- List of place names in Canada of Aboriginal origin
This list of place names in Canada of Aboriginal origin contains Canadian places whose names originate from the words of the
First Nations, Métis, or Inuit, collectively referred to as Aboriginal peoples in Canada. When possible the original word or phrase used by Aboriginals is included, along with its generally believed meaning.
The name "Canada" comes from the word meaning "village" or "settlement" in the Saint-Lawrence Iroquoian; [Bruce G. Trigger and James F. Pendergast. (1978), “Saint-Lawrence Iroquoians”, in "Handbook of North American Indians". Volume 15. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, pp. 357-361] language spoken by the inhabitants of
Stadaconaand the neighbouring region near present-day Quebec Cityin the 16th century. [ Jacques Cartier. (1545)." [http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12356/12356-h/12356-h.htm Relation originale de Jacques Cartier] ". Paris, Tross, 1863 edition, page 48.] Another contemporary meaning was "land." [Alan Rayburn. (2001). "Naming Canada: stories about Canadian place names", 2nd ed. (ISBN 0-8020-8293-9) University of Toronto Press: Toronto; p. 13.] Jacques Cartier was first to use the word "Canada" to refer not only to the village of Stadacona, but also to the neighbouring region and to the Saint-Lawrence River.
In other Iroquoian languages, the words for "town" or "village" are similar: the Mohawk use "kaná:ta’", [Mithun, Marianne (1999). The Languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press] [Bright (2004:78)] the Seneca "iennekanandaa", and the Onondaga use "ganataje". [Rayburn, "op. cit", p. 14.]
Provinces and territories
Manitoba: Either derived from the Creeword "manito-wapow" meaning "the straight of the spirit or manitobau" or the Assiniboinewords "mini" and "tobow" meaning "Lake of the Prairie", referring to Lake Manitoba.
Nunavut: "Our land" in Inuktitut.
Ontario: Derived from the Huronword "onitariio" meaning "beautiful lake", or "kanadario" meaning "sparkling" or "beautiful" water.
Quebec: from the Míkmaq word "kepék", meaning "strait" or "narrows". [Afable, Patricia O. and Madison S. Beeler (1996). "Place Names". In "Languages", ed. Ives Goddard. Vol. 17 of "Handbook of North American Indians", ed. William C. Sturtevant. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, pg. 191]
Saskatchewan: Derived from the Creename for the Saskatchewan River, "Kisiskatchewani Sipi", meaning "swift flowing river".
Yukon: from some Athabaskan language, e.g. Koyukon "yookkene" or Lower Tanana "yookuna". [Bright (2004:583)]
Beaver" in Cree.
Athabasca River, Lake Athabasca, Athabasca Falls, Mount Athabasca, Athabasca: "Where there are reeds" in Cree
*Medicine Hat: Translation of the Blackfoot word "saamis", meaning "headdress of a medicine man".
Lake Minnewanka: ""Water of the Spirits" in Sioux language(Nakoda/Stoney language)
*Okotoks: "Big Rock" in
*Ponoka: "Black Elk" in
Wabasca: from "wapuskau", "grassy narrows" in Cree language
*Wetaskiwin: "Place of peace" or "hill of peace" in
Wapiti River: from the Shawnee word for "elk", "waapiti" (literally "white rump"). [Bright (2004:547-8)]
Waputik Range: "Waputik" means "white goat" in Sioux languageFact|date=August 2007
For the scores of BC placenames from the Chinook Jargon, see
List of Chinook Jargon placenames.
*Ahnuhati River: "where the humpback salmon go" in
Kwak'wala(humpback salmon are also known as pink salmon)
*Ahousat: "facing opposite the ocean" in Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka).
*Aiyansh and New Aiyansh: "early leaves" or "leafing early" in the
Akamina Pass: "mountain pass" in Ktunaxa(Kootenay)
Akie River: "cut-bank river" in Dunne-za
Amiskwi River: "beaver trail" in Cree
*Anyox: "place of hiding" in Nisga'a.
