List of place names in New England of aboriginal origin


List of place names in New England of aboriginal origin

This is a List of place names in New England of aboriginal origin. New England is in the northeastern part of the United States, and comprises six states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Listed are well-known names of towns, significant bodies of water, and mountains. This list is a work-in-progress, and is not meant to be comprehensive, as several thousand names exist.

Formation and transmission of names

All the names in this section come to us only through persons whose first language was English and only rarely knew any other. From the few sources who were bilingual we are fortunate to have some concept of how some of the names were segmented in the languages from which they came. Those names often tend to predominate lists such as these, just because they are more easily understood.

Most names were received by English settlers who had little idea what they meant. Being naturally curious, they asked the natives what the names meant or conjectured among themselves or both. The natives were faced with having to explain the name in a language they knew but rudimentarily. They interpreted freely, often giving the use or features of interest about the place rather than trying to explain the elements of their language to the English. They never had a linguist's understanding of the structure of their language. Their descendants, speaking primarily English, no longer knew how to produce meaningful utterances in the language of their native forefathers.

Consequently the names can be divided into roughly two categories: those for which the original morphology is known to some degree and those for which it is not. The meanings of the latter category are traditional only, but the tradition may not necessarily descend from a native speaker. It may have been a settler's conjecture, passed on through the social mechanism of the sacred words of the forefathers or simply because no other interpretation was available.

The mechanism can be seen most clearly in names for which both categories of meaning exist. You might read that a name is supposed to mean "the place of portage" or "the pines" when in fact those meanings are not even implied by the morphology of the name. It is entirely possible, however, that those places were used for those purposes. On the other hand some settler may have guessed that they were used for those purposes. In cases where there is no morphology there is little point in argument over the "correct meaning" of the name, an activity enjoyed by New Englanders since settlement times, and which also you will undoubtedly see much of in Wikipedia.

New England in the early 17th century when English colonists first landed was tenanted by variously named tribes for the most part speaking languages of the Algonquian family. Our aboriginals spoke an eastern branch of the group. It often happened that whole regions were named after the tribe inhabiting it, such as Massachusetts, nor does this appear to have been an English naming convention only. In this the aboriginals were non-different from the tribes of classical Europe, whose names still dot the map of Europe.

Like the tribal names of Europe, the native names descended from an antiquity long lost. The natives themselves may not have known what they meant. For these names we have mainly tradition, but even that should be regarded as more speculative than not.

Places named after tribes

Place names on this list represent a number of tribes speaking aboriginal languages within the Algonquian family, for the most part, if in warped or anglicized form:
*Abnaki
*Hammonassett
*Mahican
*Mill
*Mi'kmaq
*Mohegan
*Montauk
*Natick
*Narragansett
*Niantic
*Nipmuck
*Norridgewock
*Passamaquoddy
*Paugussett
*Pennacook
*Penobscot
*Pequot
*Podunk
*Poquonock
*Quinnipiac
*Tunxi
*Wampanoag
*Wangunk

Connecticut

Common dialects of the Algonquian language: Hammonasset, Mahican, Montauk, Niantic, Paugussett, Pequot-Mohegan, Podunk, Poquonock, Quinnipiac, Tunxi, Wangunk

*Connecticut, the state, and river: (in several dialects) "place of the long river" or "by the long tidal stream"

