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Canadian provincial name etymologies

From Academic Kids

This page lists the etymologies of the names of the Provinces and territories of Canada.

  • British Columbia takes its name partly from Britain and partly from the Columbia whose crew first explored the area. Columbia in turn is a poetic name for the American continent discovered by Christopher Columbus. The adjective "British" was presumably added to the name in order to distinguish it from Colombia in South America.
  • Manitoba is most commonly believed to have come from the Cree word manitowapow or the Ojibwa word manitobau, both meaning "the strait of the spirit". It is unclear why this name was chosen for the province.
  • Northwest Territories is named for its location northwest of Lake Superior. The territory once comprised virtually all Canadian land northwest of that lake; it has since been split up into several other provinces and territories, but has retained its name.
  • Nova Scotia is Latin for "New Scotland". In the 1620s a group of Scots was sent by Charles I to set up a colony, and the Latin name is used in Sir William Alexander's 1621 land grant. Although this settlement was abandoned because of a treaty between Britain and France, the name remains.
  • Ontario is named after Lake Ontario, which got its name from a Native American language, most likely from onitariio, meaning "beautiful lake", or kanadario, translated as "sparkling" or "beautiful", or possibly from Wyandot (Huron) ontare ("lake").

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