaire McCaskill (D)
Roy Blunt (R)
U.S. House delegation6 Republicans
2 Democrats (list)
Time zoneCentral: UTC −6/−5
AbbreviationsMO, Mo.
Missouri state symbols
Flag of Missouri.svg
Seal of Missouri.svg
Living insignia
AmphibianAmerican bullfrog
BirdEastern bluebird
FishChannel catfish
FlowerWhite hawthorn
GrassBig bluestem
Horse breedMissouri Fox Trotter
InsectWestern honey bee
MammalMissouri Mule
TreeFlowering Dogwood
Inanimate insignia
DanceSquare dance
DinosaurHypsibema missouriensis[4]
FoodDessert: Ice cream
MottoSalus populi suprema lex esto (Latin)
Song"Missouri Waltz"
State route marker
Missouri state route marker
State quarter
Missouri quarter dollar coin
Released in 2003
Lists of United States state symbols

Missouri is a state in the Midwestern United States.[5] With over six million residents, it is the 18th-most populous state in the United States. The largest urban areas are Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, and Columbia; the capital is Jefferson City, near the center of the state on the Missouri River. The state is the 21st-most extensive in area. In the South are the Ozarks, a forested highland, providing timber, minerals, and recreation. The Mississippi River forms the eastern border of the state.

Humans have inhabited the land now known as Missouri for at least 12,000 years. The Mississippian culture built cities and mounds, before declining in the 1300s. When European explorers arrived in the 1600s they encountered the Osage and Missouria nations. The French established Louisiana, a part of New France, and founded Ste. Genevieve in 1735 and St. Louis in 1764. After a brief period of Spanish rule, the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Americans from the Upland South, including enslaved African Americans, rushed into the new Missouri Territory. Missouri was admitted as a slave state as part of the Missouri Compromise. Many from Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee settled in the Boonslick area of Mid-Missouri. Soon after, heavy German immigration formed the Missouri Rhineland.

Missouri played a central role in the westward expansion of the United States, as memorialized by the Gateway Arch. The Pony Express, Oregon Trail, Santa Fe Trail, and California Trail all began in Missouri.[6] As a border state, Missouri's role in the American Civil War was complex and there were many conflicts within. After the war, both Greater St. Louis and the Kansas City metropolitan area became centers of industrialization and business. Today, the state is divided into 114 counties and the independent city of St. Louis.

Missouri's culture blends elements from the Midwestern and Southern United States. The musical styles of ragtime, Kansas City jazz, and St. Louis Blues developed in Missouri. The well-known Kansas City-style barbecue, and lesser-known St. Louis-style barbecue, can be found across the state and beyond. St. Louis is also a major center of beer brewing; Anheuser-Busch is the largest producer in the world. Missouri wine is produced in the nearby Missouri Rhineland and Ozarks. Missouri's alcohol laws are among the most permissive in the United States. Outside of the large cities popular tourist destinations include the Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock Lake and Branson.

Well-known Missourians include U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, Chuck Berry and Nelly. Some of the largest companies based in the state include Cerner, Express Scripts, Monsanto, Emerson Electric, Edward Jones, H&R Block, Wells Fargo Advisors and O'Reilly Auto Parts. Missouri has been called the "Mother of the West" and the "Cave State"; however, Missouri's most famous nickname is the "Show Me State."[7]

Etymology and pronunciation

The state is named for the Missouri River, which was named after the indigenous Missouri Indians, a Siouan-language tribe. It is said that they were called the ouemessourita (wimihsoorita[8]), meaning "those who have dugout canoes", by the Miami-Illinois language speakers.[9] This appears to be folk etymology—the Illinois spoke an Algonquian language and the closest approximation that can be made in that of their close neighbors, the Ojibwe, is "You Ought to Go Downriver & Visit Those People."[10] This would be an odd occurrence, as the French who first explored & attempted to settle the Mississippi River usually got their translations during that time fairly accurate, often giving things French names that were exact translations of the native tongue(s).

Assuming Missouri were deriving from the Siouan language, it would translate as "It connects to the side of it," in reference to the river itself.[11] This isn't entirely likely either, as this would be coming out as "Maya Sunni" (Mah-yah soo-nee) Most likely, though, the name Missouri comes from Chiwere language, a fairly unique Siouan dialect spoken by people who resided in the modern day states of Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri & Nebraska.

The name "Missouri" has several different pronunciations even among its present-day natives,[12] the two most common being i/ (About this sound listen) and ə/ (About this sound listen).[13] [14] Further pronunciations also exist in Missouri or elsewhere in the United States, involving the realization of the first syllable as either ə-/ or ɪ-/; the medial consonant as either z/ or s/; the vowel in the second syllable as either ɜːr/ or ʊər/;[15] and the third syllable as [i] (About this sound listen), [ə] (About this sound listen), centralized [ɪ̈] (About this sound listen)), or nothing.[14] Any combination of these phonetic realizations may be observed coming from speakers of American English.

The linguistic history was treated definitively by Donald M. Lance, who acknowledged that the question is sociologically complex, but that no pronunciation could be declared "correct", nor could any be clearly defined as native or outsider, rural or urban, southern or northern, educated or otherwise.[16] Politicians often employ multiple pronunciations, even during a single speech, to appeal to a greater number of listeners.[12] Often, informal respellings of the state's name, such as "Missour-ee" or "Missour-uh", are used informally to phonetically distinguish pronunciations.


There is no official state nickname.[17] However, Missouri's unofficial nickname is the "Show Me State", which appears on its license plates. This phrase has several origins. One is popularly ascribed to a speech by Congressman Willard Vandiver in 1899, who declared that "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri, and you have got to show me." This is in keeping with the saying "I'm from Missouri" which means "I'm skeptical of the matter and not easily convinced."[18] However, according to researchers, the phrase "show me" was already in use before the 1890s.[19] Another one states that it is a reference to Missouri miners who were taken to Leadville, Colorado to replace striking workers. Since the new men were unfamiliar with the mining methods, they required frequent instruction.[17]

Other nicknames for Missouri include "The Lead State", "The Bullion State", "The Ozark State", "The Mother of the West", "The Iron Mountain State", and "Pennsylvania of the West".[20] It is also known as the "Cave State" because there are more than 6,000 recorded caves in the state (second to Tennessee). Perry County is the county with the largest number of caves and the single longest cave.[21]

The official state motto is Latin: "Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto", which means "Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law."[22]