originally the name of the river, from Dakota (Siouan) mnisota, literally "cloudy water, milky water," from mni "river, stream" + sota "slightly clouded." As the name of a U.S. territory from 1849 (admitted as a state 1858). Related: Minnesotan (by 1867).
city in Minnesota, U.S., founded 1850s and named for French pioneer explorer Daniel Greysolon, sieur du Luth, "the Robin Hood of Canada," the leader of the coureurs de bois, who passed through the region in 1678 on a mission into the wilderness.
also north-west, Old English norþwest (adv.) "to a point or in a direction between north and west;" from north + west. As a noun, "region or locality lying in the northwest of a country," and adjective from late 14c.
In U.S. geography it was at first, the territory that later became Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and northeastern Minnesota (1787); after about 1853 the term was applied to the unorganized territory north of Nebraska, west of Minnesota, and east of the Rockies. Pacific Northwest, describing Oregon and Washington, is by 1874. Related: Northwestern; northwesterly; northwestward (late 14c.).
Northwest Passage as the name of an at-first hypothetical sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific by the northern coasts of North America, first attested c. 1600. The Northwest Ordinance (1787) was an act of Congress to organize the territory beyond the Appalachian Mountains between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River.
1926 in the U.S. geographical sense, from earlier Midwestern (1889) in reference to a group of states originally listed as West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas, and Arkansas; it now generally refers to states somewhat north and west of these (according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin). Related: Midwesterner.
1916, "real estate agent," American English, as though an agent noun from realty, coined by real estate agent Charles N. Chadbourn of Minneapolis, Minn., to distinguish the legitimate section of the business; popularized 1920s; patented as Realtor by the National Association of Real Estate Boards.
The 1916 Convention of the National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB) approved the adoption of the term as the official designation of an active member of the Association. In 1920 the District Court of Hennepin County, Minnesota, decided in favor of the Realtors in a case against a telephone directory publisher that had indiscriminately used the word in listings. The court asserted that the word "had never been used in any way whatsoever until so invented" and could thus be used only by those duly licensed by the National Association of Real Estate Boards. Until the Lanham Acts of 1948 changed federal patent regulations to allow protection for registered collective marks, the National Association fought and won sixteen cases on the local and state levels to protect its symbolic property. [Jeffrey M. Hornstein, "The Rise of Realtor," in "The Middling Sorts: Explorations in the History of the American Middle Class," New York, 2001]