What Are Some Common Native American Words?


Quick Answer

Many words from Native American languages are common in English today, such as "barbecue," "canoe," "kayak," "hooch" and "cannibal." Most Native American words adopted into English refer to plants and animals native to North America, such as "caribou," "moose," "raccoon," "jaguar" and "potato."

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What Are Some Common Native American Words?
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Full Answer

Many Native American words in common English use come from the first tribes met by early European explorers. Most Native Americans on the East Coast spoke a subsection of the Algonquin language group, such as the Ojibwa, Powhatan and Massachusett, and many words transferred directly to English from these tribes. The Nahuatl language covered most Central America civilizations, including the Aztec Empire, and was the Mesoamerican lingua franca from the 7th century to the 16th century. Many Nahuatl reached English through the Spanish, who conquered Central America during the 16th century.

Some words from the Algonquin language include "chipmunk," "moccasin," "muskeg," "squash" and "tomahawk." Many location names also come from Algonquin languages, including cities, states and provinces, such as Chicago, Wyoming and Quebec. Some words of Nahuatl origin include "cocoa," "coyote," "guacamole," "shack" and "tomato."

Many English words also come from other Native American languages, such as "cocaine" and "jerky" from Quechua; "anorak" and "igloo" from Eskimo-Aleut; and "hammock," "hurricane" and "tobacco" from Arawakan.

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