English Words from Amerind

(an American Indian or an Eskimo; any of the languages of certain American Indians or Eskimos)

The words in this unit have been compiled from a list of the "Amerind" language. The parts of speeches and definitions were added from a variety of sources.

—The basic entries come from the "Word Source" section in the
Scott, Foresman Advanced Dictionary by E.L. Thorndike and
Clarence L. Barnhart; Scott, Foresman and Company;
Glenview, Illinois; 1973; page 37.
hammock (s) (noun), hammocks (pl)
1. A type of bed, usually used outdoors, made of strong fabric; such as, canvas, and held up by both ends tied to supports; including trees, poles, or posts: "Last night Nancy tried sleeping outside in the hammock, but she fell out when she was turning over."
2. An area of land that is very fertile in the southern part of the United States; especially, in Florida: "The hammock is normally higher than the area around it, has a vegetation of hardwood and humus soil that is deep and rich."

"Sandra went to Florida on vacation and wanted to see the Highland Hammock State Park which used to be a very fertile area for farming by the pioneers a long time ago."

3. Etymology: Spanish hamaca, from Taino (extinct Arawakan language) hamaka.
henequen, henequin (s) (noun); henequens, henequins (pl)
1. An American agave plant (Agave fourcroydes) which has large, thick leaves similar in shape to a sword and gives a red-colored fiber which is hard and used in producing twine, ropes, and coarse fabrics: "Grandmother Ruby was surprised when she saw the henequen that was growing in the garden behind her new house, and she hoped to use its leaves for making strong thread for herself!"

"The hammock, that was made of henequen, belonged to Lois's grandmother, and it was still as good as new after several years of use!"
3. Etymology: from Spanish "henequén", possibly from Arawakan.

hogan (s) (noun), hogans (pl)
1. A circular dwelling consisting of one room used by the Navajo Indians of North America: "Jane read an article about hogans which indicated that the entrances normally faced to the east, were made of wooden logs or stones, and the dome-shaped roofs were covered with mud and had holes in the tops to let smoke go out from the fires burning inside; and they were just like the ones she had seen during the school field trip the day before."
2. Etymology: from Navajo, hoghan, "house".
hurricane (s) (noun), hurricanes (pl)
1. A very aggressive, violent, tropical storm usually beginning along the equator: "The hurricane that reached Japan and destroyed so much of the coastline originated in the eastern areas of the Pacific Ocean, showing that such horrendous storms don't only start in the Atlantic Ocean or even the Caribbean Sea."
2. A wind at a speed of more than 75 miles (121 kilometers, or 73 knots) per hour: "The velocity of the hurricane last week was measured at 80 mph on the Beaufort scale."
3. A sudden and violent outburst: "The news of the tax rate going up to 30% unleashed a hurricane of violent anger and chaos in the country."
4 Etymology: Spanish huracán; from Taino hurákan; related to Arawak kulakani, "thunder".
iguana (s) (noun), iguanas (pl)
1. A large, tropical American lizard that has spiny crests along its back: "After seeing an iguana in a zoo, John went home and read about them in an encyclopedia which indicated that they live among trees, eat plants, and have pendulous or loose flesh under their necks, called 'dewlaps'."

"Some iguanas grow to a length of 6 feet and, unless they are attacked, they are considered to be harmless."

"The iguanas are one of the biggest families of lizards, with some 700 species."

American Heritage Illustrated Encyclopedic Dictionary;
Houghton Mifflin Company; Boston; 1987; page 839.

2. Etymology: Spanish, from Carib and Arawak iwana; a member of the family Iguanidae.
An example of an iguana.
Kachina (s) (noun), Kachinas (pl)
1. A supernatural ancestral spirit of the Hopi or Pueblo peoples: "The Kachina was idealized as a god or goddess and thought to live in the pueblo for some time during the year: "Reading in a book about Indians, Susan found out that each Hopi tribe had its own Kachina, the mythological ancestors of living humans in spirit form."

"There might have been up to 500 Kachinas!"

2. A dancer who wears a very detailed and elaborate mask, and is supposed to represent a certain spirit during a ceremony, either a religious or an agricultural one: "One of the Kachinas, wearing a fantastic costume, was even thought to be transformed by one of the spirits during the devout ceremony in the evening."
3. A doll which is carved, wearing a costume of a particular spirit and normally given to a child as a gift: "At the souvenir store, Linda bought a little Kachina for her daughter as a birthday present."
4. Etymology: from Hopi katsina, "a magical or supernatural being or a masked person pretending to be such a being."
key (s) (noun), keys (pl)
1. A low island or reef: "There are several keys in the West Indies, south of Florida, and in the Gulf of Mexico."

