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.
peccary (s) (noun), peccaries (pl)
1. A nocturnal mammal, very similar to a pig from the family Tayassuidae,  with hooves, long stiff hair which is dark with white and grey markings: "Peccaries travel in groups in the forests of South, Central, and North America."

"In his biology class, George learned about the peccaries, which live in groups as they explore the forests for food."

"The peccaries hardly have a tail to speak of, their ears are very small and erect, and they can be as long as about 35 inches (90 centimeters) and weigh up to 66 pounds (30 kilograms)."

In addition, George found out that peccaries eat plants and small animals, even dead ones!"

2. Etymology: from Carib, pakira, "pig like".
petunia (s) (noun), petunias (pl)
1. One of many kinds of garden plants from the nightshade family with funnel-shaped lowers of white, pink, red, or various shades of purple: "Susan and Tom had many window boxes and hanging baskets full of petunias with white, pink, red, blue, and purple bell-shaped flowers."
2. The color purple, from a moderate to a dark shade: "Sherry chose a dress with the color petunia to match her new shoes that her husband gave her for her birthday."
3. Etymology: from old and obsolete French pétun, "tobacco" and also from Tupi petyn.
pipsissewa (s) (noun), pipsissewas (pl)
1. One of the various evergreen herbs which have pink colored flowers and jagged leaves: "When Joe was sick, the doctor gave him a diuretic derived from the plant pipsissewa."

"Joe had to stay home so he could run into the bathroom quite often!"

2. Etymology: from Cree pipisisikweu, "to break into pieces".
pirogue (s) (noun), pirogues (pl)
1. A canoe carved from a tree trunk, also called a dugout canoe: "Albert wanted to make a pirogue with his father during his summer vacation and go with it down the Mississippi!"
2. Etymology: French from Spanish piragua.
Podunk (s) (noun) (no plural)
1. A very small place, region or town considered to be insignificant: "On their trip through the United States, Linda and Becky drove through a few Podunks which weren't even on the map they were using."

"The Podunks often consisted of just a couple of houses, and sometimes, a church and/or a gas station!"

2. Etymology: of Algonquian origin and from Mohegan or Massachuset Podunk, "a place name".
poncho (s) (noun), ponchos (pl)
1. A square cloak made of a heavy piece of fabric; especially, wool, worn over normal everyday clothes: "The poncho has a hole in the middle for the head, and the one that Sam's mother gave him was warmer and more comfortable than his newly bought winter jacket from the department store in town."
2. A large piece of cloth, often waterproof, but with a hood which can be made of plastic and used as a raincoat: "Marie had a red poncho with a hood which was the perfect rain gear for riding her bike because it kept her hair completely dry."

"Waterproof ponchos are used by some military forces; as well as, by campers and hikers."

3. Etymology: from American Spanish, which came from Araucanian pantho, "woolen material".
potato (s) (noun), potatoes
1. A plant native to the Andes in South America, related to the nightshade family (Solanum tuberosum) that grows up to 20 to 40 inches (50 to 100 centimeters) high and is widely cultivated as a main source of food: "In addition to growing peas, beans and lettuce in their garden, the Robinsons also had a significant number of plants that produced potatoes."
2. The edible tuber of a plant which sometimes has up to 20 tubers per plant that, are somewhat oval in form with brown or red skin and are a source of starch, amino acids, protein, Vitamin C and B: "The Smith family ate their potatoes almost everyday for dinner, preparing them in a different way each time."
3. Etymology: from the Spanish patata, "white potato" and from Carib, a language of Haiti, batata, "sweet potato".
punk (s) (noun), punks (pl)
1. A light, brownish, spongy preparation which burns very slowly; usually, made from fungi: "A stick of punk is used to light fireworks."
2. Decayed wood which is used when it is dry for tinder (anything that catches on fire easily): "Another term for punk is touch wood, which is a fungus that is found on old tree trunks and can be used in a stove or fireplace to keep warm."
3. Etymology: possibly from Delaware ponk, "ashes".
savanna, savannah (s) (noun), savannas, , savannahs (pl)
1. A large, flat and open area of grassland perhaps with a few scattered trees or bushes: "While reading a book on African geography, Albert found out that the savannas are typically without vegetation and are located in the southeastern United States and in tropical South America."
2. An extensive, open and treeless plain; especially, in Florida: "Jane and Susan forgot their road map but still wanted to see some areas in Florida and suddenly found themselves in a savanna, a vast and empty area completely destitute of trees!"
3. Etymology: from an old-fashioned Spanish word sabana; also, from Taino zabana.
squash (s) (noun); squash, squashes (pl)
1. A vine like plant belonging to the gourd family: "The squash Lisa grew in her garden had such long tendrils and huge leaves that she couldn't grow anything else in that area!"

"Squashes are eaten like a vegetable or used in pies."

3. Etymology: from an alteration of Narragansett askútasquash, "green vegetable that may be eaten raw".
squaw (s) (noun), squaws (pl)
1. A native North American woman or wife, the term is now thought to be quite offensive: "The book Tom read about the Indians back in the 1700s showed him that squaws were a very important part of tribal life and not at all a degradation of their importance."

"Tim called Nancy, his wife, a squaw many times, giving her additional reasons to divorce him."

2. Etymology: from Massachsett of Algonquian origin squa, "younger woman".
tautog (s) (noun), tautogs (pl)
1. A large and dark-colored edible animal that swims and lives along the coast of North America: "While on vacation in the state of Maryland in the United States, Susan and Tom decided to eat tautog for dinner, a fish from the area."
2. Etymology: from Narragansett tautauog, the plural of taut, "blackfish".
tepee, teepe (s) (noun), tepees, teepes (pl)
1. A tent used by American Indians of the Great Plains, cone shaped and covered with animal skins sewn together and stretched over wooden poles: "Jacob was so interested in the Sioux Indians that he got a book about them, and he learned that their tepees were very valuable dwellings."

"The tepees were collapsible, easily transported, and then quickly erected when they moved into another place."

2. Etymology: from the Sioux language tipi, from ti, "to dwell" and pi, "used for".
tobacco (s) (noun), tobaccos, tobaccoes (pl)
1. A plant native to tropical America (genus Nicotiana; especially, the Nicotiana tabacum) which is mainly grown for the leaves and used for smoking: "Tobacco was once the main crop, along with cotton, in the Southern United States in the 19th century where many slaves were utilized on the plantations."

"Christopher Columbus in 1492 observed Indians using tobacco for smoking or chewing or as snuff; and later, it was used for trading goods between the European colonists and Britain."

"Tobacco is another name for the smoking of a pipe, cigarettes, cigars; such as, so-and-so was told by his doctor to give up tobacco for the sake of his health."

2. Etymology: from Spanish tabaco which is believed to have come from Caribbean origin.

"A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless."

—King James I (1566-1625) of England
tuna (s) (noun), tunas (pl)
1. Any of several prickly pears; especially, a treelike pear of tropical America with an edible fruit or the fruit itself: "When Mary was in her biology class the other day, the class read about tuna, which is also a kind of cactus, not only a fish!"

"Mary also found out that the fruit of this cactus; especially, that of the Opuntia tuna of Jamaica has spiny flat connections between the flat leaves, its fruit is oval and red, and it is used primarily as food for livestock."

2. Etymology: from American Spanish and previously from Taino.

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