Words such as totem (from Ojibway) and igloo (from Inuktitut), are easily identifiable as having Indigenous language origins. But there are many other words in the English language that have Indigenous roots. From caucus (origin: Algonquian) to hurricane (origin: Taino) to shack (origin: Nahuatl), so many words from First Nations, Native American, Central American and South American Indigenous languages have made their way into English and become so commonplace, that their origins often go unrecognized.
The list of English words with Indigenous origins is long and varied and includes dwellings, food, nature, sporting goods and more. Here is a look at the names of a few animals, commonly found in Canada, whose roots can be traced back to Indigenous words:
One of Canada’s iconic species, caribou is derived from the Mi'kmaq word γalipu, which means “snow shoveller” because of the way the creature pushes away snow to feed on vegetation.
One of the first words that comes to mind when you think of Canada, moose is derived from the Eastern Abenaki word mos or the the Narragansett word moòs or moosu, variously translated as “twig eater” or “he who strips off (leaves and bark).”
A nuisance in big cities but a help to farmers with regards to pest control, the origin of the word skunk can’t be pinned to one Algonquian language. In Mohegan it’s skonks, in Lenape it’s škakw, in Wampanoag it’s squnck, and in Abenaki it’s segankw.
These rotund rodents are found throughout Canada, from coast to coast. There’s some ambiguity about the origin of the word woodchuck but it’s usually attributed to the Ojibway otchig or the Cree otchok or wuchak.