1663, North American colony named for King Charles II (the Latin form of the male proper name is Carolus). Earlier French colonists had called the region Caroline (1564) in honor of Charles IX, King of France, and a 1629 grant here by Charles I of England was named Carolana.

The name at first referred to modern South Carolina, but the tract originally included North Carolina and Georgia; North Carolina first was used 1691, in reference to settlements made from Virginia. The official division into north and south dates from 1710. Used generically in forming species names in botany and zoology from 1734. Related: Carolinian.