Only in Louisiana
Take a trip back in time with Capt. Paul Titus as he explores how Louisiana’s fishing hotspots got their names.
There are two very different Southwest passes in Louisiana. This one is at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
|Photo by DAVID A. BROWN|
I told him that we caught a big mess of fish in White Linen Bay.
Like the aggressive trout that soon would grace my dinner table, he took the bait.
“What? Where’s White Linen Bay?” he asked.
Now I set the hook hard.
“It’s just west of Bay Without Timber,” I told him. “You know, we fished it before. It’s out of Port Sulphur.”
I really had him going. He was running deep and strong with the bait.
“You remember,” I said. “The same place where we limited out over the oyster reefs year before last.”
He still had that puzzled look on his face, and again asked, “Where?”
I didn’t want him to shake the hook, so I asked, “Aren’t you bilingual?”
“Heck, no,” he said. “I’m Baptist, why?”
And then we both started laughing.
By then he realized I was referring to Bay Batiste (White Linen Bay) and Bay Sansbois (Bay Without Timber).
Laughing together, we recalled our previous trip to Bay Batiste, where I had lost an expensive rod and reel while hitting a rogue wave in my boat. Boy, did I cry and moan over the loss of that rig.
As for the names of these bays, one could easily see how Bay Sansbois got its name. The only timber anywhere around the bay is that which is used in man-made camps and dams on the canals that parallel the shoreline of the bay.
As for Bay Batiste, I recall being on this very shallow bay one spring day trying to outrun a squall that turned the water into a white foam.
Remembering back then, it looked almost as if we were running on a large piece of white linen lace, hence White Linen, or Batiste Bay. Heck, if the bay hadn’t already been named, I would have offered that name for it. It fit the occasion.
The names of these two bays caused us both to reflect and to ask each other how and why some of the features were named by the early settlers. We spouted out the obvious ones, like Baton Rouge (Red Stick), LaRose (The Rose), River aux Chenes (Oak River) and Ville Platte (flat town or village).
Then we began to realize there were many, many more names that described Louisiana sites. Some names were obvious and we knew the translations, but we were both at a loss as how many of the other features got their names.
I became intrigued with the translation, the etymology and history of some of these Louisiana names. I began to keep a log of some of the locations along with their translated names. Whenever time allowed, I researched the name of the location to determine how or why the place was named.
This endeavor made me keenly aware of the many, many different languages used to name our Louisiana cities, rivers, bayous, creeks, bays, lagoons and islands that are located throughout the state. I have grown to really appreciate the unique culture that we as Louisianans have.
Where else in the world can someone mention locations such as Brutus, Ram-Powell, Popeye, Cognac, The Midnight Lump, Lena, Horn Mountain, The Beer Can, The Milk Jug, Virgo, Macaroni, South Diana, Neptune, The Mississippi Canyon, Mosquito Hawk, Genesis, Blood Sweat & Tears, The Spider, Mars, The Black Tanks, The Dope Boat, the Concrete Rigs and Ursa, to name a few, and have the listener know that these are Gulf of Mexico offshore oil/gas fields and platforms and some favorite inshore fishing locations.
Use your imagination, and you can probably see how some of these platforms got their names, especially the “colorful” ones like The Green Monster, The Black Tank(s), The Mardi Gras Rig and The Red Chair. Although the Green Monster is actually no longer painted green, I doubt that it will ever stop being referred to as the Green Monster. I can only guess what happened to name one of the platforms Blood Sweat & Tears.
Where else can you fish and hunt in places such as He Who Screams Like An Eagle Lake or River? Where is that you ask? Why, it’s Calcasieu! It comes from the Atakapan Indian word for “Crying like an Eagle.”
It was said that there was an Atakapa Indian chief who screamed as an eagle, hence the land occupied by those Indians was called He Who Screames Like As Eagle, or Calcsieu.
And where else can you fish or hunt the Those Who Gather Corn land (Tangipahoa ) or and any one of over 30 bayous named with some form of the word Grand, or by any one of four Bird Islands, five Raccoon Islands, 15 Mud Lakes, or by or near two very different Southwest Passes and who knows how many Arpent Canals?
Not only do we have Native American, or Indian names, but also a lot of geological and topographical features, named by our early French, Spanish, German and English settlers. These names and their meanings have become part of our Louisiana heritage.
