Baloo's Bugle

October 2007 Cub Scout Roundtable Issue

Volume 14, Issue 3
November 2007 Theme

Theme: Indian Nations
Webelos: Craftsman & Readyman
Tiger Cub
Requirement 5


Native American Place Names

Scouter Jim, Bountiful, Utah

Many American places have been named after Indian words. In fact, about more than half of the our states got their names from Native American words. The word "Podunk," meant to describe a insignificant town out in the middle of nowhere, comes from a Natick Indian word meaning "swampy place."

First the States -

1.    Alabama: may come from Choctaw meaning "thicket-clearers" or "vegetation-gatherers."

2.    Alaska: corruption of Aleut word meaning "great land" or "that which the sea breaks against."

3.    Arizona: from the Indian "Arizonac," meaning "little spring" or "young spring."

4.    Arkansas: from the Quapaw Indians.

5.    Connecticut: from an Indian word (Quinnehtukqut) meaning "beside the long tidal river."

6.    Idaho: a Shoshoni Indian exclamation.

7.    Illinois: Algonquin for "tribe of superior men."

8.    Indiana: meaning "land of Indians."

9.    Iowa: probably from an Indian word meaning "this is the place" or "the Beautiful Land."

10. Kansas: from a Sioux word meaning "people of the south wind."

11. Kentucky: from an Iroquoian word "Ken-tah-ten" meaning "land of tomorrow."

12. Massachusetts: from Massachusett tribe of Native Americans, meaning "at or about the great hill."

13. Michigan: from Indian word "Michigana" meaning "great or large lake."

14. Minnesota: from a Dakota Indian word meaning "sky-tinted water."

15. Mississippi (state and river): from an Indian word meaning "Father of Waters."

16. Missouri: named after the Missouri Indian tribe. "Missouri" means "town of the large canoes."

17. Nebraska: from an Oto Indian word meaning "flat water."

18. North Dakota: from the Sioux tribe, meaning "allies."

19. Ohio: from an Iroquoian word meaning "great river."

20. Oklahoma: from two Choctaw Indian words meaning "red people."

21. South Dakota: from the Sioux tribe, meaning "allies."

22. Tennessee: of Cherokee origin; the exact meaning is unknown.

23. Texas: from an Indian word meaning "friends."

24. Utah: from the Ute tribe, meaning "people of the mountains."

25. Wisconsin: French corruption of an Indian word whose meaning is disputed.

26. Wyoming: from the Delaware Indian word, meaning "mountains and valleys alternating"; the same as the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania.

Now other places -

Achusnet- possibly a variation of the Indian words meaning “at the hill.”

Agawam- suggests “flat meadows.”

Aguspemokick (Gould Island)- meaning “short narrow falls.”

Amoskeag- “a fishing place for alewives”

Aquidneck- literally means “floating-mass-at” or simply “at the island.”

Aquinnah (Gay Head on Martha's Vineyeard)- “an island in the water.”

Capowak- “a place closed in by a bend.”

Chappaquiddik- from cheppiaquidne, “separated land.”

Chibacoweda (Patience Island)- meaning “separated by a passage.

Chicago (Illinois): Algonquian for "garlic field."
Chesapeake (bay): Algonquian name of a village.

Conockonqut (Rose Island)- meaning “place at the long point.”

Erie means ‘long-tailed’ in their Iroquoian language.

Malibu (California): believed to come from the Chumash Indians.

Manhattan (New York): Algonquian, believed to mean "isolated thing in water."

Mattapusit- “a sitting down place” indicating an end of portage where the canoe is landed.

Milwaukee (Wisconsin): Algonquian, believed to mean "a good spot or place."

Missituk (Mystic)- missi-tuk, “great river.”

Mushawn-meaning “he goes by boat.”

Namasket-namas-ket, “at the fish place.”

Nantusiunk (Goat Island)- means “narrow ford or strait.

Narragansett (Rhode Island): named after the Indian tribe.

Narragansett- means “at the small narrow point.”

Nashoba-from nashaue meaning a fishing place, possibly midway.


Nashua-derived from the word meaning “the land between.”

Naumkeag- meaning “eel land.”

Niagara (falls): named after an Iroquoian town, "Ongiaahra."

Ontario means ‘large lake,’ but other Iroquoian languages like Mohawk have possible root words also, like onitariio ‘beautiful lake’ and kanadario ‘shining water.’

Patuxet-”at the little falls.”

Pemiquid- “at the place where the land slopes.”

Pensacola (Florida): Choctaw for "hair" and "people."
Roanoke (Virginia): Algonquian for "shell money" (Indian tribes often used shells that were made into beads called wampum, as money).
Saratoga (New York): believed to be Mohawk for "springs (of water) from the hillside."

Pocasset- means “where the stream widens.”

Pochet- from the word pohqui or pauke meaning “clear land.”

Pokanoket- means “place of cleared land.”

Quabaug- meaning “where water is.”

Quinnipiac- “long water place.”

Sachuest- “little hill at the outlet.”

Sakonnet Little Comptaon, RI)- “at the river's outlet or discharge.”

Seekonk- possibly from saukonk meaning “at the mouth of outlet.”

Shawmut- corrupted from nashauwamuk, meaning “he goes by boat.”

Sunapee (lake in New Hampshire): Pennacook for "rocky pond."

Tahoe (lake in California/Nevada): Washo for "big water."

Titicut- from kehte-tuk-ut, “on the great river.”

Wannemetonomy- “good mountains (or hills) or “good lookout place.”

Wappewassick (Prudence Island)- meaning “at the narrow straits.”

Winnecowet- possibly “the place of good pine trees.”

The influence of Indian names upon American place names is quickly shown by a glance at the map or atlas. At least twenty-six of the States of the United States have names borrowed from the Native American words, and the same thing is true of many North American rivers and mountains, and of large numbers of U.S. towns and counties.  One of America’s largest river, and the greatest American water-fall, and three of the five Great Lakes all have names of Native American origins

Want more on names??

Go to and they have sections on

About Indian Names for Kids     About Native American Names  Learn about the meaning behind Native American names.

Indian names-presenting to the Cosmos     Presenting the Child to the Cosmos  Native Americans have a strong unity with nature. Shortly after birth, Native American children ae presented to the Cosmos in ceremonies described through this link.

Indian names - Giving the Child a Name  Giving the Child a Name Children are given names through this moccasin ceremony.

Indian Names - Bestowing a new name     Bestowing a New Name Occasionally, Native Americans may be bestowed with a new name demonstrating an accomplishment in their life.

Indian Names - Taking an Indian name in camp     Taking a Native American Name in Camp

Indian names for boys     Names for Boys A list of Native American names for boys and their meanings.

Indian names for girls     Names for Girls A list of Native American names for girls and their meanings.

Indian names for camps     Names for Camps  A list of Native American names for camps and their meanings.


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