San·​tee (ˌ)san-ˈtē How to pronounce Santee (audio)
plural Santee also Santees
: a member of a Dakota people especially of the upper Midwestern United States

Word History


borrowed from Dakota (Dakota and Lakota dialects) isą́ʔatʰi or isą́yatʰi, from isą́ "knife" + atʰí "to encamp at," hence "camp at knife (quarry)"

Note: According to Stephen Riggs (A Dakota-English Dictionary [Washington, 1890], p. 206), "why this name has been given them by their brethren is still a matter of conjecture; perhaps because they pitched their tents formerly at Isaŋtamde, or Knife Lake, one of those which go under the denomination of Mille Lacs; or, perhaps, it was given to them because they lived nearer the Isaŋtaŋka, or Big Knives, i.e., the Americans." Eugene Buechel and Paul Manhart (Lakota Dictionary, new comprehensive edition [University of Nebraska Press, 2002]) suggest more generally that the Santee were "so called because they used to stay long at the place where they got the material for their stone knives."

First Known Use

1698, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Santee was in 1698

Dictionary Entries Near Santee

Cite this Entry

“Santee.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

Geographical Definition


geographical name

San·​tee (ˌ)san-ˈtē How to pronounce Santee (audio)
river 143 miles (230 kilometers) long in South Carolina flowing southeast into the Atlantic Ocean see congaree
city in southern California that is a suburb of San Diego population 53,413
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