While there are certainly Native American “Indian” names that still exist for many locations, there are even more locations named by our first European settlers in their native tongue. These names were phonetically pronounced and spelled to emulate the sound of the Indian names.
Naturally when our early inhabitants referred to these sites, they did so in their own native language. These “corrupted” or translated versions of the Indian names persevered. This is probably only because the Europeans had a written language and used it in their communications. The Indians, for the most part, did not have such a means of communication. Their stories and histories were passed down verbally.
It was the European settlers who drew the maps and wrote letters and legal documents about the different locations, features and the Native American inhabitants. When they did so, they naturally used these names as spoken and written in their own language, trying to make their words sound like the Indian words did.
A story to tell
I found that most of these names had a story to tell. During my task of solving some of the GPS position requests for my monthly column in Louisiana Sportsman and on its web site, I was afforded the opportunity to explore some of these many, many names. In doing my investigations, I found that some locations were obviously named for a prominent feature, event or individual, while others, for whatever reason, are totally lost to history.
Some of these locations were named after a person or a family name that founded or lived in the area, such as Wilkinson Canal or Jacks Canal; many more locations were named as our ancestors saw the site or how it related to a particular event, characteristic or topography.
As an example, Bayou Sauvage meaning Untamed or Wild Bayou was used as a small-craft passage into New Orleans. It allowed the small boats to avoid the dangerous Mississippi River. Sometimes, the name was used to refer to the area as the Bayou of the Savages. No doubt, there were Indians in the area as there is an Indian burial ground on Oak Island that was alongside the bayou.
I have even found that some maps and archive information use different names for the same location. Some maps have an Oak River while others list the same feature as River aux Chenes, and some publications list both the English version and the translated name for the feature. Cuatro Caballo Lake is often referred to as Four Horse Lake on many maps, as are two others that immediately come to mind — Last Island (Isles Dernieres) and Four Bayou Pass (Quatre Bayou Pass).
Generally you will find English names like Indian Village, Vincent’s Landing, Persimmon Slough (Creek), Madden Creek, The Vale Hill, Muddy Bayou, Coon Gully and Driskill Mountain throughout the state. The Native American names or corruptions of those names are also scattered throughout the entire state, and those with French and Spanish names are usually prominent in the southern and Acadian parts of the state.
Yes, there are exceptions. I know there is a Bayou Lafourche (The Forked Bayou) in Caldwell Parish, but there are exceptions to everything.
If this sparked your interest, then continue on, as I have complied a novice’s translation and interpretation of what some of the different names are for these uniquely Louisiana features. I am surely not a linguist or a competent etymologist, and those who are may find some minor errors, but I hope all will enjoy reading this as much as I did researching it.
So, let’s take a trip. Come with me on a voyage in time as well as to some of these Louisiana places. Put yourself in the shoes of our ancestors, return with me to the days of yesteryear and imagine yourself at these locations. See if you can visualize what our forefathers saw or what they heard to make them give these places the names they have today.
The journey begins
Let’s start with some of the Native American names. Remember that many of these have been corrupted to sound similar to or like words in English, French, Spanish, German or even other Indian words as there was not one common Indian language among the Native Americans who lived in the region. These names were corrupted by one tribe describing another tribe in their own tribal language.
Here is what I believe are some of the meanings of the names.
Abita — Source of Water, or Springs, Fountain from the Choctaw word Ibetap.
Acadia — Place of Abundance. Thought to be from Micmac Indians in Canada the word “acade,” meaning a place where there is abundance.
Acolapissa (an Indian tribe) — Those Who See and Hear, “The Spies.”
Adois (Adai) — Brushwood, from the Caddio language.
Alabama — Plant Gatherers, from the Choctaw word alba for vegetation; to gather.
Apalachee (an Indian tribe) — the Apalachee are originally from what is now Florida.
Atchafalaya River — Long River, from the Choctaw words hacha meaning river and falaia for long.
Attakapas or Atakapa — Man Eaters, Choctaw again; some reported there were Indians in the area who practiced cannibalism on their enemies.
Avoyelles — People of the Rocks; mainly flint-type stones, used in fire-starting and firearms of that day, in reference to a Native American nation that lived in the area.
Bayou — A Small, Peaceful River; from the Choctaw word for stream, river or lake, which is bayuk or bayok.
Bayou Bushley — Cut Off Bayou; from the Choctaw language.
