How Did Chicago Get Its Name?

did-chicago-its-name Credit: Amanda Hall/Robert Harding World Imagery/Getty Images

Chicago got its name from the word "shikaakwa," which means "wild onion" in the Algonquin language. Because the wild onions grew profusely in the area around the Chicago River the Algonquins used "shikaakwa" to refer to the area.

Early French explorers heard the American Indians in the area refer to the place around the Chicago River mouth as "shikaakwa." The word degraded to "checagou" in the French tongue. Later the explorers learned that the word actually referred to a wild plant in the onion and garlic family that grew in that area. The first written reference to the area as "checagou" was by the French explorer LaSalle in 1679.