Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

New York Indian Names


Ye say they all have passed away.
That noble race and brave;
That their light canoes have vanished
From off the crested wave;
That 'mid the forests where they roamed
There rings no hunter's shout;
But their names are on your waters;
Ye may not wash them out.
Mrs. Sigourney

The Iroquois have left their names for towns, rivers, lakes and mountains scattered throughout the state. These are conflicting, several different spellings of the name of the same place being a matter of frequent occurrence. This is natural and in fact inevitable. The Indians had no written language. Each of the Six Nations had a different dialect, and each clan in the different nations had its peculiarities of language. The white men in listening to the Indian names would spell them as pronounced, and in that way would necessarily have, a name for each dialect at least. Not only this but some of the names came through the Dutch or the French and in that way produced more confusion. In some cases one name ultimately found general acceptance, and in other cases only two forms were in common use, but it must be apparent that there is a degree of confusion in names that is the source of considerable controversy.

The following list gives a few Indian names, with their meanings, and the English names which have supplanted them. As there is no desire to give the pronunciation neither diacritical marks nor accent marks are given:

Ga-na-da-wa-o - Running through the hemlocks - Dunkirk

De-as-hen-da-qua - Place for holding courts - Elicottville

De-on-gote - Place of hearing - Akron

Do-na-ta-gwen-da - Opening into an opening - Bath

Skwe-do-wa - Great plain - Elmira

Ta-yo-ga - At the forks - Tioga Point

Ne-o-dak-he-at - At the head of the lake - Ithaca

Skoi-yase -Place of whortleberries -Waterloo

Was-co - Floating bridge - Auburn

Ah-wa-ga - Where the valley widens - Owego

Skan-e-a-dice - Long lake - Skaneateles

Us-te-ka - Bitternut hickory - Marcellus

Ha-nan-to - Small hemlock limbs on water - Jordan

Ga-na-wa-ya - A great swamp - Liverpool

Ga-sun-to - Bark in the water - Jamesville

Ka-hu-ah-go - Great or wide river - Watertown

Nun-da-da-sis - Around the hill - Utica

Ole-hisk - Nettles - Oriskany

Ka-da-wis-dag - White field - Clinton

Ka-ne-to-ta - Pine tree standing alone - Canastota

Chu-de-naang - Where the sun shines out - Chittenango

O-che-nang - Bull thistles - Binghamton

Do-sho-weh - Splitting the fork - Buffalo

Ta-na-wun-da - Swift water - Tonawanda Creek

Deo-on-go-wa - The great hearing place - Batavia

Te-car-ese-ta-ne-ont - Place with a sign post - Wyoming

Chi-nose-heh-geh - On the side of the valley - Warsaw

Gen-nis-he-yo - The beautiful valley - Genesee River

Nun-da-o - Hilly - Nunda

Ga-ne-a-sos - Place of many berries - Conesus Lake

O-ha-di - Trees burned - Geneseo

Ga-nus-ga-go - Among the milkweed - Dansville

De-o-de-sote - The spring - Livonia

O-neh-chi-geh - Long ago -Sandy Creek

He-soh - Floating nettles - Olean

Ga-a-nun-deh-ta - A mountain flattened down - Cazenovia

Ga-sko-sa-go - At the falls - Rochester

Date-car-sko-sase - The highest falls - Niagara Falls

Ga-nun-da-gwa - A place selected for a settlement - Canandaigua

Ga-na-gweh - A village suddenly sprung up - Palmyra

Ga-nun-da-sa-ga - New settlement village - Geneva

Ta-la-que-ga - Small bushes - Little Falls

Ga-na-wa-da - On the rapids - Fonda

Ga-na-jo-hi-e - Washing the basin - Canajoharie

Sko-har-le - Flood-wood - Schoharie

Ga-ha-oose Shipwrecked canoe Cohoes Falls

Je-hone-ta-lo-ga - Noisy Ticonderoga

Ta-ha-wus He splits the sky - Mt. Marcy

Se-ha-vus - First hoeing of the corn - Schenevus

Ti-o-run-da - Place where two streams meet - Fishkill

Chic-o-pe - A large spring - Saratoga Springs

Scho-no-we - A great flat - Schenectady

Ots-ga-ni-gu - Hemp hill - Cobleskill

Sha-se-ounse - Boiling water - Seneca Falls

Te-can-as-e-to-e - Board on the water - Canisteo River

Ag-wam - Place abounding in fish - Southampton

Che-pon-tuc - Hard climbing - Glens Falls

Kah-cho-quah-na - Place where they dip fish - Whitehall

Al-ip-conck - Place of elms - Tarrytown

Ga-na-yat - Stone at the bottom of the water - Silver Lake

De-o-wun-dake-no - Place where boats were burned - Albion

Ga-na-wa-ga - The rapid river - St. Lawrence River

It is possible that a few of the names in this list are Algonquin instead of Iroquois.

 AHGP New York

Source: Stories From Early New York History, by Sherman Williams, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906.


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