Bayou Chicot — Sluggish Stream; from the Choctaw bayok for stream and the French spelling of the Choctaw word chicot for sluggish.
Bayou Goula, Bayogoula (an Indian tribe) — the River People Bayou; the hunting territory and village site of the Bayogoula Indians situated near the present-day town of Bayou Goula. Bayogola means “Bayou People.” They called themselves Ischenoce, which means “Ours.”
Bayou Louis — Black Bayou; from the Choctaw lusa, meaning black.
Bistineau — Big Broth in the Caddo Indian language, as describing a foam on the lake or bayou.
Bogalusa — Black Creek; from the Choctow words bok or bog for creek and lusa for black.
Bogue Chitto — Large Stream or Creek, as defined by the Choctaw Indians.
Bogue Falaya — Long River, similar to Atchafalaya.
Bonfouca — Friendly People Place; a corruption of Choctaw, Spanish and Creole French for the name of a friendly Choctaw chief.
Caddo (an Indian tribe) — Great Chiefs or True Chiefs; from Kadohadacho. The Caddo were made up of five tribes — the Adai, Doustioni, Natchitouches, Ouachita and Yatasi.
Cahoula — Beloved Water; a corruption of Catahoula.
Calcasieu — He Who Screams Like An Eagle; from the Atakapan Indian word for “Crying like an Eagle.”
Castine Bayou — Flea Bayou; from the Choctaw kashiti meaning flea.
Catahoula — Beloved Lake; from Choctaw okhata, meaning lake and hullo meaning beloved.
Catalpa — Winged Head, referring to the blossoms of the catalpa tree.
Cataouatche (an Indian tribe) — Believed to be a corruption of cata in Choctaw for lake and Ouache for a tribal name.
Chacahoula — Beloved Home from the Choctaw chuka, for home and hullo, meaning beloved.
Chakanina — Place of Crying; from the Caddo language. It was a lake that was near the area where the Red and Mississippi once joined.
Chaoui — Raccoon (in a corrupted form).
Chawasha (an Indian tribe) — Raccoon Place; from the Choctaw language.
Chappepeela — Hurricane River; from the Choctaw hacha, for river and apeli for hurricane.
Chickima — Good; from the Choctaw language achukma, meaning good.
Chinchuba — Alligator; from the Choctaw hachunchuba.
Chipola — Feast; corrupted from the Choctaw word chepulli.
Chitimacha (an Indian tribe) — Originally lived on Grand Lake from Charenton to Bayou Portage.
Choctaw — Flat; an Indian tribe that was predominant in South Louisiana. Believed to have been so named because they flattened the heads of their infants.
Choupique — Mud Fish.
Chula — fox; from the Choctaw word chula. There was also a Yazoo Indian tribe called Chula.
Colapissa — Those Who Hear and See; corrupted from the Choctaw okla, meaning people, and pisa, meaning see. Figuratively translated as Spies.
Coochie — Little Great Water; believed to be corrupted from the Choctaw word Withlacoochee, meaning Water of the Little Great River
Coushatta — White Reed Brake; believed to be a corruption of the Choctaw word kusha, meaning reed or reed-brake, and hata, meaning white. It was referring to a tribe living near the reed-brake. A separate belief holds that it means Black Haired, which is a corruption of Koasatie.
Fanilusa — Black Squirrel; from the Choctaw words fani and Lusa, meaning Squirrel and Black.
Genesse — Beautiful valley; from the Iroquois Indian word gen-nis-he-yo. Believed given to the area by Arthur Loranger, a Canadian who lived near Fall Brook, New York, near the Iroquois tribe and later moved to Louisiana. He was president of the Genesse Lumber Co.
Goula — River People.
Houma (an Indian tribe) — Red. The Houma Indians lived from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Angola. The tribal symbol was the red crawfish. Believed taken from the Choctaw word humma or homma, meaning red. It is alleged that the Houma Indians wore red leggings and moccasins.
Istrouma — Red Pole; believed to be corrupted from the Choctaw iti hamma, meaning red pole. A boundary marker between the Houmas and Bayougoulas Indian tribes. Called Baton Rouge by the French.
Keatchie — Panther; corrupted from the Caddoan Indian language word Kishi, meaning panther.
Kisatchie — Reed River or Long Cane; from the Choctaw “kusha” meaning reed and “hacha” meaning river.
Louis — Black; a corrupted form of the word lusa in Choctaw language.