**Aspetuck River (and town): (Paugussett) "at the high place"
**Cockenoe Island: (Montauk) from the name of a 17th-century native interpreter
**Coginchaug River: (Wangunk) "place where fish are dried/cured"
**Congamuck Ponds (on MA border Congamond Lake): (Nipmuck) "long fishing place"
**Cos Cob: (Mohegan from "Cassacubque") "high rocks"
**Hammonassett Point: (Hammonassett) "place of sand bars"
**Hockanum River & Hockanum, Connecticut: (Podunk) "hook"
**Housatonic River: (Mahican) "beyond the mountain"
**Mashapaug Pond: (Nipmuck) "large pond"
**Massapeag: (Mohegan) "place at the large cove"
**Mianus River (and town): (Paugussett) a 17th-century chief's name - "Mianu/Mayanno's"
**Mohawk Mountain: eastern Iroquois tribe; Algonquin term for their western enemies – "wolves," "hungry animals," or "cannibals"
**Mohegan: tribe; "hungry animal" or "wolf"
**Moodus River (also Reservoir, and town): (Wangunk) from "mache moodus" or "bad noises" (the Moodus noises)
**Moosup: (Narragansett) a chief named "Mausup"
**Mystic River (and town): (Pequot-Mohegan) "great tidal river"
**Naugatuck River (and town): (Quinnipiac) "single tree"
**Natchaug River: (Nipmuck) "between rivers"
**Nepaug Reservoir: (Wangunk) "fresh pond"
**Niantic River (and town): tribe; "point of land on tidal river"
**Norwalk River (and city): (Algonquin) "noyank" or "point of land" or from the name Naramauke [http://www.sots.ct.gov/RegisterManual/SectionVII/townorder.htm]
**Oronoque: (Quinnipiac) "curved place" or "land at the bend"
**Pachaug River (and Pond): (Narragansett} "at the turning place"
**Pataguanset Lake: (Niantic) "at the round, shallow place"
**Pawcatuck River (RI border): (Niantic/Pequot) "the clear divided (tidal) stream"
**Pequabuck: (Wangunk) "clear, open pond"
**Pistapaug Pond: (Quinnipiac) "muddy pond"
**Pocotopaug Lake: (Wangunk) "divided pond" or "two ponds"
**Poquetanuck: (Mohegan) "land broken up" (like dried mud cracking)
**Poquonock Bridge and river: (Algonquin - several) "cleared land"
**Quaddick Reservoir:(Nipmuck) "bend in river" or (Narragansett) "boggy place"
**Lake Quassapaug: (Quinnipiac) "big pond" or "big rock"
**Quinebaug River (and town): (Nipmuck) "long pond"
**Quinnipiac River: (Quinnipiac) "where we change our route"
**Lake Quonnipaug: (Quinnipiac) "long pond"
**Sachem Head: (Algonquin/general) "chief"
**Saugatuck River: (Paugussett) "outlet of the tidal river"
**Scitico: (Nipmuck) "land at the river branch"
**Shenipsit Lake: (Mohegan) "at the great pool"
**Shepaug River: (Tunxis) "great pond"
**Shetucket River: (Mohegan) "land between rivers"
**Shunock River: ((Mohegan) "stony place" or possibly "place between streams"
**Skungamug River: (Nipmuck) "eel-fishing place"
**Taconic: (Mahican) "steep ascent"
**Uncasville: (Mohegan) 17th-century chief's name (wonkus - "fox")
**Wangum Lake: (Paugussett) "bend/crooked"
**Wangumbaug Lake: (Nipmuck) "crooked pond"
**Wangumgaug Lake: "crooked pond"
**Lake Waramaug: (Mahican) "good fishing-place"
**Willimantic River (and town): (Mohegan or Nipmuck) "good cedar swamp"
**Winnepauk: (Mahican) "beautiful pond"
**Wononpacook Pond: (Mahican) "land at the bend in the pond"
**Wononskopomuc Lake: (Mahican) "rocks at the bend in the lake"
**Wopowaug River: ((Wangunk) "crossing-place"
**Wopowog: (Wangunk) "crossing-place"
**Wyassup Lake: (Mohegan) "flags" or "rushes"
**Yantic River (and town) (Mohegan) "as far as the tide goes up this side of the river"

*Former names:
**Mameeg or Nameeg: (Pequot-Mohegan) "fishing place" New London
**Miamogue: (Paugussett) "where we come together to fish" Bridgeport (harbor)
**Nawaas: general name for Connecticut

Maine

Common languages:
*Northern: Abnaki, Maliseet, Mi'kmaq, Passamaquoddy
*Southern: Abnaki, Norridgewock, Pennacook, Penobscot

