Topeka, Kansas

Topeka is the capital city of the U.S. state of Kansas and the county seat and most populous city of Shawnee County. It is situated along the Kansas River in the central part of Shawnee County, located in northeast Kansas, in the Central United States. The population was 122,377 at the 2000 census, and it was estimated to be 122,113 in the year 2006. The Topeka Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Shawnee, Jackson, Jefferson, Osage, and Wabaunsee counties, had an estimated population of 226,268 in the year 2003. Three ships of the US Navy have been named USS Topeka in honor of the city.

The name "Topeka" is widely believed to mean "a good place to grow potatoes" in "a tribal language" or in "Indian words". This is nearly correct. More precisely, the languages in question are Kansa and Ioway, and the name in both languages means either "to dig good potatoes" or "a place in which to dig good potatoes": the second variant is the one with the extra syllable, Tó Ppí Okˀé. With only three syllables, Topeka or Tó Ppí Kˀé means "dig good potatoes", and does not refer to a location or to growing potatoes. The name "potato" in this case refers to the prairie potato, a perennial herb which is an important food for many Native Americans.

Although there is considerable disagreement about the precise etymology of "Topeka" among historians, laypersons and various academics, it is worthwhile to note that both of the aforementioned tribes have the same name for the city, and the same meaning. Other claims have proliferated regarding the etymology of "Topeka", including the notion that an association with potatoes is implausible in an area with no potatoes. In fact, the Kansa "tó" refers to prairie potatoes or turnips which are widespread in central North America, and not to Solanum tuberosum. Another claim, made by Kansas State Historical Society Secretary William Connelley (1927), is that the word "Topeka" is derived from the French word tapage, meaning "noise" or "furor", possibly by way of the Tapage band of Pawnees.

The city, laid out in 1854, was one of the Free-State towns founded by Eastern antislavery men immediately after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. In 1857, Topeka was chartered as a city.