Manchac — Rear Entrance or Short Cut; from the original Mobilian word “imashaka” and the Choctaw word ashaka, meaning behind or rear.
Mermentau — corrupted from an Atakapa name of a chief named Nementou.
Mississippi River — a Great River; Algonquian Indian name “misi” for great and “sipi” for water.
Mugulash (an Indian tribe) — People of the Other Side; Mugulash is a corruption of the Choctaw name Imongolosha.
Natchitoches — Paw Paw or Chinquapin Nut Eaters; Chinquapin is a variety of scrubby chestnut.
Natalbany — Only Bears; from Choctaw, “nita” means bear and “bano” meaning “only.” There was reported to be a dense bear population in the area at one time, and a particular site was referred to as the Bear Camp.
Natchez — another name lost to history but believed to mean Hurrying Man, Hurrying Warrior or Away From in the Muskhogean Indian language.
Nottoway — Rattle Snakes; corrupted from nadowa in the Virginia Algonquian Indian language. Given to a plantation by John Randolph whose family was from Virginia.
Okaloosa — Black Water; from the Choctaw words oka, meaning water, and lusa, meaning black.
Opelousas (Okelousa, an Indian tribe) — Black Hair or Black Skull; believed derived from two lakes in the area they occupied. These lakes appeared black from the quantity of black leaves along the lakeshores.
Osca Bay — In the Cane; corrupted from the Choctaw language words oski, meaning cane, and abeha, meaning to be in.
Ouachita — Silver Sparkling Water, Good Hunting Grounds or Cow River People, depending on the dialect.
Panola — Cotton in the Choctaw language.
Plaquemine — Persimmon; from the Mobilian Indian word piakimin.
Ponchatoula — Falling Hair; Spanish corruption of the Choctaw words pashi for hair and itula for Falling, it is referring to the Spanish moss hanging from the trees.
Poosheapatope Creek — Sandy Bottom Creek; from the Choctaw words pushi, meaning flour meal, and patapo, meaning bed.
Quinapisa (an Indian tribe) — Those Who See. The tribe lived near present-day Hahnville on the Mississippi River all the way down to the mouth of the river.
Santa Barb — Snake Creek; corrupted from Choctaw words Sinti bok, meaning snake creek.
Shongaloo — Cypress Tree; from Shankolo in the Choctaw language.
Talisheek — Gravel or Pebbles; corrupted from the Choctaw word talushik, meaning gravel or pebbles.
Talla Bena — Palmetto Camp; corrupted from the Choctaw words tala, meaning palmetto, and abina, meaning camp.
Tallulah — Leaping Water in the Choctaw language.
Tangipahoa — Corn Gatherers or Corncob People.
Tchefuncte — chestnut or chinquapin; a variety of scrubby chestnut whose nuts were used for food.
Tchoupitoulas — An extinct Indian tribe, once thought to be named Chapitoulas.
Tickfaw — Piney Rest in Choctaw from the words tiak for pine and foha for rest.
Tioga — Anything Between Two Others; from the Iroquois language, or At the Forks of Rivers from the word Indian word Teihohogen.
Tunica (an Indian tribe) — The Tunica were by far the best traders around. They were three tribes of Natchez speakers. The two Louisiana-based tribes were the Taensa and the Avoyel. The Natchez were mainly in what is now Mississippi.
Whiskey Chitto Creek — Big Cane Creek. The Choctaw words were uski for cane and chito for large. I can see how uski would be misunderstood and written as Whiskey.
Winona — First Born in Dakota Indian language.
Yupon — Tree or Shrub; usually an evergreen, from the Catawba Indian word “yopun” or “yop,” meaning shrub.
Washa (an Indian tribe) — “Hunting Place or Good Hunting Place.”
Have you ever fished or hunted “Similar to Horse Lake?” You don’t know?
I bet if you knew that Lake Pato Caballo translated to Similar to Horse Lake, you would be better able answer the question.
Here are some more of my translations.
Arpent — First, for those countless Arpent canals that are all over the state, why are there so many? How come there are so many by the same name? Do you know how they got their name?
Well, the arpent was, or rather is, a pre-metric French unit of length. An arpent is a measure of distance that is about 192 English feet. Hence the Thirty Arpent canal is the canal that is about 5,760 feet away from a survey’s benchmark. The name describing the property or canal that was given as 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and/or 80 arpents was a distance from a specific point, which was usually a road or center of a bayou or river.
