Chapter 7: Corn, Fruits, Berries, and Trees

by Dr. Frank Waabu O'Brien, Aquidneck Indian Council

This short treatise stems from the research of the Massachusett-Narragansett Revival Program, a project for the reconstruction of the extinct American Indian languages of southeastern New England. Our intention is to make these works available to a wide audience. The present paper shows translations for about 200 names for trees, plants and related terms taken from the extinct American Indian Algonquian languages of southeastern New England—Narragansett, Massachusett and related dialects. Not all species were recorded by the missionaries of Colonial New England. Occasionally vocabulary words are borrowed from the Ojibway language (Baraga), Wampano (Iron Thunderhorse, 2000) and a north Boston-Shore dialect (Wood) when no extant terms were discovered or for purposes of comparison. Reconstruction of such words in Massachusett-Narragansett may be modeled on these terms from similar Algonquian languages. Wampano revitalization efforts seem to include adaptation of European terms for trees not indigenous to the region.

In the Algonquian languages, living organisms are named for their outstanding characteristics (color, sound, habit &c) such as n8timus = “tree with leaves resembling hands” (oak tree). We note that four words in the Vocabulary were Americanized from the Algonquian languages (squash(es), succotash, samp, and “Johnny Cake” ).

The vocabulary listing is presented alphabetically as a table of three columns. On the left is the English language term being translated, as translated in the middle column (with language/dialect identified), and any useful comments on the right side (including etymology), along with supplemental footnotes. The main contributing language is Massachusett1 (Eliot, Cotton and Trumbull references). The abbreviation Narr. refers to the Narragansett language as recorded by Roger Williams (1643). The abbreviation “Wm. Wood” refers to the 275-word vocabulary compiled by William Wood in 1634. William Wood wrote an expository work of his 17th century experiences in the New World, entitled New Englands Prospect, which summarized his observations among the Massachusêuck (Massachusett Indians, “People of the Great Hills”). Some botanical terms thought to be unfamiliar are defined by simple lexical citations from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary. Notes in the COMMENT column are itemized by “bullets” when multiple Algonquian translations are listed; the order of the “bullets” in each column correspond. Pronunciation of words is not attempted owing to the scanty knowledge of this language. For technical guidelines, see Goddard & Bragdon (1988). Strong Woman . Moondancer (1998) provide a long guide to interpretation of vowel sounds and consonant-vowel clusters along with the special diacritical symbols seen in the vocabulary.

Corn, Fruits, Berries, and Trees

Corn, Fruits, Berries, and Trees

Algonquian

(∞ = oo as in food)

Comment

acorns (plural)

anáuchemineash[3] (Narr.)

“nuts or small fruits,”; cf. “nuts”

alder

odopi (Wampano)

 

apple (fruit)

meechim

from “to eat”

apple tree

applesanck[4] (Wampano)

Obvious adaptation of English “apple”

ash tree (black)

monunks

“black wood” (basket wood)

barberries (red berries or prickly pears) (plural)

wuchípoquameneash (Narr.)

“separated fruits or berries”

bark of a tree

mehtūkque wunnadteask

“wetu covering from tree”

bark, birch & chestnut

wuchickapêuck (Narr.)

Birch or chestnut bark to cover wetu (wigwam) in summertime (Roger Williams, p. 32) [5]

barn, food storage

mechimukkōmuk

“enclosed place for food”

basswood

wigebimesanck (Wampano)

 

beans, kidney (plural)

 

 

 

 

 

beans, bush bean (plural)

 

 

 

bean, Indian

· tuppuhqumash

 

 

 

 

· manusqussêdash (Narr.)