Ashnola River: thought to mean "place of trading" in Okanagan
Askom Mountain: "mountain" in St'at'imcets(the Lillooet language)
Atchelitz: "bottom" in Halqemeylem, possibly because this locality and the creek of the same name is at the bottom of Chilliwack Mountain.
*Atlin: "big lake" in Inland Tlingit
Atna Range: "strangers" or "other people" in Carrier.
Atnarko River: "river of strangers" in Chilcotin
*Attachie: the name of a
Beaver indianwhose descendants are members of the nearby Doig River First Nation
*Bella Coola: Named for the usual term for the local First Nation, who call themselves
Nuxalk. "Bella Coola" is an adaption of /bəlxwəla/, the Heiltsuk name for the Nuxalk; their meaning is not limited to the band at Bella Coola but to all Nuxalk.
*Bella Bella: This is an adaption of the
Heiltsukname the First Nations people at this town use for themselves, /pəlbálá/.
Cariboo: from Micmac"xalibu" via French "cariboeuf" or "carfboeuf": "pawer" or "scratcher". A mountain subspecies of caribouwere once numerous in the Cariboo.
Carmanah Valley, Carmanah Point: "thus far upstream" in the Nitinahtdialect of Nootka ( Nuu-chah-nulth).
*Cassiar: a remote adaptation of
Kaska, definition debatable, but possibly "old moccasins".
Caycuse River: from the Nitinahtdialect of Nootka, meaning "place where they fix up canoes".
Cayoosh Creek: "Cayoosh" is a Lillooet-area variant of "cayuse", originally from the Spanish "caballo" - "horse", although in Lillooet and the Chilcotin this word specifies a particular breed of Indian mountain pony. There are two versions of the name's meaning. In one account, someone's pony dropped dead in or at the creek after an arduous journey over the pass at the head of its valley. In the other, the crest of standing waves in the rushing waters of the creek are said to resemble bucking horses and their manes.
Celista, British Columbia: from the Secwepemcchiefly and family name "Celesta", common in the nearby community of Neskonlithnear Chase.
Chaba Peak: from the Stoney languageword for "beaver".
Chantslar Lake: from the Chilcotin languageword for " steelheadlake"
Cheakamus River: Squamish languagefor "salmon weir place".
*Cheam: Halqemeylem for "(place to) always get strawberries". The Halqemeylem term refers to an island across from the present-day reserve and village. This name is used in English for Mount Cheam (
Cheam Peak), the most prominent of the Four Sisters Range east of Chilliwack, which in Halqemeylem is called Thleethleq (the name of Mount Baker's wife, turned to stone).
Checleset Bay: from the Nootka ( Nuu-chah-nulth) word for "people of cut on the beach".
Cheewat River: from the Nitinaht dialect of Nuu-chah-nulthfor "having an island nearby".
Cheekye Riverand the locality of Cheekye near Squamish: Squamish languagename for Mount Garibaldi, meaning "dirty place" in reference to that mountain's ash-stained snows
Chehalis River: probable meanings vary from "the place one reaches after ascending the rapids" or "where the 'chest' of a canoe grounds on a sandbar'. The sandbar or rapids in question would be the old "riffles" of the Harrison River where it empties into the Fraser River out of Harrison Bay (the riffles were dredged out in gold rush times)
*Chemainus: Named after the native shaman and prophet "Tsa-meeun-is", which means "Broken Chest" or "bitten breast"(
Halkemeylem language), a reference to the bitemarks possible during a shamanic frenzy, which the local horseshoe-shaped bay is thought to have resembled.
Cheslatta Lake: "top of small mountain" or "small rock mountain at east side" in the Carrier language
*Chezacut: "birds without feathers" in the
Chic Chic Bay: "Tshik-tshik", under various spellings, is the Chinook Jargon for a wagon or wheeled vehicle.