Almost all property deeded and surveyed by the early French settlers was referred to a so many arpents from a known point or feature. The drainage and navigation canals were normally configured at known surveyed distance (arpents) from a main road or center of a major bayou. It was naturally easy to name the canal or road by the distance it was from the other object, much as the Mississippi River today has mile markers along its bank.
Alabama Landing — Plant Gatherers Landing.
Amite — Friendliness.
Baton Rouge — Red Stick. Yes, I know you knew this one, but did you know that it was in 1699 when the French explorer Sieur d’Iberville led an exploration party of about 200 up the Mississippi River, and saw on a bluff on the east bank of the river a cypress pole covered with bloody animal and fish heads, which they learned was a boundry marker between the hunting territories of the Bayogoula and the Houma Tribes.
This blood-red pole or stick was reported to be in the area of what now is the campus of Southern University. The Bayogoula village was situated near the present-day town of Bayou Goula; the Houma village was believed to be situated near the site of what is now Angola.
But did you know we have two Red Sticks? You see, Istrouma also means Red Pole. It is believed to be corrupted from the Choctaw iti hamma, meaning red pole. And it is the same bloody pole boundary marker between Indian tribes named Baton Rouge by the French.
Bayou Barbue — Flatfish (flounder) or Brill Bayou.
Bayou Bienvenue — Welcome; Nice Arrival Bayou.
Bayou Canard Gris — Grey Duck Bayou.
Bayou Bois Piquant — Prickly Wood Bayou.
Bayou Chaperon — Hood, Coping, to Insure Proper Behavior Bayou.
Bayou Chevreuil — Deer (Venison) Bayou.
Bayou Chevreau — Kid Goat Bayou.
Bayou Cochon — Pig or Hog Bayou.
Bayou Coteau Chevreuil — Deer Hill Bayou.
Bayou du Chien — Dog Bayou.
Bayou de l’Ouest — Bayou to the West.
Bayou/Bay Courant — Current; Swift Water Bay/Bayou.
Bayou/Point Crevette — Shrimp Bayou/Point.
Bayou Cypriere Longue — Long Cypress Bayou.
Bayou des Amoreux — Lovers Bayou.
Bayou Dos Gris — Two Grey (ducks?) Bayou.
Bayou DuLarge — Wide, Large Bayou.
Bayou Du Lac — Lake Bayou.
Bayou Frenepiquant — Prickly Ash (tree) Bayou.
Bayou Gauche — Left (opposite of right) Bayou.
Bayou Gentilly — Gentille, Nice, Kind Bayou.
Bayou Penchant — Sloping, Leaning Bayou.
Bayou des Glaises — Clay (many) Bayou.
Bayou du Nord — North Bayou.
Bayou la Fee — Fairy (enchantment) Bayou.
Bayou/Lake LaFourche — Forked Bayou/Lake
Bayou L’Eau Bleu — Blue Water Bayou.
Bayou L’Ours — Bear Bayou.
Bayou LaLoutre — Otter Bayou.
Bayou des Ecores — Tally Sheet Bayou (present-day Thompson’s Creek Bayou).
Bayou Little Coteau — Little Slope/Hillside Bayou.
Bayou Marron — Crooked Bayou.
Bayou Mauvais Bois — Bad Wood Bayou.
Bayou Monnaie — Small Change (Money) Bayou.
Bayou Padre — Father Bayou.
Bayou/Bay Palo — Stick or Wood Bayou/Bay.
Bayou Platte — Smooth Flat Bayou.
Bayou Pilon — Pestle or Wooden Leg Bayou
Bayou Piquant — Prickly Bayou.
Bayou Pointe Au Chien — Point of Dog Bayou.
Bayou Pointe en Pointe — From Head of Land or Point to Head of Land or Point Bayou.
Bayou Poignard — Dagger Bayou.
Bayou Poulallier — Hen House Bayou.
Bayou Rond — Round Bayou.
Bayou Rigoletts — Little Channel or Small Ditch Bayou.
Bayou Sale — Large Room Bayou
Bayou Saut — Leap, Jumping Bayou.
Bayou Sauvage — Untamed, Wild Bayou.
Bayou/Bay Soute — Storage Room (nautical) Bayou.
Bayou Tete de Ours — Bear Head Bayou.
