plural Ohlone or Ohlones
: a member of any of a group of Indigenous peoples who before European contact lived in coastal California from San Francisco and San Pablo bays south to near Point Sur and east into the Coast Ranges
: the family of languages spoken by the Ohlone peoples

Examples of Ohlone in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Built on the site of an ancestral Ohlone village, which was itself covered with broccoli, cauliflower and hay farms, the lab’s construction was not predestined. Lisa M. Krieger, The Mercury News, 22 Jan. 2024 But in late October, the university’s standing changed as a federal notice showed UC Berkeley was preparing to repatriate some 4,400 ancestors and 25,000 items taken from burial sites in the Bay Area, the ancestral and present-day homelands of the Ohlone people. Logan Jaffe, ProPublica, 26 Dec. 2023 Held on the traditional lands of the Ohlone people, the gathering is a call for remembrance and for future action for Indigenous people and their allies. Shannon Toll, The Conversation, 17 Nov. 2023 Subsequently, the region’s Indigenous populations — named the Ohlone by anthropologists and settlers though there were dozens of distinct groups in the area — were nearly exterminated as the United States reneged on treaties, enslaving, displacing and slaughtering entire communities in the process. Federico Perelmuter, Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2023 Along with other Native Americans, the Ohlone were victims of genocidal acts and suppression of their language, religion, arts and even their names. Patricia Leigh Brown, New York Times, 11 Dec. 2022 The Ohlone people once lived on about 4.3 million acres in the Bay Area. Jane Recker, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 Apr. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'Ohlone.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


extracted from plural Ohlones, variant spelling of earlier Olhones, borrowed from California Spanish oljones, plural, based on Ramaytush (a dialect of San Francisco Bay Ohlone/Costanoan) ʔolxon, name of a village near San Gregorio Creek in present-day San Mateo County, California

Note: The name Ohlone is probably first documented in print by the British naval officer Frederick W. Beechey, who mentions "the Olchone, who inhabit the seacoast between San Francisco and Monterey" (Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Bering's Strait, Part II, London, 1831, p. 402); on page 400 he refers to presumably the same people as "Alchones." The next occurrence is apparently in Henry Schoolcraft's Information Respecting the History, Conditions and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, Part II (Philadelphia, 1852), p. 506, in a note to a vocabulary of the "Costanos - California." The note, under the heading "Costanos," states that "the tribes of Indians upon the Bay of San Francisco, and who were, after its establishment, under the supervision of the mission of Dolores [an alternate name of Misión San Francisco de Assís], were five in number: the Ah-wash-tes, Ol-hones, (called, in Spanish, Costanos, or Indians of the Coast), Al-tah-mos, Ro-mo-nans, and Tu-lo-mos." The note and vocabulary, said to have been obtained "from an aged Indian at the mission of Dolores, named Pedro Alcantara," are paired with a vocabulary of the Cushna, said to be living "on the mountains of the South [Fork of the] Yuba [River]." The Cushna vocabulary is attributed in Schoolcraft's Information, below the heading "Cushna (Sacramento R.)" at the head of the list, to "Johnson, U.S. Agt." This individual was Adam Johnston, appointed federal "Indian subagent" on the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers on April 14, 1849, and dismissed on January 19, 1852 (see W.H. Ellison, "The Federal Indian Policy in California, 1846-1860," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, vol. 9, no. 1, June, 1922, pp. 37-67).

Both the "Costanos" list and the "Cushna" list have been attributed to Johnston by Victor Golla (California Indian Languages, Berkeley, 2011, pp. 164-65) and by Randall Milliken, et al., Ohlone/Costanoan Indians of the San Francisco Peninsula and Their Neighbors, Yesterday and Today (Oakland, 2009), p 23. Johnston's contributions elsewhere in Schoolcraft's Information focus solely on Central Valley peoples ("The California Indians—Their Manners, Customs, and History," part IV, 1854, pp. 221-26; "Languages of California," ibid., pp. 406-15; "Indian Tribes, or Bands, of the Sacramento Valley, California," part VI, 1857, p. 710), so his authorship of the "Costanos" vocabulary, which is not directly attributed to him, might be questioned. However, a letter of September 16, 1850, from Johnston to Orlando Brown, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (online at the Los Angeles County Library Digital Collections) mentions his "interview with a very aged Indian near the mission of Dolores" (presumably carried out with a Spanish interpreter) who was most likely Pedro Alcantara. The spelling Ohlone was introduced in an article in the California Farmer newspaper (vol. 15, no. 14, May 31, 1861, p. 106) by Alexander S. Taylor, either as a miscopying of Olhone from Schoolcraft or as a typesetting error. Milliken, et al., document the further use of the word in detail (pp. 42-46). Interestingly, Taylor included the name Oljon in a list of native "rancherias" (indigenous villages) recorded in the baptismal registry of the Dolores mission (California Farmer, vol. 16, no. 6, October 18, 1861, p. 36). The name Olhonean was used by the ethnographer C. Hart Merriam as an alternative to Costanoan in reference to the language family.

First Known Use

1831, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of Ohlone was in 1831

Dictionary Entries Near Ohlone

Cite this Entry

“Ohlone.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Ohlone. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

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