 

 

· kehtoheae mônasquīsseet

· “they roll or turn” (perhaps common “pole bean;i.e.,  kidney bean or “Boston baked bean”)

· another type called “Indian beans”(perhaps “bush bean”)

· “an Indian bean”

beech tree

wadchumesanck (Wampano)

 

beechnut

wadchuamin (Wampano)

 

berry, fruit, corn, grain

· min[6]   (or) minne

 

 

 

· minneash

 

· singular, “that which is growing”

· plural (small berries, fruit, corn)

birch (hard woods)

 (may include other hardwoods like maple, hickory, the ashes, oaks, etc.)

pemsquamku

“wood that bends, winds and wraps around” (bark for  baskets, etc.)

birch or chestnut bark

wuchickapêuck (Narr.)

“the separating bark” (for the wétu covering outside)

blackberries (plural)

wuttohkohk¥minneōnash

“moist berries that make us thirsty”?

bloodroot

nepuckadchubuk (Wampano)

 

blueberries (hurtleberry)

· attitáash (Narr.)

· zata (Wampano)

· (plural), related to “drink”

· “blueberry”

boneset[7]

zazôbakwhôzik[8] (Wampano)

 

bough

pohchātuk

“it breaks, separates”

branch

· wuttuck

· pauchautaqun[9] (Narr.)

· wúdtuckqun   (Narr.)

· “ at end, outer most parts of tree”

· “turning, separating”

· “a piece of wood”

branches of a vine (plural)

cheouash

related to “separated”

bread

· puttuckqunnége[10] (Narr.)

· petuckqunneg

· isattonaneise (Wm. Wood)

· petuckquinneg (Wampano)

· see footnote

· “round long thing”, made from corn, fruits, etc.

· “the bread”

· bannock[11]/frybread

briar, thorn

kous

“sharp thing”; cf. “pine tree”

bull rush

wekinash (Wampano)

cf.   “reeds”

bush

nepéunk

 

buttercup

wizowibemi pasakwasawoh

(Wampano)

 

cedar tree

· utchukkŭppemis

· mishquáwtuck[12] (Narr.)

· “small separating bark”

· red cedar

cherry tree

qussuckomineânug (Narr.)

“tree with stones in fruit”

chestnut tree

· wompumus

· wómpimish (Narr.)

“white nut-tree”

chestnuts (plural)

wómpimineash (Narr.)

“white nuts”

chickory

minôboatag (Wampano)

 

chokecherry

pesorramin (Wampano)

 

colt's foot

pooke   (Wm. Wood)

“colt's foot”[13]

corn

· weatchimmíneash= corn in general (plural)

· eat chumnis (Wm. Wood) = “Indian corn”

· sowhawmen (Wampano) = corn

· Ewáchimineash (Narr.) = corn (plural)

· munnequinn = green corn (still growing; stalks tasted like sugar cane)

· munnequaminneash = green ears of corn (plural)

· missunkquaminnémeash = dried corn (plural)

· app∞suash weatchimmíneash

= roasted corn (plural)

· n∞hkik = parched corn   

         (“Journey Cake”, “Johnny   Cake”)

o   nókehick (Narr.) = “parched meal”; a common traveling staple mixed with water, akin to corn soup

· nasàump[14] (Narr.) = unparched “meale pottage”

· aupúmineanaqàump = parched corn

· sappaen = boiled soft in water

· m’sickquatash[15] = boiled whole   corn (plural)

· m’sohquttahhash =   shelled   boiled corn (plural)

· scannémeneash (Narr.) = corn seed (plural)

· mussohquamin =   ear of   ripened corn

· wuskokkamuckómeneash[16]     

       (Narr.) = corn from a newly  

       planted ground (plural)

· wawéekanash (Narr.) = sweet

          corn (plural)

weatchimmíneash = “food growing in the field we eat”

 

Corn was of many colors: white, black, red, yellow, blue and spotted.   Four kernels (for 4 directions) planted in each hill. Corn grown with squash and beans (“3 sisters plants”)

corn planter (awl)

mukqs

 

cranberry

sasemín

“sour-like fruit”; discovered by English as useful   to “conserve against Feaver” (Roger Williams, p. 97)

cucumber (English import)

· m¥nosketetămuk

· askitameg

· “smooth raw thing in the ground”

· “Indian cucumber”

currant berries (plural)

saútaash (Narr.)

related to “sour”?    

