Toponymy of Bergen, New Netherland

Toponymy of Bergen, New Netherland

Placenames in the 17th century province of Bergen, New Netherland (in what is now northeastern New Jersey), in most cases had their roots in Dutch and Algonquian language Lenape. At the time of European settlement it was the territory of the Raritan, Tappan, and Hackensack Indians, who spoke the Unami dialect. The Munsee lived in its western and northern reaches. Metoac lived to the east.

Without a written language, the Lenape used configurations of sticks and oral communication to share ideas. It was the New Netherlanders who first used the Latin alphabet to write down the words they heard from the indigenous people. These phonetic approxiamations were no doubt greatly influenced by Dutch, which was the lingua franca of the province, a polygot society, were many were spoken. The current spelling (and presumably pronouciation) of each evolved during the last four centuries in American English.


There are various opinions as to the naming of "Bergen". Some say that it so called for Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands or the city in Norway [] Others believe it comes from the word "bergen", which in the Germanic languages of northern Europe means hills, [ [ Walking Tour of the Bergen Square ] ] and could describe a most distinct geological feature of the region, The Palisades. [ Indigenous Population ] ] Yet another interpretation is that it comes from the Dutch word "bergen", meaning "to save" or "to recover", inspired by the settlers return after they had fled attacks by the native population.


The first settlement by the Europeans took its name from a burgermeester of Amsterdam. Also an investor in Dutch West India Company (WIC), Micheal Pauw purchased land along the banks of the Hudson in 1630 in order to establish a patroonship. Pavonia is a Latinized version of his surname, based on the word for "peacock" During the Dutch Golden Age, a period of economic, scientific and artistic growth, Latin was used in academia and among those fortunate enough to have learned it.



Site of summer encampament and counsel fire of the Hackensack, its meaning has been lost. Spellings include "Gamoenapa," [Ruttenber,E.M.,Indian Tribes of Hudson's River, ISBN 0-910746-98-2 (Hope Farm Press, 3rd ed, 2001) ] ,"Gemonepan," [Joan F. Doherty, Hudson County The Left Bank, ISBN 0-89781-172-0 (Windsor Publications, Inc., 1986)] "Gemoenepaen," [Joan F. Doherty, Hudson County The Left Bank, ISBN 0-89781-172-0 (Windsor Publications, Inc., 1986)]

Could possibiy be related to contemporary word "gamuck" meaning "other side of the water" or"otherside of the river" [The Lenape/English Dictionary ]


The meadowlands, river and city take it's name for the territory of the Indians,variously translated as "place of stony ground" [] or "place of sharp ground" []

From "ahkingeesahkuy" spellings include "Achsinnigeu-haki [] , Achinigeu-hach, Ack-kinkas-hacky, Achkinhenhcky, Ackingsah-sack, Ackinckeshacky [] ,"Hackinsack" [Ruttenber,E.M.,Indian Tribes of Hudson's River, ISBN 0-910746-98-2 (Hope Farm Press, 3rd ed, 2001)] "


"“Land of the tobacco pipe”," most likely to refer to the soapstone collected there to carve tobacco pipes, used a phrase that became "“Hopoghan Hackingh”." [ [ HM-hist "The Abridged History of Hoboken", Hoboken Museum, Accessed 24-Nov-2006.] ] Varients include: "hoopookum" and "hupoken" []

There is a Flemish town Hoboken, annexed in 1983 to Antwerp, Belgium, [ [ Nederlandse Geschiedenis, 1600 - 1700 ] ] whose name is derived from Middle Dutch "Hooghe Buechen" or "Hoge Beuken", meaning "High Beeches" or "Tall Beeches". [ [ U.S. Towns and Cities with Dutch Names] , Embassy of the Netherlands. Accessed November 24, 2006.]

"Hoebuck", old Dutch for high bluff and likely referring to Castle Point, was used during the colonial era and was spelled in English as "Hobuck", ["Hoboken Reporter" Jan 16, 2005] "Hobock", [] and "Hoboocken". []

"Hoboken" was chosen by Colonel John Stevens when he purchased land, on a part of which the city is located.


from "mawewi" meaning "meeting place" or "place where paths meet" [7] [8] or "assembly" []



"land of the wild turkey" or "place of fertile soil". [ [ If You're Thinking of Living In/Paramus; In Shopping Mecca, Houses Sell Well Too] , "The New York Times", April 15, 2001.]