**Acadia National Park: (Mi'kmaq) "the earth/land"
**Allagash River (and town): (Abnaki) "bark shelter"
**Androscoggin River: (Abnaki) "place where fish are dried/cured"
**Aroostook River: (Mi'kmaq) "beautiful river"
**Aziscohos Lake: (Abnaki) "small pine trees"
**Caribou: (Abnaki) "kalibu" "shoveler" (gets food by pawing or shoveling]
**Casco Bay: (Mi'kmaq) muddy
**Chebeague Island: (Abnaki) "separated place"
**Chemquasabamticook Lake: (Abnaki) "where there is a large lake and a river"
**Chesuncook Lake: (Abnaki) "at the principal outlet"
**Chiputneticook Lakes: (Abnaki) "at the place of the big hill stream"
**Cobscook Bay: (Maliseet) "rocks under water"
**Cobbosseecontee Lake: (Abnaki) "many sturgeon"
**Damariscotta: (Abnaki) "many alewives"
**Mount Katahdin: (Abnaki) "the principal mountain"
**Kennebago Lake: (Abnaki) "long/large pond/lake"
**Kennebec River: (Abnaki) "long quiet water"
**Kennebunk (and river): (Abnaki) "long sand bar"
**Madawaska River: (Mi'kmaq) "where one river joins another"
**Matagamon: (Abnaki) "far on the other side"
**Matinicus Island: (Abnaki) "far-out island"
**Mattamiscontis Lake: (Abnaki) "many ale-wives"
**Mattawamkeag River (and town): (Abnaki) "fishing beyond gravel bar" or (Mi'kmaq) "on a sand bar"
**Metinic Island: (Abnaki) "far-out island"
**Millinocket (and lake): (Abnaki) "this place is admirable"
**Molunkus Pond (and stream): (Abnaki) "ravine"
**Monhegan Island: (Mi'kmaq or Maliseet) "out-to-sea island"
**Mooselookmeguntic Lake: (Abnaki) "moose feeding place" (portage to or big trees at)
**Muscongus Bay: (Abnaki) "many/large rock ledges"
**Musquash Lake: (Abnaki) "muskrat"
**Musquacook River (and Lake): (Abnaki) "muskrat place"
**Nahmakanta Lake: (Abnaki) "many fish"
**Nollesemic (and lake): (Abnaki) "resting place at the falls"
**Ogunquit: (Mi'kmaq) "lagoons within dunes"
**Orono (Abnaki) purportedly from a Chief Joseph Orono, no translation
**Ossipee River: (Abnaki) "beyond the water"
**Oquossoc: (Abnaki) "place of trout" (a certain trout-type)
**Passadumkeag: (Abnaki) "rapids over gravel beds"
**Passamaquoddy Bay: tribal name; "place of abundance of pollack"
**Pemadumcook Lake: (Maliseet) "extended sand bar place"
**Pemaquid: (Mi'kmaq) "extended land" (peninsula)
**Penobscot River: (Abnaki?) tribal name; "place of descending rocks/ledges"
**Piscataqua River (NH border): (Pennacook) "the place where the river divides"
**Piscataquis River (Abnaki) "at the river branch"
**Quoddy Head(Passamaquoddy) abbreviation to "pollack"
**Saco (and river): (Abnaki) "flowing out" or "outlet"
**Sebago Lake (and town): (Abnaki) "big lake"
**Sebasticook Lake: (Penobscot-Abnaki) "almost-through place"
**Seboomook Lake (and town): (Abnaki) "at the large stream"
**Squapan Lake (and town): (Abnaki) "bear's den"
**Umcolcus Lake: (Abnaki) "whistling duck"
**Usuntabunt Lake: (Abnaki) "wet head" or possibly "three heads"
**Wassutaquook River: sp.
**Webhannet: (Abnaki) "at the clear stream"

*Former names:
**Ahbaysauk: (Abnaki) "place where clams are baked/dried" Bar Harbor
**Amitgon pontook: (Abnaki) "place at the falls where fish are dried/cured" Lewiston Falls
**Machegony: (mi'kmaq) "shaped like a large knee" Portland

Massachusetts

Common languages:
*Eastern: Massachuset, Nipmuck, Wampanoag (southeast)
*Western: Natick, Nipmuck, Narragansett (southwest)

*Massachusetts (the state): (Natick) "by the great hills" (the hills of Milton, Blue Hill, south of Boston)

