Etymology: "Chicago" Semi-final

carljweber carljweber at MSN.COM
Tue Jan 15 15:20:37 UTC 2002

Etymology: "Chicago" Semi-final

Carl Jeffrey Weber

1. "Chicago" < "Ch8ca8a", Miami/Illinois, 1720, "il passé dans l'eau marche"
< French, "Choucagoua/Choucaoua/ Choucaou": great river < Spanish,
 "Chucagua": great river.

2. Spanish "Chucagua", used by French for Mobile River (Sanson's Royal map,
1673/4). Later, "Choucagoua". Misidentified river, thought to be the river
of De Soto. Later (1690s-1720s), "Chicagua", reverting to Spanish "-agua".

Apparently original form comprised two Indo-European water morphemes, the
first of which is a phonestheme (sound symbol) with the sense of "discharge"
. Earliest attested Spanish definition, "great river", De Soto narrative,

3. Word from which city was named, "Checagou"earliest attested, La Salle,
1679-80. Franquelin map, 1684, "Chekagou". Significance, "great river route"


"Chicago" is attested in Miami/Illinois, 1720: "Ch8ca8a" (il passé dans l'
eau marche). The Indians had borrowed it from the French, who had used also
the more generalized meaning, "great river", for the Ohio and Mobile Rivers.
The French had in 1673/4 borrowed it from the Spanish, "great river",
attested in Spanish from 1600.

La Salle designated cartographic Checagou the fifty-mile corridor from Lake
Michigan to the Illinois River, and the significance of the word seems to
have been "way to the great river".

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