Chikamin Range: "Chickamin", as usually spelled, is "metal" or "ore" in the Chinook Jargon, often meaning simply "gold"
Chilako River: "beaver hand river" in the Carrier language
Chilanko River: "many beaver river" in the Chilcotin language
Chilcotin River: "ochre river people" in the Chilcotin language
Chilkat Pass: "salmon storehouse" in the Tlingit language
Chilko River: "ochre river" in the Chilcotin language
*Chilliwack: "Going back up" in Halqemeylem. Other translations are "quieter water on the head" or "travel by way of a backwater of slough", all a reference to the broad marshlands and sloughs of the Chilliwack area, which lies between the Fraser River's many side-channels and Sumas Prairie (much of formerly
Sumas Lake). Older spellings are Chilliwhack, Chilliwayhook, Chil-whey-uk, Chilwayook, and Silawack.
*Chinook Cove: on the
North Thompson River, a reference to the Chinook salmon rather than to the language, wind or people of the same name.
*Choelquoit Lake: "fishtrap lake" in the
*Chonat Bay: "where coho salmon are found" in
*Chu Chua: the plural of the
Secwepemc languageword for "creek".
Chuckwalla River: "short river" in Oowekyala. The nearby KilbellaRiver means "long river".
Chutine River: "half-people" in either the Tlinkit or Tahltan languages. The area's population was half-Tlingit and half-Tahltan.
Cinnemousun Narrows Provincial Park: From the Secwepemc language"cium-moust-un", meaning "come and go back again", sometimes translated as "the bend" (i.e. in Shuswap Lake)
Clayoquot Sound: an adaption of the Nuu-chah-nulth language Tla-o-qui-aht, which has a variety of translations: "other or different people", "other or strange house", "people who are different from what they used to be"; in Nitinaht the phrase translates as "people of the place where it becomes the same even when disturbed".
*Clo-oose: "campsite beach" in the Nitinaht dialect of
*Clusko River: "mud river" in the
*Cluxewe River: "delta or sand bar" in
*Coglistiko River: "stream coming from small jack-pine windfalls" in the
*Colquitz River: "waterfall" in
North Straits Salish
*Comiaken: "bare, devoid of vegetation" in
*Comox: either from the
Chinook Jargonfor "dog" ("kamuks"), or from the Kwak'walafor "place of plenty".
*Conuma Peak: "high, rocky peak" in the
*Coqualeetza: "place of beating of blankets (to get them clean)" in
Coquihalla River: "stingy container" (of fish), a reference to black-coloured water spirits who would steal fish right off the spear
*Coquitlam: "Small red
salmon" in Salish. Derived from the name of the local branch of the Sto:lo people " Khwayquitlam". Another and more usual translation is "stinking of fish slime" and "place of stinking fish".
*Cowichan: from "Quwutsun", "land warmed by the sun" or "warm country" (
*Cultus: "bad, of no value, worthless" in
Chinook jargon. In First Nations legend, this popular recreational lake south of Chilliwack was said to be inhabited by evil spirits.
*Cumshewa Inlet, Cunshewa Head: Cumshewa was a prominent
Haidachief in the late 19th Century, noted for the killing of the crew of the US trading vessel "Constitution" in 1794. His name means "rich at the mouth" (of the river)".
*Ealue Lake: "sky fish" in Tahltan.
Ecstall River: from the Tsimshian for "tributary" or "something from the side" (the Ecstall joins the Skeena Rivernear Prince Rupert
*Eddontenajon: "a little boy drowned" in Tahltan
*Cape Edensaw: Edenshaw, in its modern spelling, remains an important name in modern Haida society, known mostly nowadays for the dynasty of famous carvers of that name, all descendants of the early 19th Century chief of this name, one of the powerful chiefs of Masset
*Edziza, Mount and Edziza, Mount volcanic complex: named after the Edzertza family of the
Tahltanpeople, who live nearby.
North Straits Salishfor "the place of gradually shoaling water". Derived from their word "Es-whoy-malth".
*Gananoque, Ontario "water running over rocks."
*Kamloops: English translation of
Shuswapword "Tk'emlups", meaning "where the rivers meet".
Grizzly bear" in the Okanaganlanguage.
Kootenay: derived from the proper name of the Kootenay people, Ktunaxa
*Lillooet: adapted from the proper name for the Lower
St'at'imcpeople, the Lil'wat of Mt. Currie. Lil'wat means "wild onions". The old name of Lillooet was Cayoosh Flat (1858-1860), derived from the name of one of the streams converging into the Fraser at the town ("cayoosh" is the local variant of Chinook Jargon for "horse" or "Indian pony").
