Word Etymologies: A Theory on the Origin of “Hoosier”

"The origin and original meaning of the word 'Hoosier' have been much debated in the past and there are already several interesting humorous etymologies current. . . . The term most accepted in scholarly circles and the one that makes most sense to me was presented by H. L. Mencken, [who] pointed out that, before the state was founded, ‘hoosier’ was used ‘in Tennessee, and the Carolinas and even in parts of Virginia to indicate a mountaineer or any other uncouth rustic.’ . . . One of the problems with the accepted explanation of the term is that if ‘hoosier’ was a word in wide use in the mid-South before Indiana was settled, before 1800 that is, why is the word not known in Great Britain? . . . No one who has written on the term ‘hoosier’ has, as far as I know, mentioned the family name Hoosier and its possible significance in showing how old the term might be. . . . The family name Hoosier would seem to indicate that the word ‘hoosier,' meaning a wild, uncouth person, has been used in Great Britain for a long time. It was brought to this country and flourished in the mid-South where it retained its meaning. It was eventually applied to the resident of Indiana and has been retained until today because its original meaning has been forgotten. . . . The main problem with this explanation for the name 'Hoosier' is that it is far too complex to be widely dispersed and accepted."

“Hoosier and Family Names,” in Viewpoints, 51-52.