Growing up in Colorado I was drilled in the origin of the name. From elementary school to adulthood I was told over and over that Colorado is Spanish for “color red.” It sounds logical because Colorado sort of sounds like Color Red. The rest of the tale is that it is based on the red in the Colorado River. Again, it almost sounds logical, so it must be true. Even today, a Google search of the origin of the State’s name will usually refer to the same story.
The problem is that “color red” in Spanish is “color rojo” which doesn’t sound quite like Colorado. If that was the real story the name of the State would be Colorojo, or Coloroyo considering how we English-speaking Caucasians butcher other languages.
In addition, rivers in the West can be reddish, but only for relatively short periods of time.
Now that I’m learning some Spanish the origin of Colorado would seem to be logically from the word, “coloured” or “colored,” which, in Spanish means many or multi-colored. Only in Spanish it is pronounced color-ed and if you properly enunciate the final consonant it sounds like “eda.”
The Spanish word for ‘many colored’ would seem to be a more logical explanation for the origin of the name “Colorado,” because if you have actually seen any significant river in and around the West, the colors change depending on season and runoff.
In the Spring and after a thunderstorm the runoff will often put the red, iron laden soil in the river, which can make it reddish; however, that is not the typical color of rivers for the rest of the year. Rivers like the Rio Grande and the Colorado are often a green to deep green color on a summer or fall day, and steel-gray in overcast skies and during winter.
Many colored is not only a more appropriate description of the Colorado river, it is a better description of the State in general. Perhaps we need to stop repeating the tales of early settlers who often made up stuff to impress people on their wisdom and knowledge, and instead used common sense to find the truth about the origin of names, places, and things.