Sautáuthig is the delicacy dish made from Saûtaash

earth (see “land”)

 

 

elder bush[17]

saskib (Wampano)

 

elderberry

saskibimin (Wampano)

 

fern

masozi (Wampano)

 

field, soil

ohteuk

related to “to plant” (see “plant”)

figs

waweècocks   (Narr.)

“sweet things”?

fir trees or tall trees (plural)

qunonuhquaog[18]

“tall trees”

fire-wood (plural)

mishash

 

flax [thread-like fibers]

masaûnock (Narr.)

 

flower

uppēshau

“it shoots up”

flowers (plural)

peshaónash

 

fruit (of tree)

mehtūkque    mechummūoonk[19]

“tree food”

fruit or vegetable

meechummuonk

“food [fruits & vegetables] in general’” from “eats” + -onk

garden

tanohketeaonk

“place (field) where things grow in the earth”

ginger (snakeroot[20])

skokadchubuk (Wampano)

 

ginsing

gassôwadik (Wampano)

 

gooseberry

hakenamin (Wampano)

 

gourd

asq

“raw”; see footnote for “squashes”

grapes (plural)

wenominneash   (Narr.)

“grows on vines”; source of wine for English[21]

grass or straw or hay (see “herb”) (plural)

· mosketuash

· maskituash (Narr.)

 

grass, tender

woskoshkehtuash

From “new, young” + “grass”

gum, sap of tree

azoi (or) koa

 

hardwoods (maple, hickory, some ashes, oaks, etc.)

see “birch”

 

harvest time

núnnowwa[22] (Narr.)

 

hawthorn (thornapple[23])

chigenaz (Wampano)

 

hazelnut

bagôniz (Wampano)

 

hemlock

sagaskôdak (Wampano)

 

hemp[24], wild

mazon (Wampano)

 

herb or medicine

mosketu

from “raw”, “green,” “growing”

hickory nut

wusquatamin (Wampano)

 

hoe or scrapper

anáskhig[25] (Narr.)

Anaskhomwáutowwin = “a breaking up hoe”

hurtleberries[26] (see blueberries)

 

 

Indian tobacco (see “tobacco”)

 

 

jack-in-the-pulpit[27]

chichiz (Wampano)

 

jerusalem artichoke (related to sunflower)

? (searching)

 

land, earth

· ohke

· aûke (Narr.)

· sanaukamúck[28] (Narr).

· wuskáukamuck = “new ground (for planting)”

· aquegunnítteash = “fields worn out”

from words for “mother” and “land”

Related Narr. terms are níttauke = “My land” & nissawnâwkamuck[29]

leaf of a tree

wunnepog

related to “beautiful”, “liquid,” “stands erect”

leaves, violet

peshaûiuash (Narr.)

 

log

quttōw

from “heavy”, “weight”

maple tree, syrup

· msquayobsaanck (Wampano)= one tree

· nĭnâtĭk (Ojibway) = one tree

· nĭnâtĭkog (Ojibway) = many trees

· zeewâgmĭdĕ (Ojibway) = maple syrup

Plural is animate form even in Ojibway; see footnote for “red cedar”

meadow

· wompashkeht

· micúckaskeete (Narr.)

· tataggoskìtuash (Narr.)

· related to “bright light” and “growing”

· related to “green, raw, natural”

· “a fresh meadow”

melon

monasak∞tasq

see “cucumber”

mortar or place for pounding

 

· togguhwhonk[30]

· táckunck (Narr.)