Chinook Jargon"malakwa" for "mosquito(s)" (from fr. "le maringouin").
*Matsqui: ″stretch of higher ground″
*Metchosin: English translation of "Smets-Schosen", meaning "place of stinking fish".
*Nanaimo: Named after the
Nechako River: An anglicization of [netʃa koh] , its name in the indigenous Carrier languagewhich means "big river".
*Sechelt: the town is named after the First Nations people who live in the area, the
*Shalalth: "the lake" in the
St'at'imcetslanguage of the Lillooet people
*Skaha Lake: from the Okanagan language word for "dog" ("sqexe")
*Skookumchuck: "strong (skookum) ocean/water (chuck); that is: strong tide, strong ocean current, rapids" in
Chinook jargon(three different locations - Sechelt Inlet, Lillooet River, Columbia River/East Kootenay).
*Sooke: named after the
T'SoukeFirst Nation people who live in the area
*Spuzzum, from the local variant of the Chinook Jargon "spatsum", a reed used in basketry
*Squamish: The town is named after the First Nations people who live in the area
Stein River: Adjacent to Lytton BC, "Stein" is an adaptation of the Nlaka'pamux (Thompson) "staygn" - "hidden place".
Taghum, British Columbia, "taghum" is the Chinook Jargon word for "six" (Taghum is six miles from Nelson
* Toronto derived from the Mohawk word "tkaronto" meaning "trees standing in the water".
Nlaka'pamux(Thompson) language for "red earth", a reference to the ochre found here, which was highly prized for use in ceremonial life.
Tsawwassen: "Looking toward the sea" in North Straits Salish
Tyhee Lake Provincial Park: "Tyhee" is a variant of the usual Chinook Jargon"tyee" - "chief, big, great, important, boss"
Ucluelet: "Safe harbour" in the language of the Nuu-chah-nulth.
Yoho National Park- "Yoho" means "how amazing" or "it is beautiful"
*Grand Rapids: Translation of
Creeword "misepawistik", meaning "rushing rapids".
Wapusk National Park
*Winnipeg: "Dirty water" or "murky water" from the word "win-nipi" of the
Kouchibouguac National Park(and River): "Kouchibouguac" means "river of the long tides" in Mi'kmaq.
Meductic: derived from the Maliseet word "Medoctic", meaning "the end".
Miramichi: the name, which may be the oldest recorded name of aboriginal origin in Canada, may come from the Montagnaisword for "country of the Micmac."
Nashwaak River: a corruption of the Maliseetword for slow current.
Oromocto: possibly from the Maliseetword welamooktook which means "good river"
Woolastook: Maliseet word meaning 'good and bountiful river'
Newfoundland and Labrador
Aguathuna: possibly derives from the Beothuk "aguathoonet" or "aquathoont", "grindstone", imposed perhaps in the mistaken belief that it meant "white rock" for the limestone abundant in the area [http://home.cogeco.ca/~nfldroots/seart.htm]
Kaipokok Bay: from Inuktitut, meaning "frothy water" [http://www.nunatsiavut.com/en/makkovik.php]
Makkovik: "Vik" is the Inuktitutword for "place". "Makko-" may have one of the following origins:
# it may be a corruption of the name "Maarcoux", after
Pierre Marcoux, a French trader in Labradorin the late 1700's [http://www.mun.ca/educ/native_northern/makkovik.html] ; or
# from the
Inuktitut"maggok", "two"; thus "Makkovik" would mean "two places". Around Makkovik are two inlets, Makkovik Bay and Makkovik harbour, and two main brooks floating into the two inlets. "Two Buchten Machovik", meaning "two bays Makkovik", is mentioned in a 1775writing by the German Moravian missionary Johann Ludwig Beck. [http://www.labradorvirtualmuseum.ca/wem/CommunityProfile.html]
Nunatsiavut: from Inuktitut, meaning "our beautiful land" [http://www.nunatsiavut.com/en/nunatsiavutgov.php]
Shannoc Brook: Joseph Beete Jukes, the Geological Surveyor of Newfoundland in 1839- 1840, believed that Shannoc Brook, a tributary of the Exploits River, was given the Beothuk name for the Mi'kmaq[http://home.cogeco.ca/~nfldroots/seart.htm] .
