Vol. 51 No. 2 (2003)
Research Article

On the Birthday and Etymology of the Placename Missouri

Published 2003-06-01



Only in the last twenty-five years have linguists taken a serious look at the Miami-Illinois language, and only in the last twelve years has the nature of the language come into excellent focus with the work of David J. Costa. This growth in understanding, enhanced by the Miami's own language revitalization program, naturally spills over into areas such as the Midwestern onomastic on, which, because of the caprice of history, is strewn with Miami-Illinois names. These include such notables as Illinois, Chicago, Wabash, Kankakee, and the name of the big river itself, Mississippi. The author of the present article, an Algonquian linguist, has completed a comprehensive historical and linguistic study of American Indian placenames in Indiana and is currently working on a similar study of those in Illinois. This paper is a fresh look at “Missouri,” that beloved old Miami-Illinois language placename for the state just across the big river. It is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Donald M. Lance, the Missouri placename specialist, for whom I served as an Algonquian language consultant starting in the year 2000.


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