Etymology of California
California is a place name used by three North American states: in the United States by the state of California, and in Mexico by the states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. Collectively, these three areas constitute the region formerly referred to as Las Californias. The name California is shared by many other places in other parts of the world whose names derive from the original. The name "California" was applied to the territory now known as the state of California by one or more Spanish explorers in the 16th century and was probably a reference to a mythical land described in a popular novel of the time: Las Sergas de Esplandián. Several other origins have been suggested for the word "California", including Spanish, Latin, South Asian, and Aboriginal American origins. All of these are disputed.
California originally referred to the entire region composed of the Baja California peninsula now known as Mexican Baja California and Baja California Sur, and upper mainland now known as the U.S. states of California and parts of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming. After Mexico's independence from Spain, the upper territory became the Alta California province. In even earlier times, the boundaries of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean coastlines were only partially explored and California was shown on early maps as an island. The Sea of Cortez is also known as the Gulf of California.