**Acoaxet: (Narragansett) "at the fishing promontory" or "place of small pines"
**Acushnet River (and town): (Naragansett) "at the cove"
**Agawam: (Nipmuck or Pennacook) "low land" (with water) or "place to unload canoes" (possible portage spot)
**Assabet River: (Nipmuck) "at the boggy place"
**Assawompsett Pond: Narragansett "trading place"; (Wampanoag) "place of large upright rock"
**Assinippi: (Wampanoag) "rocks in water"
**Assonet River (also Cedar Swamp and town): (Narragansett) "at the rock" – the rock in question being Dighton Rock
**Cataumet: (Wampanoag) "at the ocean" or "landing place"
**Lake Chaubunagungamaug: ((Nipmuck-Mohegan) "boundary fishing place"
**Chappaquiddick Island: (Wampanoag) "separated island"
**Chicopee (also Falls, and river): (Nipmuck) "violent water"
**Cochituate: (Natick) "place of swift water"
**Cohasset: (Natick) "long rocky place"
**Congamond Lake (on CT border - Congamuck Ponds): (Nipmuck) "long fishing place"
**Cotuit: (Wampanoag) "long planting field"
**Cummaquid: (Wampanoag) "harbor"
**Cuttyhunk Island: (Wampanoag) "thing that lies out in the sea"
**Gansett Harbor
**Mount Greylock: named for a Missisquoi chief
**Hockanum: (Podunk) "hook"
**Hockomock Swamp: (Natick-Abnaki) "evil spirit" or "hellish place"; (Narragansett) "hook-shaped place"
**Hoosac Tunnel: (Mahican) "rock place"
**Humarock: (Wampanoag) "shell place" or "rock carving"
**Hyannis: (Wampanoag) name of a 17th-century chief, "Iyanogh's"
**Jamaica Plain and (Pond): (Natick) "beaver"
**Manhan River: (Nipmuck) "island"
**Manomet Point (and town): (Wampanoag) "portage place"
**Mashpee: (Wampamoag) "place near great cove"
**Mattapan: (Natick) "resting place" or "end of portage"
**Mattapoisett: (Wampanoag) "resting place" or "edge of cove"
**Megansett Harbor
**Merrimac: (Pennacook) "deep place"
**Merrimack River: (Abnaki) "at the deep place"
**Mishaum Point: (Narragansett) "great neck" or "canoe-landing place"
**Lake Monomonac (NH border): (Abnaki) "at the very deep place"
**Monomoy Island (and Point): (Wampanoag) "look-out place" or "deep water"
**Muskeget Island (and Channel): (Wampanoag) "grassy place"
**Mystic River (Natick) "great tidal stream"
**Nabnasset: (Nipmuck)
**Nagog Pond: Concord, Massachusetts water supply located in Acton, Massachusetts
**Nahant: (Natick) "the point" or "almost an island"
**Nantasket: (Natick/Wampanoag) "at the strait" or "low-tide place"
**Nantucket Island: (Wampanoag) "in the midst of waters" ; (Naragansett) far off, among the waves
**Nashawena Island: (Wampanoag) "between"
** Nashoba Brook
**Natick: tribe; "the place I seek" or "home," "place," "clearing"
**Naushon Island: (Wampanoag) "middle" (no clear translation)
**Nemasket River
**Neponset River: (Natick) possibly "a good fall" (easy for canoe travel)
**Nonamesset Island: (Wampanoag)
**Nonquitt: (Narragansett) "dry or landing place"
**Onota Lake: (Mahican) "blue/deep"
**Pasque Island
**Penikese Island
**Pocasset: (Natick) "where the stream widens"
**Pontoosuc:(Mahican or Nipmuck) "falls on the brook"
**Punkatasset
**Quabbin Reservoir: (Nipmuck) "crooked streams"
**Quaboag River: (Nipmuck) "before the pond" or abbreviation of "red pond" (m'squ'boag)
**Quinebaug River: (Nipmuck) "long pond"
**Lake Quinsigamond: (Nipmuck) "pickerel-fishing place
**Quisset: (Nipmuck) "at the place of small pines"
**Sagamore: (Wampanoag) "chief"
**Santuit: (Wampanoag) "cool water place"
**Saugus: (Natick) "outlet"
**Scituate: (Wampanoag) "at the cold spring or brook"
**Seekonk: (Narragansett) "wild black goose" or (Wampanoag) "mouth of stream" or "wild goose"
**Segreganset: (Narragansett) "place of hard rocks"
**Shawmut Peninsula: (Algonquin) "ferry" or "place to draw up canoes"
**Siasconset: (Narragansett) "at the place of many/great bones" (whales?)
**Sippewissett
**Snipatuit Pond: (Wampanoag) "at the rocky river"
**Squannacook River
**Squibnocket Point (and pond): (Wampanoag) "at the place of dark rocks" (or clay cliff)
**Swampscott: (Natick) "place of red rocks"
**Succanessett
**Taconic Mountains: (Natick) "steep ascent"
**Tantiusques: (Nipmuck) "black stuff between the hills"
**Tuckernuck Island: (Wampanoag) "round loaf of bread"
**Uncatena Island
**Mt. Wachusett (and Reservoir): (Natick) "near the mountain"
**Waquoit: (Wampanoag) "at the end"
**Mt. Watatick: (Nipmuck)
**Watuppa Pond: (Wampanoag) "roots"
**Weepecket Islands
**Weweantic River: (Wampanoag) "crooked" or "wandering stream"
**Wianno
**Woronoco (Nipmuck) "winding about"