Imitative sound of pounding—tah-kunk, tah-kunk; from “he grinds” + “wood”

mullein[31]

mamatchwuttamagon (Wampano)

 

muskmelon (English import)

quinosketămuk

“long raw thing in the ground”

nettle leaf

mazônibag (Wampano)

 

nutmeg

ramiskad (Wampano)

 

nuts (plural)

annachiminash

“shell fruits”, including one called “potato”

oak tree

n∞timus

“tree with leaves resembling hands”

 

oakwood, yellow

wesokkūnk

 “yellow tree”

onions, wild (plural)

weenwásog

appears to be “animate noun” (exception to rule)

orchard

· ahtuck

· mehtukque

· place of trees

· of   a tree

peach tree

peachsanck (Wampano)

English loan word “peach” is evident

pear (see barberries)

 

 

pecan

?

 

pine tree

· kowash’tugk

· k∞wa

· cówaw[32]

· kowawese (Narr.)

· cówawésuck (Narr.)

· “tree with sharp things”

· “sharp, point”

·  

· young pine tree, “sharp,“ “small”

· young pine trees

 

plain (noun)

mukkoshqut

“great grassy place”

plant (noun)

· ahketeamuk

· neahketeāmu

· ohkehteau

· “of a thing in the field”

· “a good plant”

· “a thing in the earth”

plantain

maykituash (Wampano)

 

planting time

aukeeteaûmitch[33]

 

plum tree

plumsanck (Wampano)

Obvious adaptation of English “plum”

poplar tree (tulip tree)

meetwe

“wetu wood”?

pounding pestle (for corn, nuts)

quinashin (Narr.)

“long stone”

puffball[34]

bigidoan (Wampano)

 

pumpkin (see “squashes & pumpkins”)

wasawa (Wampano)

 

raspberry

zegweskimin (Wampano)

 

red dogwood tree

squayawasanck (Wampano)

 

red earth

míshquock (Narr.)

“red earth”

red oak tree (should be yellow?)

wesattimĭs

 

reeds

· wékinash[35] (Narr.)

· wékinashquash[36]

 

· singular

· plural form in Massachusett

rhubarb

maskituash (Wampano)

Appears as same term for “herb” in Massachusett

rice, wild

menomen (Wampano)

 

root, tree

wutchāppehk (or) wottapp (or) wuttapp (or) wattáp (Narr.)

“the bottom”

rose or lily

kossepēshau

“warm flower”? (not indigenous)

sarsaparilla[37]

sasôksek (Wampano)

 

sassafras tree

sasaunckpâmuck (Narr.)

 

related to “bitter, tree”?

skunkcabbage

shegogwibag (Wampano)

 

spruce

m’skask (Wampano)

 

squash seeds ?

uppakumíneash   (Narr.)

 

squashes & pumpkins (plural)

askútasquash[38] (Narr.)

“raw plant that can be eaten”; called “vine apple” by Roger Wiliams

straw, hay (plural)

seekpoghonkash

 

strawberries (plural)

wuttáhminneash[39] (Narr.)

Source of wine for English

strawberry leaves (plural)

wuttahminaspíppaguash

 

sunflower

kezouskuganak (Wampano)

 

sweetflag[40]

muskwaskuk (Wampano)

 

tobacco (Indian tobacco)

(nicotiana rustica) (plural)

· wuttamâuog

· ottommaocke (Wm. Wood)



· “what they drink (i.e., smoke)”. Indian tobacco (not cigarette tobacco) was the most sacred plant and   only plant grown by men; it was mixed with herbs and had very little nicotine in it, and did no harm.

· “tobacco”

tree (see individual names for trees)

· mehtugq= a tree, the tree

· mehtugquash = trees

· mehtugquēs=   a small tree

· mehtugquēmēs= a very small tree

· mogkunk =    a great tree

· massatugk = a large tree

· askunhq = a green tree (sapling)

· muss∞ounk = a dry tree

· agwonk= under a tree

· ut kishkunk = near, beside the tree

· qunnuhquitugk = a tall tree

· mishuntugk[41]   = well-wooded (of a forest)

· muht∞k∞mes = a stick (“little wood”)

· wequanunkq = tree stump[42]

· kenuhtugq = “long wooden (sharp) crooked stick”

h’tugq = “tree” (the

root word may come from the sound made   when a tree is struck by a club or ax or arrow, maybe. ) Trees are very sacred; they span three worlds at once —sky, earth & under world; crystals found under some trees

 

tulip tree (see “poplar”)

 

 

vine apples (see “squashes”)

 

 

vine trees (plural)

wenomesíppaquash (Narr.)

related to “grape”

walnut

wusswaquatómineug (Narr.)