"valley" from "pahsayèk", [ [ Lenape Language / Pronunciation] , accessed September 20, 2006.] "pahsaayeek" [] and "pasayak"Contemporary: "Pachsa'jeek" []


"underneath the rock", spellings: "Ramapough", "Ramopock"


"SEE-kaw-cus", with the accent on the first syllable, not the second as often used by non-natives. [Page, Jeffrey. [ "Our towns challenge our tongues"] , "The Record (Bergen County)", June 17, 2005. Accessed June 19, 2007. "You can always tell newcomers to Secaucus. Because most words are pronounced with emphasis on the next-to-last syllable, they say they live in see-KAW-cus - although the ones who fear their friends might recall that Secaucus used to be pig-farming country might say they live in South Carlstadt, which doesn't exist. "If I said 'see-KAW-cus' to someone local, they'd think I didn't know what I was talking about," said Dan McDonough, the municipal historian. "Of course it's SEE-kaw-cus. Everybody knows that." ] Spellings include "Sikakes, Sickakus"


Contemorary meaning: "black fish" [ The Lenape / English Dictionary ] Also, according to tradition, said to mean "resting place for the departed" or "happy hunting ground" because "Sicomac" (an area of Wyckoff), was the burial place of many Native Americans, including Oratam, sakima of the Hackensack Indians [ If You're Thinking of Living In/Wyckoff; Country Ambiance in Ramapo Foothills] . "The New York Times", March 19, 1995.]


Variously been interpreted as or "rocks that look like rows of trees" (as in the Palisades, atop of which most of the town sits) or "place of gulls". [ [ "Weehawken"] , Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, accessed June 13, 2007. "A township in Hudson County, N.J., seven miles northeast of Jersysic City. The name was originally an Algonquin Indian term and later changed by folk-usage to a pseudo-Dutch form. Its exact meaning is unclear, but variously translated as "place of gulls," "rocks that look like trees," "maize land," "at the end" (of the Palisades) and "field lying along the Hudson."] In contemporary language the word "wikweko" means "at the end of", may have used that meaning to describe the end of the cliffs closest to the river or to the mouth of the stream that flowed from them. Spellings (in Dutch and English) have included: "Awiehawken, Wiehacken, Weehauk, Weehawk, Weehock, Wiceaken" and "Wiehachan".


"Achter Col"

No longer in use, this described the area around Newark Bay and the rivers that flowed into it. "Achter", meaning behind, and "kol", meaning neck, can be translated as the "back (of the) peninsula", [Online Nederlands Woordenboek (Online Dutch Dictionary)] in this case Bergen Neck.Variously spellings include "Achter Kol", "Achter Kull", "Archer Col"

"Arthur Kill"

Tidal strait separating Staten Island from the mainland takes it name from the Middle Dutch word "kille", meaning "riverbed" or "water channel". The name Arthur may have evolved from "Achter Col", the name given by New Netherlanders for area surrounding Newark Bay and rivers that flowed into it.

"Constable Hook"

A land grant to Jacob Jacobsen Roy who was a chief gunner or constable in Fort Amsterdam in New Amsterdamin 1646, by the Dutch West India Company, under the leadership of Director-General William Kieft. "Konstapel's Hoeck" in Dutch, takes its name from Roy's title. [Joan F. Doherty, "Hudson County The Left Bank", ISBN 0-89781-172-0 (Windsor Publications, Inc., 1986)] .A "hoek" or "hoeck" in Dutch meaning a spit of land or small peninsula. Sandy Hook is similarly named.

="Cromaskill Creek"=

A border between Secaucus and North Bergen, meaning "crooked creek". Similar to evolution of "Gramercy", which is almost certainly a corruption of the Dutch "krom mesje", or "little crooked knife," the name of a small brook that flowed along what is now 21st Street in Manhattan. [ Gramercy Park profile] , "New York (magazine)". Accessed September 30, 2007. "Originally called Crommessie (from Krom Mesje, Dutch for "crooked little knife"), Gramercy Park has been known as both a fashionable enclave and a haven for artists... The statue in the middle of the park depicts Edwin Booth (brother of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes), who was one of the foremost Shakespearean actors of his day. Booth's home at 16 Gramercy Park South—which boasted additions by another area resident, Stanford White—was eventually turned into The Players private theater club..."]

"Dwars Kill"

Alternatively "Dwarskill" or "Dwarskill Creek", a tributary of the Oradell Reservoir meaning "cross creek"

"Kill van Kull"

Separating Bayonne and Staten Island. A "kill" comes from from the Middle Dutch word "kille", meaning "riverbed" or "water channel." Likely evolved from "Achter Col."

"Paulus Hook"

Originally mound of land surrounding by tidals flats, and called "Arresick" or "Arresink" by the Lenape, site of first Dutch settlement on west bank of Hudson River in 1630. It was part of Michael Pauw's attempted patroonship, named after his agent, who had built a hut/ferry landing there. A "hoek" or "hoeck" in Dutch meaning a spit of land or small peninsula. Sandy Hook is similarly named. Spellings include "Paul Hoeck, Powles Hoek, Powles Hook"


The region radiating from Palisades Interstate Park and its inhabitants by New Netherlanders, who first spelled it as Tappaent and sometimes referred to Vriessendael as "Tappan". Similiar to Wappani, derived from the Algonquian "people of the east" or "easterners". Contemporary: "Wapaneu, easterly" and "Wapanke, to-morrow."


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