New Map of Indigenous American Words in English

For some time I’ve been meaning to update my map of pathways into English of  Indigenous American Words, which was based on the Second (1989) Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. With a couple of hours to spare while watching the kids this week, I managed to get around to it, using data from the current OED Online (January 2020 update):

[a larger PNG is linked from the image, and a PDF can be downloaded here]

This map has almost double the number of words as the previous (homonyms are ignored here). OED3’s language hierarchy also allows me to group them according to language family.

As with the previous map, many of these words are ethnonyms and/or names of languages (Wallawalla, Potawatomi, Garifuna).

Plenty are familiar common words as caribou, chocolate, igloo, inukshuk, kayak, mesquite, moose, potlatch, skunk, tomato.

An interesting category is calques–words formed within English on the model of an indigenous expression. These include white mouse (sense 3, the name of a type of lemming, from the Chipewyan dlunegai dlune mouse + gai white), firewater (after Ojibwa ishkodewaaboo ishkode fire + waaboo liquid), and Rocky Mountains (Cree asinîwaciya, < asiniy stone, rock + waciy mountain).

Yours to explore, if you like that sort of thing.


And we have Coverage!

Here’s the cover of my new book, out in April/May from OUP: Image credit: “Iskandar and the Talking Tree”, from Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (977-1010 CE), Bodleian MS. Ouseley Add.176, fol. 311v.  


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OED3 Revision, Revised for 2020

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