: zuni

Word History


Spanish Cíbola, putative location of seven fabled cities, located somewhere north of central Mexico in the report of the Franciscan Marcos de Niza (1539), later taken to refer to Zuni pueblos in present-day western New Mexico + -an entry 1 or -an entry 2

Note: The name Cíbola first appears (spelled Çivola) in a report by Marcos de Niza (a native of Nice in the Duchy of Savoy), following a journey to investigate rumors of populous cities in the area of present day northern Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. (Copies of Marcos' report, along with instructions given to him by the Spanish viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, survive in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville; a diplomatic transcription of the Spanish text along with an English translation are in Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint, Documents of the Coronado Expedition, 1539-1542 [Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 2005], pp. 59-88.) The assumption of historians has long been that Cíbola referred to the Zuni pueblo of Hawikuh—whether or not Marcos actually reached it personally—after the expedition of Coronado in 1540-42 did reach a number of pueblos in the area of present-day New Mexico and Arizona. However, neither Cíbola nor other names adduced by Marcos (Vacapa, Maratta, Acus, Ahacus, Totonteac) have ever been convincingly fit into the ethnolinguistic framework of the region as subsequently known. Earlier speculations, as by Adolph Bandelier in Contributions to the History of the Southwestern Portion of the United States [Cambridge, Mass., 1890], cannot be taken seriously today. The conjecture that Cíbola reflects Zuni šiwinʔa, the current name for the Zuni pueblo (a derivative of šiwi, the Zuni self-designation) has been rejected (see Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 9, Southwest, edited by Alfonso Ortiz [Washington, 1979], p. 480-81). Nonetheless this explanation continues to crop up in scholarly historical literature: "Cíbola, the name fray Marcos had heard in Sonora, was probably a Pima or Ópata version of Shíwana. Or perhaps it was a rendering of si:wolo, the Zuni word for for bison … " (Richard Flint, No Settlement, No Conquest: A History of the Coronado Entrada, University of New Mexico Press, 2008, p. 97). The author's second suggestion is also unacceptable, given that Zuni si·wolo is a borrowing from Spanish cíbolo, "bison," itself an adaption of Cíbola (see Stanley Newman, Zuni Dictionary [Bloomington, Ind., 1958], p. 37; and see etymology and note at cibolero).

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Cite this Entry

“Cibolan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Cibolan. Accessed 25 Apr. 2024.

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