 

walnut tree

· wuss∞hquattomis

· wússoquat (Narr.)

from “to anoint with oils”, a practice done on their heads; the English used the bark to make beer

walnuts (plural)

wussoohquattômĭneash

“fruit we get oils from”. The meat   crushed and mixed with water and corn was mother’s milk.

waterlily root

meskatak (Wampanao)

 

watermelon (Colonial times)

ohhosketămuk

“raw green thing”

white oak tree

· pohkuhtimus

· paugáutimisk (Narr.)

related to “separating bark”, for baskets

willow tree

· anumwussukuppe

· anumwussikkup

 

related to “making baskets”?

wintergreen

gôgôwibagok (Wampano)

 

witchhazel

siokesanck (Wampano)

 

wood (see “branch” & “tree”)

 

 

woods (forest)

touohkōmuck

“solitary place”



[1] John Eliot translated the entire Bible into Natick dialect of the Massachusett (or Wampanoag) language.

[2] Note that the same person is identified by names “Moondancer,” and “Waabu”/ “O’Brien”.

[3] Plural form for most words for “corn, fruits, berries, trees, &c” is –ash,   indicating “inanimate” nouns.

[4] -(s)anck seems to be Wampano root/stem for “tree” (wood); cf.   –uck, -unk in Massachusett-Narragansett. Another stem for “tree”: -mus, -mis, -mish, -misk.

[5] Trumbull (1903) cites page 48 in both sections of his dictionary, but that is incorrect as the author has verified.

[6] Look for this basic root word (also spelled “men”) found in many terms for a fruit, berry, corn etc.

[7] Any of several composite herbs (genus Eupatorium); especially : a perennial (E. perfoliatum) with opposite perfoliate leaves and white-rayed flower heads used in folk medicine. (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

[8] Original document (p. 72) has circumflex over last “z” vs. last “o” as presented,   which appears to be a typographical error.

[9] A number of more or less corrupted Rhode Island place names are based on this root for "turn, braching" such as Pocasset, Pauchaug, etc.;  see the author’s website at the address: http://www.rootsweb.com/~rigenweb/IndianPlaceNames.html.

[10] Puttuki = "(it is) round".   Qunni = "(it is) long, extended". Final -ge   means "the thing that"; thus, puttuckqunnége = "round-long-thing that is ", applied to cakes, breads, etc.

[11] a : A usually unleavened flat bread or biscuit made with oatmeal or barley meal; b chiefly New England : CORN BREAD; especially : a thin cake baked on a griddle (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

[12] “The red tree”—very sacred tree; it’s classification is “animate”—only cedar and pine/fir trees and maple trees are “animate”in this subclass of natural world objects. Narr. plural for “cedar tree” is perhaps mishquawtuckquâog.

[13] Any of various plants with large rounded leaves resembling the foot of a colt; especially : a perennial composite herb (Tussilago farfara) with yellow flower heads appearing before the leaves; used medicinally. (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

[14]In American English, “Samp” is derived from this Narragansett word, and defined as “coarse hominy or a boiled cereal made from it”; hominy is “kernels of corn that have been soaked in a caustic solution (as of lye) and then washed to remove the hulls” (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

[15] We get   “succotash” from this word.

[16] “New ground corn”

[17] Extended discussion of this plant and berries may be found at Internet website http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/e/elder-04.html

[18] Plural ending –og identifies this noun as “animate noun” as explained in footnote for “cedar tree”.

[19] Nouns ending in –onk   are abstract nouns (indicating a collection or classification, state of being or action or abstract ideas <justice, love, truth, strength, foods &c.).   Try to locate other “abstract nouns.”