Bayou Terre aux Boeufs — Land of the Beef (Cattle) or Oxen. The Delacroix area was famous for training cattle. Bayou Terre aux Bouefs was an abandoned channel of the Mississippi River. The Isleño colonists from Tenerife brought the tradition of domesticating cattle to St. Bernard. Ranchers throughout Louisiana and eastern Texas brought herds of cattle to St. Bernard Village for training by Isleños, who became renowned for their ability to domesticate animals. The tradition of cattle training evolved in Tenerife because of a scarcity of horses and mules. Tenerfenos were forced to utilize oxen in the cultivation of crops throughout the island.
Bayou Vacherie — Cow Herd or Dirty Trick Bayou.
Baie — Bay.
Bay Blanc — White Bay.
Bay Coquette — Tidy Bay.
Bay Couteau — Knife Bay.
Bay Desespere — Hopeless or Desperate Bay.
Bay des Canards — Duck Bay.
Baie des Deux Chenes — Two Oak Bay.
Bay des Ilettes — Small Islands Bay.
Baie d’en Haut — Bay From On High.
Baie Du Cabanage — Bay With Old Cabins.
Bay Chene Fleur — Oak Flower Bay.
Bay Graisse — Grease; Fat Bay, slang for money; probably a sure-catch location.
Bay La Peur — Bay of Fear or Dreaded or Be Scared of Bay.
Bay Marchand — Trade or Shopping Bay.
Bay Raccourci — Short Cut Bay.
Bay Sale — Dirty Bay (Muddy Bay).
Bay Tambour — Drum Bay.
Bay Voisin — Next to or Neighbor Bay.
Balise — According to Webster’s Dictionary, Balize is a pole or frame raised as a seabeacon or landmark. The French word is balise and the Spanish is balisa. Balisa was established first by the Spanish, then taken over by the French, then taken over again by the Spanish and then re-established by the French and ultimately occupied by the United States as it was part of the Louisiana Purchase. This Balize was completely abandoned during the 1860s, and most of the people moved to Pilot Town (Pilottown). Because of that, some people now call the Pilottown area Balize or “The Balize.”
Balize was an outpost or a small array of huts on an island of ground that was slightly above the normal river delta near the mouth of the river, just south of Southeast Pass, at the northern part of Redfish Bay. It was known as the location that had a light pole that served as a beacon. The pole later was developed into a small lighthouse that fell into disrepair and was subsequently abandoned. There was a cemetery there that contained over 200 bodies.
This Bayou Balize community was frequently mentioned in documents as a landing prior to arrival in New Orleans. When the lighthouse was located on the island, it was reported to be a community of about 800 people.
It and most of the area around it is now under water. It was an island known for its illegal activities including smuggling and illegal importation of slaves. Engineers in 1720 reported that the Balize measured about 250 feet by 120 feet. (Information gleaned from “Crosses on the Delta” by Gladys S. Armstrong.)
Barataria Bay — Barateria (Spanish) Barratry, Fraud, Deception Bay.
Beaucoup Creek — Many or Plenty Creek.
Belle Chasse — Fine Hunting, Good Hunting Land.
Belle d’Eau — Good Drinking Water.
Bellevue — Beautiful View; a ridge southeast of Opelousas.
Bienville — Good; Nice Town.
Big Mar — Big Sea.
Boef — Ox, Beef or Buffalo; Dutch translation Boef for beef, but in North Louisiana it was locally referred to as Buffalo. History records that North Louisiana at one time had a considerable amount of bison.
Boeuf — Beef or Oxen in French.
Bonfouca — Friendly People Place; a corruption of Choctaw and Creole French.
Brule — Burnt Smell.
Borgne — One-Eyed, Suspicious. Parts of the Lake are only 5 to 6 feet deep.
Boutte — The End or Butt (as in the End of the Road).
Bunkie — Bunkie got its name because a railroad allowed a landowner to choose the name of the rail station located on his property, and he chose Bunkie, which was how his daughter mispronounced the name of her pet monkey.
Butte La Rose — Small Rose Hill.
Chemin-A-Haut Bayou — The High Road Bayou.
Cabahannose — Hammerer or Blacksmith Sleeps Here; corrupted from Spanish and Choctaw words.
Casse Tete — Puzzling.
Caillou — Pebble or Rough Cast.
Carencro — Buzzard; from the Louisiana Creole word for buzzard; the spot was one where large flocks of buzzards roosted in the bald cypress trees. In South Louisiana during the Civil War, many Yankee soldiers didn’t understand Carencro and called it “Carrion Crow.”