*Former names:
**Capawack or Capoag: (Wampanoag) "enclosed harbor" Martha's Vineyard
**Cohannet: (Wampanoag or Narragansett) "at the long or pine place" Taunton
**Poughkeeste: (Wampanoag) "bay with coves" Buzzards Bay

New Hampshire

Common Languages: Abnaki, Nipmuck, Pennacook

**Ammonoosuc River (Upper and Lower): (Abnaki) "small, narrow fishing place"
**Amoskeag: (Pennacook) "fishing place" Manchester
**Ashuelot (pond, river): (Pennacook or Natick) "place between"
**Canobie Lake: (Abnaki) "abundant water"
**Contoocook: (Pennacook) "place of the river near pines" or (Abnaki) "nut trees river" or (Natick) "small plantation at the river"
**Coos: (Pennacook) "pine tree"
**Hooksett: (Pennacook) possible abbreviation of "Annahooksett" "place of beautiful trees"
**Mascoma (river and lake): (Abnaki) "much grass" or "salmon fishing" or "red rocks"
**Massabesic Lake: (Abnaki) "near the great brook"
**Merrimack
**Mount Monadnock: (Natick) "at the most prominent island" (-like mountain)
**Mount Moosilauke: (Abnaki) "good moose place" or "at the smooth place"
**Nashua: (Pennacook/Nipmuck) "between streams"
**Ossipee (town, river, and lake): (Abnaki) "beyond the water"
**Paugus Bay: (Abnaki) "small pond"
**Pawtuckaway Lake (and mountains): (Abnaki) "falls in the river" or "clear, shallow river"
**Pemigewasset River: (Abnaki) "extensive rapids"
**Pennacook: tribal name; "at the foothills"
**Piscataqua River (ME border): (Pennacook) "place where the river divides"
**Piscataquog River: (Abnaki) "place where the river divides"
**Souhegan River: (Pennacook or Nipmuck) "watching place"
**Squam Lake (Abnaki) "salmon"
**Lake Sunapee (and town): (Pennacook) "rocks in the water", "rocky pond"
**Suncook River (also Pond, and town): (Pennacook) "rocky place"
**Umbagog Lake: (Abnaki) "clear lake"
**Lake Winnipesaukee: (Pennacook) "land around the lakes" or "good land around lake at mountains"
**Winnisquam Lake: (Abnaki) "salmon-fishing place"

*Former names:
**Kodaak wadso: (Abnaki) "summit of the highest mountain" Mount Washington

