American Indian Place Names

Published on March 1, 2013 by Amy

Love this article and want to save it to read again later? Add it to your favourites! To find all your favourite posts, check out My Favourites on the menu bar.

American Indian Place Names
American Indian Place Names

American places have been named after Indian words. In fact, about half of the states got their names from Indian words. The name of Kentucky comes from an Iroquoian word (Kentahten), which means “land of tomorrow.” Connecticut’s name comes from the Mohican word (Quinnehtukqut), which means “beside the long tidal river.” And the word “Podunk,” meant to describe a insignificant town out in the middle of nowhere, comes from a Natick Indian word meaning “swampy place.”

dna testing, dna ancestry testing, ancestry, genealogy, indian genealogy records, paternity testing, turquoise jewelry, native american jewelry

Alabama: may come from Choctaw meaning “thicket-clearers” or “vegetation-gatherers.”

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

Arizona: from the Indian “Arizonac,” meaning “little spring” or “young spring.”

Arkansas: from the Quapaw Indians.

Chicago (Illinois): Algonquian for “garlic field.”

Chesapeake (bay): Algonquian name of a village.

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

Illinois: Algonquin for “tribe of superior men.”

Indiana: meaning “land of Indians.”

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

Kansas: from a Sioux word meaning “people of the south wind.”

Kentucky: from an Iroquoian word “Ken-tah-ten” meaning “land of tomorrow.”

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

Michigan: from Indian word “Michigana” meaning “great or large lake.”

Minnesota: from a Dakota Indian word meaning “sky-tinted water.”

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

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

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

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

Missouri: named after the Missouri Indian tribe. “Missouri” means “town of the large canoes.”

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

Nebraska: from an Oto Indian word meaning “flat water.”

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

North Dakota: from the Sioux tribe, meaning “allies.”

Ohio: from an Iroquoian word meaning “great river.”

Oklahoma: from two Choctaw Indian words meaning “red people.”

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.”

South Dakota: from the Sioux tribe, meaning “allies.”

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

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

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

Texas: from an Indian word meaning “friends.”

Utah: from the Ute tribe, meaning “people of the mountains.”

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

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

Source: infoplease Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
Cite This Source | Link To American Indian Place Names
Add these citations to your bibliography. Select the text below and then copy and paste it into your document.

American Psychological Association (APA):

American Indian Place Names Unabridged. Retrieved May 29, 2015, from website:

Chicago Manual Style (CMS):

American Indian Place Names Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia (accessed: May 29, 2015).

Modern Language Association (MLA):

"American Indian Place Names" Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia 29 May. 2015. <>.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):, "American Indian Place Names" in Unabridged. Source location: Native American Encyclopedia Available: Accessed: May 29, 2015.

BibTeX Bibliography Style (BibTeX)

@ article {NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com2015,
    title = { Unabridged},
    month = May,
    day = 29,
    year = 2015,
    url = {},
You might also like:

Tags:  , , , , ,

Facebook Comments

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Latest Articles
Did You Know?

Did you know that the Mayan Indian people taught the world the concept of 'zero'? True! It was known to the Mayan people over 1,000 years before being introduced to Europe by Arabs in A.D. 800. Surprised yet?

In the Spotlight
Most Favourited Posts
Photo Galleries
Native American Tribe CowichanNative American Tribe ChinookNative American Politicians INative American Tribe Apache II