Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Common Words from Native American Language


  Many of the words and phrases we use today came from Native American languages. Of the Native American words borrowed, most come from the Algonquian languages, those first encountered by English settlers in the 1600’s. Examples are: chipmunk, hickory, moose, opossum, persimmon, raccoon, skunk, squash, toboggan, and tomahawk. 
  These language families are spoken by many individual tribes from the Northeastern part of the United States to the Rockies. Mississippi comes from the words for big (mitsi) and river (sitpi) probably Ojibwa or Cree sublanguages. Minnesota is from the Sioux words for water (mni) and  clear (sota)
  A large number of Athabascan and Nahuatl (Middle America) languages stretching from Alaska (great big land) and western Canada (from Laurentian Iroquois kanata [village, wigwams, settlement]) down to the American Southwest and Mexico gave us words like wapiti, igloo, avocado, kayak, cocoa and chocolate. Numerous place names have come from the American Indian languages. They are interesting because the names describe the geography of the area or something about the tribes living there.

Apache -- elk horn fiddlers                                         Appomattox – tobacco country
Arizona -- little spring place                                       Chattanooga—eagle nest
Cherokee – cave people                                              Chesapeake – salty pond
Chicago – place of wild onions, bad smell                  Comanche – snakes
Dakota – friends, allies                                                Delaware – true men
Erie – at the place of the panther                                 Flat Head – sailfish
Haiti – mountainous country                                       Huron– hair style
Idaho – it is morning                                                    Illinois – warriors
Kenosha – long fish                                                      Kokomo – the driver
Kiowa – principle people                                            Macinac - turtle island                                    
Massachusetts – large hill place                                    Manhattan – island
Menominee – wild rice eaters                                       Miami – all beavers, all friends
Michigan – big sea waters                                             Milwaukee – rich land
Monongahela – falling bank                                          Nantucket – far away light
Nebraska – flat water                                                     Ohio – beautiful river
Ojibwa – those who drew pictures                                Oshkosh – claw scratches
Ottawa – traders                                                             Pensacola – hairy people   
Peoria – place of fat beasts                                             Pocahontas – shield
Potomac – burning pines river                                       Pueblo – village dwellers
Roanoke – shell money                                                  Sandusky - large pools of water 
Schenectady – end of trail                                              Seminole – run away people
Shenandoah – hillside stream                                         Sioux – cut throats
Texas – friendly allies                                                     Topeka – potato country
Toronto – meeting place                                                 Tuscaloosa – black warrior
Utah – higher up                                                             Ute – dark skinned 
Walla Walla – many waters                                            Willamette—running water
Wenatchee – rivers coming out of canyon                     Wyoming – large prairie place
Yakima – run away                                                          Yosemite – grizzly bear

Many names for products come from Native American languages. Conestoga means “beautiful magic land” and we walk on Mohawk carpeting, Mohawk meaning “people of the flint”. The auto industry has taken names for some of their vehicles: Jeep “Comanche”, GMC “Denali”, Toyota “Tundra” truck, and Dodge “Dakota”. We use Igloo brand coolers but why would anybody name an RV “Winnebago” which means people of the stinking water”?

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