Rhode Island

Common languages:
*Northern: Natick, Nipmuck
*Southern: Narragansett

**Apponaug: (Narragansett) "where oysters/shellfish are roasted" or "waiting place"
**Aquidneck: (Narragansett) "at the island"
**Canonchet: a 17th-century Narragansett chief
**Chepachet: (Narragansett) "boundary/separation place"
**Conanicut Island: (Narragansett) named for a 17th-century chief Canonicus
**Conimicut: (Narragansett) thought to be named for granddaughter of Canonicus (see above)
**Mount Hope: (from Narragansett "Montop" or "Montaup") "look-out place" or "well-fortified island"
**Narragansett (Bay and town): tribe: "at the narrow point"
**Natick: tribe; "the place I seek" or "home"
**Pascoag (and river): (Nipmuck) "the dividing place" (of river)
**Pawtucket: (Narragansett) "at the falls in the river (tidal stream)"
**Pettaquamscutt Rock (and river): Narragansett) "at the round rock"
**Pontiac: famous mid-18th century Ottawa chief
**Quonochontaug: (Narragansett) "home of the blackfish"
**Sakonnet Point: (Narragansett) "home of the black goose"
**Scituate Reservoir: (Wampanoag) "at the cold spring/brook"
**Shawomet: (Narragansett) "at the peninsula/neck" (canoe-landing place)
**Usquepaugh: (Narragansett) "at the end of the pond"
**Weekapaug: (Narragansett) "at the end of the pond"
**Woonsocket: (Nipmuck) "place of steep descent"
**Wyoming: (Delaware) "large prairie"

*Former names:
**Aquidnic: (Narragansett) "the island" Rhode Island
**Niwosaket: (Narragansett) "place of two brooks" Woonsocket
**Manisses: (Narragansett) "little god"; (Niantic) "little island" Block Island
**Mattoonuc Neck: (Niantic) "place at look-out hill" Point Judith
**Maushapogue: (Narragansett) "land at the great cove" Cranston

Vermont

Common languages: Abnaki, Mahican

**Ascutney: (Abnaki) "at the end of the river fork"
**Lake Bomoseen (and town): (Abnaki) "keeper of ceremonial fire"
**Hoosac Mountains: (Mahican) "stone place"
**Hoosic River
**Lake Iroquois: (Abnaki-French) "real adders" (describing western enemies of Abnaki)
**Jamaica: (Natick) "beaver"
**Maquam Bay
**Lake Memphramagog: (Abnaki) "where there is great expanse of water"
**Mettawee River
**Missisquoi River: tribal name
**Monadnock Mountain: (Abnaki) "at the mountain which sticks up like an island" (see New Hampshire)
**Moosalamoo Mountain: (Abnaki) "moose trail"
**Netop Mountain: (Natick) "my friend"
**Nickwaket Mountain: (Abnaki) "at the fork" or "home of squirrels"
**Nulhegan River: (Abnaki) "log trap" or "deadfall"
**Ottauquechee River: (uncertain - Natick?) "swift mountain stream"
**Passumpsic River (and town): (Abnaki) "flowing over clear, sandy bottom"
**Pico Peak: (possibly Abnaki) "the pass/opening"
**Pompanoosuc: (Abnaki) abbreviation of "Ompompanoosuc" "mushy/quaky land"
**Popasquash Island
**Quechee: abbreviation of Ottauquechee
**Queneska Island: (Abnaki) "elbow" or "long joint"
**Walloomsac River
**Winooski River (and town): (Abnaki) "wild onions"

*Former names:
**Mozodepo wadso: (Abnaki) "moose-head mountain" Mount Mansfield
**Tawakbodee-esso wadso: (Abnaki) "resting place/sit-down mountain" Camel's Hump

ee also

*List of place names in Canada of aboriginal origin
*List of Placenames of Indigenous Origin in the Americas
*Algonquian

References

*Bright, William (2004). "Native American Place Names of the United States". Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
*Huden, John C. (1962) "Indian Place Names of New England", Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation

External links

* [http://www.nctc.com/~cheyanne/page7b.html Map of New England Languages]
* [http://archnet.asu.edu/archnet/uconn_extras/ethno/nipmuc/nipmuc6.html Massachusetts place names]
* [http://www.rootsweb.com/~rigenweb/IndianPlaceNames1.html#A Rhode Island place names]
* [http://www.native-languages.org/famalg.htm Algonquin language family]
* [http://www.canadiana.org/ECO/mtq?doc=35622 "The composition of Indian geographical names, illustrated from the Algonkin languages", Trumbull, J. Hammond (James Hammond), 1821-1897. [Hartford, Conn.? : s.n., 187-?]


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