American colony, later U.S. state, 1681, literally "Penn's Woods," a hybrid formed from the surname Penn (Welsh, literally "head") + Latin sylvania (see sylvan). Not named for William Penn, the proprietor, but, on suggestion of Charles II, for Penn's late father, Admiral William Penn (1621-1670), who had lent the king the money that was repaid to the son in the form of land for a Quaker settlement in America. The story goes that the younger Penn wanted to call it New Wales, but the king's secretary, a Welshman of orthodox religion, wouldn't hear of it. Pennsylvania Dutch (adj.) in reference to the German communities of the state, which retained their customs and language, is attested from 1824.
updated on March 21, 2020