Al·​gon·​qui·​an | \ al-ˈgän-kwē-ən How to pronounce Algonquian (audio) , -ˈgäŋ- \
variants: or Algonquin \ al-​ˈgän-​kwən How to pronounce Algonquian (audio) , -​ˈgäŋ-​ \ or Algonkian \ al-​ˈgäŋ-​kē-​ən How to pronounce Algonquian (audio) \ or less commonly Algonkin \ al-​ˈgäŋ-​kən How to pronounce Algonquian (audio) \

Definition of Algonquian

1 usually Algonquin
a plural Algonquin or Algonquins : a First Nations people of the Ottawa River valley
b : the dialect of Ojibwa spoken by these people
2 usually Algonquian
a : a family of languages spoken by Indigenous peoples from Labrador to Carolina and westward into the Great Plains
b plural Algonquian or Algonquians : a member of the peoples speaking Algonquian languages

First Known Use of Algonquian

1667, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for Algonquian

Algonquin borrowed from French, earlier Algoumequin, perhaps borrowed from Passamaquoddy-Maliseet (Algonquian language of Maine and New Brunswick) elakómkwik "they are our relatives (or allies)"; Algonquian from Algonqui(n) + -ian entry 1

Note: The form Algoumequin, from which Algonquain (1632) and later Algonquin is usually taken to be contracted, was first used by Samuel de Champlain in 1603, recording a meeting with a large group of Indians at the mouth of the Saguenay River: "Ils estoient trois nations quand ils furent à la guerre, les Estechemins, Algoumequins, & Montagnes, au nombre de mille …" ("They were three nations when they were at war, the Estechemins, the Algoumequins, and the Montagnes, altogether a thousand …"; Des sauvages, ou, Voyage de Samuel Champlain, de Brouage, fait en la France nouvelle, l'an mille six cens trois [Paris, 1603], pp. 5-6.) The etymology given above was suggested by Gordon M. Day in "The Name 'Algonquin'," International Journal of American Linguistics, vol. 38, no. 4 (October, 1972), pp. 226-28. Day gives the angle-bracketed transcription [ɛlægómogwik]; the transcription elakómkwik is used in the Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15, Northeast (Washington, D.C., 1978), p. 792—presumably elehkomoqik in the orthography of the online Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary, from the changed conjunct stem elakum- "be related to." Day dismisses the Micmac etymology algoomaking "at the place of spearing fish and eels" suggested by J.N.B. Hewitt, on, among other reasons, the grounds that no Micmacs were present when Champlain met the group of Indians at the Saguenay River.

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The first known use of Algonquian was in 1667

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Cite this Entry

“Algonquian.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for Algonquian


Al·​gon·​qui·​an | \ al-ˈgän-kwē-ən How to pronounce Algonquian (audio) \
variants: or Algonquin \ -​kwən \

Kids Definition of Algonquian

1 : a group of indigenous people of southeastern Ontario and southern Quebec or their language
Hint: The word is usually Algonquin in sense 1.
2 : a family of languages spoken by indigenous people from Newfoundland and Labrador to North Carolina and westward into the Great Plains
3 : a member of the group of people speaking Algonquian languages
Hint: The word is usually Algonquian in senses 2 and 3.


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