Inuktitut, meaning "a narrow place in the river". [http://collections.ic.gc.ca/Labrador/sheshatshit2.html]
Torngat Mountains: from the Inuktitutname for the region, "turngait", meaning "spirits"; Inuit legends hold that here the spirit and physical worlds overlap. [http://www.nunavik-tourism.com/adventuretorgnat.html]
*Wabana — from the Abanaki "wabunaki", "east land" from "wabun" "dawn"; so named in
1895by Colonel Thomas Cantley, president of the Nova Scotia Steel Company[http://bellisland.net/council/town_history.htm]
*Wabush — from
Innu"wabush", "rabbit ground" [http://www.labradorwest.com/wabush_crest.htm]
*Antigonish: Derived from the
Mi'kmaqword "nalegitkoonechk", meaning "where branches are torn off".
*Eskasoni: Derived from the
Mi'kmaqword "We'kwistoqnik", meaning "Where the fir trees are plentiful".
Kejimkujik National Park: "Kejimkujik" has been translated as meaning "attempting to escape" or "swollen waters", but the park's official translation means "tired muscles".
*Pugwash: Derived from the
Mi'kmaqword "pagweak", meaning "shallow water".
*Shubenacadie:Derived from the Mi'kmaq word Shubenacadie (or Segubunakade) means "abounding in ground nuts" or "place where the red potato grows.
*Tatamagouche: Derived from the
Mi'kmaqword "takumegooch", meaning "meeting of the waters".
*Whycocomagh:Derived from a Mi'kmaq word which means "Head of the Waters".
*Aklavik "Aklavik" means "place where Grizzly Bears" in
Aulavik National Park: "Aulavik" means "place where people travel" in Inuvialuktun.
*Inuvik: "The place of man" in
Somba K'e; the Dogrib name for Yellowknife means "where the money is".
*Tuktoyaktuk: "Tuktuyaaqtuuq" means "resembling/look like a caribou" in
Tuktut Nogait National Park- "Tuktut Nurrait" means "young caribous" in Inuvialuktun.
Auyuittuq National Park- Auyuittuq means "the land that never melts".
*Iqaluit: "many fish" in
Nahanni National Park Reserveet al. - Nahanni means "spirit" in Dene
*Pangnirtung is derived from "Pangniqtuuq": "the place of many bull caribou"
Quttinirpaaq National Park- "Qutsiniqpaaq/Quttiniqpaaq" means "top of the world" in Inuktitutand "Quttiniqpaaq" in Inuinnaqtun.
Sirmilik National Park- "Sirmilik" means "the place of glaciers" in Inuktitutand "Hirmilik" in Inuinnaqtun.
Ukkusiksalik National Park- "Ukkusiksalik" means "place of have cooking pots" in Inuktitutand "Utkuhikhalik" in Inuinnaqtun/Natsilik/Kivalliq.
Algonquin Provincial Park: Named after the Algonquin( Anishinaabeg) people of Ontario.
*Brantford: Named after
Joseph Brant, a Mohawk leader.
*Etobicoke: "The place where the
aldersgrow" from the word "wadoopikaang" in the Ojibwe language.
Manitoulin Island: "Manitoulin" is the English version of the word Mnidoo which means "spirit" in the Nishnaabe (Ojibway) language. Mnidoo Mnis is the original name. Mnis meaning "island".
*Mississauga: Named after the native tribe of the Mississauga
*Mississippi River (between Ottawa and Mattawa)
*Nipissing: from the
Anishinaabe languageterm "nibiishing", "at (some) water".