[20] Any of numerous plants (as seneca snakeroot) most of which have roots sometimes believed to cure snakebites; also : the root of such a plant   (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).   Wm Wood (1634) describes snakeroot as an Indian cure against rattlesnake bites in the woods of southeastern New England.

[21] As most people know by now, Indians did not use alcohol before the coming of the Europeans:

Their drink was formerly no other than water, and yet it doth continue, for their general and common drink. Many of the Indians are lovers of strong drink [alcohol] .... Hereby they are made drunk very often; and being drunk, are many times outrageous & mad, fighting with and killing one another; yea sometimes their own relatives.   This beastly sin of drunkenness could not be charged upon the Indians before the English and other Christians nations ... came to dwell in America. (Gookin, p. 11)

[22] “The corn dries, grows dry”.

[23] a : JIMSONWEED; also : any plant of the same genus b : the fruit of a hawthorn; also : HAWTHORN (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

 

[24] Related is Narr. word for “flax”= Asháppock (glossed as “hemp” in Roger Williams)

[25] "Thing that digs".

[26] Etymology: alteration of earlier hurtleberry, from Middle English hurtilberye, irregular from Old English horte whortleberry + Middle English berye berry Date: 1578. 1 : a European blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus); also : its glaucous blackish edible berry. (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

[27] An American spring-flowering woodland herb (Arisaema triphyllum syn. A. atrorubens) of the arum family having an upright club-shaped spadix arched over by a green and purple spathe. (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

[28] This word refers to land enclosed & cultivated (a garden or field). The ending -kamuck (-komuck) means an enclosed space or a structure like a Long House (qunnèkamuck).

[29] This word refers to land enclosed & cultivated (my garden or field) and has stem ending -kammuck as explained above.

[30] Probably not “abstract noun” as -onk is perhaps variant stem for “wood”.

[31] Any of a genus (Verbascum) of usually woolly-leaved Eurasian herbs of the snapdragon family including some that are naturalized in No. America. (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

[32] Word is based on root kous   (having a sharp point). The name of the tribal group Cowesit is based on this root ("At the place of the small pine"). In English "pine" was once "pin" (as in "sharp pin").

[33] "When he plants (puts into earth)”.

[34] Any of various globose and often edible fungi (especially family Lycoperdaceae) that discharge ripe spores in a smokelike cloud when pressed or struck (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

[35] Root is   "sweet".  One of the few words that has a plural ending for a singular noun!

[36] Possibly used for “sweetgrass”.     Sweetgrass is a winter-hardy, sweet smelling, perennial grass that grows in rich, moist soil. It can be found in North America from Alaska to South Carolina. Sweetgrass requires full sun.

[37] Used primarily as a flavoring; also, a sweetened carbonated beverage flavored with sassafras and oil distilled from a European birch (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

[38] “Things green or raw that may be eaten". The English word "squash" is derived from this Narragansett.   The English took the part "squash" (which they did not realize was already plural!) and added "es" to make the new word "squashes".   Other Massachusett words that may be of interest are: askootasquash ("cucumbers", an English import) and quonooasquash ("gourds") and monaskootasquash ("melons").  All have the root -ask or -asq meaning "green, raw, natural". The word asquash was used in general to mean "edible things green and raw".

[39] Literally, “Heart-shaped berries”, a true delicacy for which is celebrated “Strawberry Nickommo” in modern times and probably in ancient times as well.

[40] A perennial marsh herb (Acorus calamus) of the arum family with long narrow leaves and an aromatic rootstock -- called also calamus (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).

[41] This word appears as a place name in Providence, RI; Mashentuck = “Many trees; well forested place” (see http://www.rootsweb.com/~rigenweb/IndianPlaceNames.html).

[42] Also means’ “wooden mortar for corn-grinding”.

Go on to Chapter 8: Heavens, Weather, Winds, & Time
Go back to the Algonquian Language Revival Table of Contents



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