"On her trip to Florida, Susan and her family visited Key West, a small island only four miles long and two miles wide."

"The seaport, also called Key West, is the most southern city in the United States with a population of about 25,200 people."

2. Etymology: Spanish cayo, "shoal, rock"; from Arawak.
kiva (s) (noun), kivas (pl)
1. Usually a round room or chamber in a Pueblo Indian village which is underground or partly underground: "The kiva is used my men for council meetings or for religious ceremonies."

"While visiting an authentic Hopi Indian Village in the southwestern part of the United States, Thomas could go inside a kiva and see the fantastic murals on the walls."

"There was also a small hole in the floor called a sípapu and Thomas learned that it symbolized the place where the tribe originated."

2. Etymology: from the Hopi language, kiva
maguey (s) (noun), magueys (pl)
1. One of the American plants which is large and have fleshy and spiny leaves: "The best-known maguey is the century plant."

"Once Rudolf saw a century plant in the botanical gardens in his city and found out the next day that it was a maguey, a typical type of cactus of southwestern United States, Mexico and Central America."

"He also read that the maguey has been used to make alcoholic drinks; such as, pulque and tequila!"

2. The fiber which is extracted from a cactus: "Maguey is used to make ropes."
maize (s) (noun) (no plural)
1. A plant widely raised in the United States for its edible grains or kernels, which grow on large ears or spikes: "While traveling in a bus through the state of Iowa, Carol saw miles and miles of corn, or maize, the largest crop in the United States, growing up very straight and tall in the fields."

"Later she learned that corn was also called maize in other countries besides the United States and Canada."

"The maize the Smith family was eating in their salad had kernels that were not only yellow, but also black and red!"

2. A yellow to light orange color: "June wanted so much to find a scarf and shoes to match the maize dress that she was going to wear to the summer picnic."
mugwump (s) (noun), mugwumps (pl)
1. A person acting independently, who is uncommitted, undecided, or remaining neutral, particularly in politics: "Being newly elected into the Green Party in Germany, Bernd decided to be a mugwump in the beginning, just listening in order to decide later for himself how to vote in the next round."
2. A Republican in 1884 who decided not to support the party ticket: "Sally read in her history book that the first time the word mugwump was used was in 1884, when a Republican would not support and vote for the presidential candidate James G. Blain."
3. Etymology: from Algonquian (Natik) mugquomp or mukquomp, "chief, important person, great man".
mugwumpery, mugwampism (s) (noun), (usually no plural)
The views and conduct of an independent or neutral person; especially, in politics: "Because of his mugwumpery in the last election, Steven lost a lot of supporters because of his apparent indifference to the issues."
mugwumpish (adjective), more mugwumpish, most mugwumpish
To be like or to resemble an uncommitted or undecided person: "Jack acted in a most mugwumpish manner when he refused to state his opinion on the pressing issue of prostitution in the city."
papoose, pap poose (s) (noun); papooses, pap pooses (pl)
1. A native American baby or a very young child: "While on holiday in New Mexico, Susan suddenly saw an Indian mother take her cute little papoose into her arms, giving it a kiss and a hug."
2. A bag, formed like a pouch, which is used to carry an infant and worn on the the mother's back: "Jane wanted so much to find an Indian doll wearing a papoose for her little daughter!"
3. Etymology: from Algonquian, Narragansett papoòs, "child" or "very young".
pecan (s) (noun), pecans (pl)
1. An olive-shaped, edible nut with a smooth, thin shell, related to the walnut family, which grows in the central and southern parts of the United States: "The wood of the pecan is hard; the bark is furrowed with deep cuts, and the leaves have the shapes of feathers."

"While on their trip around the southern states, June and her husband found out that one of the biggest industries was the production of pecans."

"The typical sweet foods that included pecans were the pies and pralines, which they loved to eat in cafés after their walking tours."

2. The edible nut of this tree, being extremely rich with a very high-fat content, has a special flavor and texture: "Jeanette's favorite dessert was pie made from pecans, which she learned later had almost as many calories as butter!"
3. Etymology: from Cree, pekan, "hard-shelled nut".

See other English words from foreign languages at this
Other Languages Index.