*Oshawa: from the Ojibwe term "aazhaway", meaning "crossing to the other side of a river or lake" or just "(a)cross". [Rayburn, Alan, "Place Names of Ontario", Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997, p. 258.] [http://www.freelang.net/dictionary/ojibwe.html Freelang Ojibwe Dictionary] ]
*Ottawa: "To buy" from the word "adaawe" in the
Anishinaabe language; adapted as the name of the Odawapeople.
*Petawawa From Algonquin meaning "where one hears the noise of the water"
Pukaskwa National Park
*Temagami: from the Anishinaabe word "dimiigami", "deep water(s)".
Timiskaming: from the Algonquin language "Temikami" or "Temikaming", meaning "deep waters".
Toronto: from an Iroquoian language, but of uncertain derivation. [Bright (2004:508-9)]
*Wahnapitae: from the Anishinaabe "waanabide", "be shaped like a hollow tooth".
*Wikwemikong: from the Anishinaabe "wiikwemikong", "Bay of Beavers" from Nishnaabe word "Amik" meaning beaver.
*Ahuntsic district of
*Akpatok Island "Akpaqtuq" means "come down or lowers itself" in
*Arthabaska (and County)
*Réservoir Caniapiscau, and (River, Hunting camp, Regional county municipality)
*Chicoutimi: "End of the deep water" in
*Coaticook: Derived from the
Abenakilanguage, meaning "river near the pines".
*Donnacona: Named after Chief
Donnacona, 16th CenturyIroquoian Chief of Stadacona.
*Lac Etchemin (and town)
*Gaspé (also County, Peninsula, and Cape): "land's end" in
*Inukjuak "Inugjuaq or Inujjuaq" means "The Giant/Big Man" in
*Kamouraska County: Derived from the
Abenakilanguage, meaning "birch bark here".
*Kangiqsualujjuaq "Kangiqsualujjuaq" means "the very large bay" in
*Lac Kénogami: "Kenogami" means "long water" in
*Rivière Koksoak "Quqsuaq" means "Yellowish" in
*Kuujjuaq "Kuujjuaq" means "the great river" in
*Lac Manitou: Derived from the
Algonquianname " Gitchi Manitou", which in their culture describes their Creator (the Great Spirit).
*Maskinongé (and County)
*Réservoir and Rivière Matawin
*Magog: Derived from "Memphremagog", see Lake Memphremagog below.
Manicouagan: "where there is bark"
*Mégantic County (also Lake):
Abenakifor "lake trout place".
*Lac Memphremagog: Meaning "beautiful waters" or "vast expanse of water" in
*Missisquoi County: "Missisquoi" is an
*Pontiac County: Name of the famous 18th-century Ottawa
*Quebec City (and County): The "narrowing of the river" refers to the point where the
St. Lawrence Riverpasses Quebec City.
*Rimouski (and County)
*Salluit "Salluit" means "the thin ones" in
*Shawinigan: "Portage at the crest" in
Abenakifor "bottomless" or "extremely deep all around".
*Torngat Mountains "Tuurngat" means "Spirits or sometimes Evils" in
*Saskatoon: Derived from the
Creeword "misāskwatōmin", meaning Saskatoon berry- a fruit native to the area.
Aishihik Lakeand Aishihik River: meaning "tail hanging down" in Southern Tutchone
Ivvavik National Park: "Ivavik" means "birthplace" or "nursery" in Inuvialuktun
Klondike River: Derived from the Han languageword for hammer stones used to fix salmon nets ("Tr'ondëk").
Kluane Lakeand Kluane National Park and Reserve: from "Łù'àn" meaning big fish in Southern Tutchone
Tagish Lakeand Tagish, Yukon: from the name of the language and people ( TagishKwan)
Teslin Lake, Teslin Riverand Teslin, Yukon: from the Tlingit"Deisleen", long narrow water
Vuntut National Park
*Bright, William (2004). "Native American Placenames of the United States". Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
* [http://www.cqsb.qc.ca/svs/434/fnplace.htm Central Quebec School Board]
* [http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/pr/info/info106_e.html Indian and Northern Affairs Canada]
* [http://geonames.nrcan.gc.ca/index_e.php Geographical Names of Canada]
* [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-?]
List of place names in New England of aboriginal origin
List of Chinook Jargon placenames
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