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12 English Words With Native American Origins

Monday was Columbus Day in the United States.  Traditionally, American schools taught children that the Italian explorer has a holiday because he “discovered the New World.” That’s not true, of course. But he did ignite a cultural exchange that shaped the world we live in today.

For example, Europeans discovered now-familiar foods like tomatoes and chocolate. Native Americans discovered hard liquor and learned to ride horses. The Europeans brought the deadly gift of smallpox. The natives gave them syphilis in return. The exchange went both ways … but the Native Americans invariably got the short end of the stick.

This pattern continued when it came to language. Many native languages were lost forever. But some words from indigenous languages live on today as loanwords. For example, check out these 12 English words with Native American origins:

English Words That Come From Algonquianmarmota_monax_ul_04

The Algonquian language family consists of about 30 languages spoken by Native Americans across the US and Canada.  Unfortunately, many of these languages are either severely endangered or extinct.  Did you know these four words were originally Algonquian?

Well, now you do.

Caucus:  Wikipedia defines a “caucus” as “a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement.”Although it originated in the British colonies, it’s used across the English-speaking world now.  It may originate from the Algonquian word for “counsel”, which is ‘cau´-cau-as´u’. Another possibility is the Algonquian cawaassough, which means advisor, talker, or orator.

Hickory: Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock … Thank the Algonquians for this old nursery rhyme, It wouldn’t be the same without hickory, which comes from the Powhatan word pocohiquara. Pocohiquara was basically hickory nut milk.  The next trendy nut milk at your local supermarket, maybe? Read more