Penn State vs. Ohio State: What is a Nittany Lion?

SHARE Penn State vs. Ohio State: What is a Nittany Lion?

You’re probably sitting there watching the Ohio State-Penn State game right now, wishing someone would score to spice things up. You may be wondering what else is on, exactly how old Joe Paterno is and if you’re limber enough to dot the “i” in Ohio.

But one thing we know you’re wondering is, “just what is a Nittany Lion?’


The origins of Nittany are a bit obscure, but most likely the word comes from a Native American term meaning, single mountain. (Since a number of Algonquian-speaking tribes inhabited central Pennsylvania, the term can’t be traced to one single group.) The description applied to the mountain that separates what is today Penns Valley and Nittany Valley, with its western end overlooking the community of State College and Penn Sate’s University Park campus. The first colonial settlers in the 1700s adopted this term, or a variation of it, in formally naming Nittany Mountain. Thus by the time Penn State admitted its first students in 1859, the word Nittany was already in use. Following the emergence of the Nittany Lion mascot in the early 1900s, Nittany gained even more public prominence. Today, the word helps to define a host of places, services, and other entities in the Nittany Valley. Some of those most closely related to Penn State are included here.

Now you know.

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