From their earliest contact with traders and explorers, American Indians borrowed foreign words, often to describe things not previously encountered. In this way, Russian
was the source of the Alaskan Yupik
word for "cat" and an Athabaskan
word for "bullets." Native Canadian groups adopted French
terms still in use, and southwestern groups in what is now the U.S. borrowed numerous Spanish
The language exchange went both ways. Today, thousands of place names
across North America have Indian origins—as do hundreds of everyday English
Many of these "loan words" are nouns from the Algonquian languages that were once widespread along the Atlantic coast. English colonists, encountering unfamiliar plants and animals—among them moose, opossum, and skunk—borrowed Indian terms to name them. Pronunciations generally changed, and sometimes the newcomers shortened words they found difficult; for instance, "pocohiquara" became "hickory."
Some U.S. English Words with Indian Origins
from the Greenlandic Inuit "annoraq"
from the Choctaw "bayuk"
from the Ojibwa "ajidamoon," red squirrel
from the Virginia Algonquian "pocohiquara"
from the Virginia Algonquian "uskatahomen"
from the Canadian Inuit "iglu," house
from the Alaskan Yupik "qayaq"
from the Virginia Algonquian
from the Eastern Abenaki "mos"
from the Narragansett "papoos," child
from the Illinois "pakani"
from the Narragansett "powwaw," shaman
from the Narragansett "poquauhock"
from the Narragansett "askutasquash"
from the Narragansett "msickquatash," boiled corn
from the Sioux "tipi," dwelling
from the Micmac "topaghan"
from the Virginia Algonquian "tamahaac"
from the Ojibwa "nindoodem," my totem
from the Massachusett "wampumpeag"
from the Eastern Abenaki "wik'wom"