Chaland — Barge.
Chandeleur Isles — Candlemas Islands. The islands were discovered and named after religious celebration known as La Fete de la Chandeleur, or Candlemas Day, Feb. 2nd, in English.
Chef Menteur — Lying or False Chief.
Chien — Dog.
Chicot — Stump.
Chinois Pas — Chinese Pass.
Chinquapin — Nut (chestnut).
Chinquapin Fish — Shell Crackers.
Chicot Pass — Stump Pass.
Coup Juan — John’s Cut.
Cote Blanc Island — White Coast Island.
Coteau — Hillside or Slope.
Coteau Chevreuil — Deer Hill.
Coteau Frene — Ash Tree Hill.
Coulle — Flow or Drainage; hence, Catahoula Coulee is the flow channel of the Beloved Lake.
Coupe Creuse — Hollow or Sunken Cut or Pass.
Coupe Nouvelle — New or Recent Cut; New Short Cut or Pass near Last Islands.
Crevette Point — Shrimp Point (fruits de mer).
Cypremort — Dead Cypress.
Delacroix — Of The Cross; I think this was named for or in honor of a famous 1700 French artist. But it could have been for the fact that the steeple and cross on a church could be seen over the prairie marsh. We’ll have to do a little more research on the why of this name. It was established in the 1820s as Delacroix Island, a fishing community.
Des Allemands — Of the German People. Germans were called des Allemands, or Carlstein. They settled along the German Coast. The terms “German” or “Acadian Coasts” were frequently used to describe the parishes of St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist, where the Germans first settled. The “First German Coast” was located in current-day St. Charles Parish along the west bank of the river between the current-day communities of Killona and Taft, settled by Germans as early as the 1720s.
As the settlement eventually grew, others began to settle farther upriver in present-day St. John the Baptist Parish, near Edgard, thus the west bank of today’s St. John the Baptist Parish became known as the “Second German Coast.”
Over the years, the population grew and the settlement was dispersed along the entire coast on both sides of the river, and thus St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parish collectively became known as the “German Coast.”
(Information gleaned from the German-Acadian Coast Historical and Genealogical Society.)
Dulac — Of the Lake.
Esperance Point — Hope or Expectation Point.
Faubourg — Suburb.
Felicity — Happiness.
Frene — Ash.
Funny Louis — (corrupted from Fanilusa) Black Squirrel.
Fourchon — Fork.
Grand Coteau — Great or Big Hill.
Grise Bourbe Island — Grey Mud (or slime) Island.
Isles Dernieres — Last Islands.
Isle du Pied — Base or Foot Island. Later renamed Isle du Pitre (Clown Island).
Lake Barre — To Steer a Boat; Tidal Bar Lake.
Lake Borgne — Suspicious Lake; the lake is only 5 feet deep in some places, much too shallow for large sailing boats.
Lake Bonne Marche — A Good Walk (to the) Lake.
Lake Calebasse — Gourd (Pumpkin) Lake.
Lake Chien — Dog Lake.
Lake Coquille — Shellfish Lake (oysters- how appropriate).
Lake DeCade — Juniper Lake.
Lake Grand Ecaille — Big (Fish) Scale (as a Tarpon’s Scale).
Lake Fortuna — Lucky, Fortunate Lake.
Lake Mechant — Malice; Spiteful; Nasty, Malicious Lake (I can only imagine what happened on this lake to have it deserve such a name).
Lake Palourde — Clam Lake.
Lake Pontchartrain — Named after Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain, the French Minister of the Marine, chancellor of France and minister of finance during the reign of France’s “Sun King,” Louis XIV, for whom Louisiana is named.
Lacombe — The Valley.
LaRose — The Rose.
Little Crevasse — Little Crack (fissure in the ground).
Los Adaes — A Place Along a Stream. It was a reference to the Adai Indians. It was an old Spanish fort (now a state park) near what is today Natchitoches Parish, near the town of Robeline.
Mendicant Island — Begger Island.
Metairie — Small Farm.
Pass des Ilettes — Small Islands Pass.
Pas du Bois — Wooden or Timber Pass.
Patassa — Flat Fish (Perch); a Creole corruption of the Choctaw words nani and patassa for a flat fish or perch.
Plaquemine Brule — Burnt Persimmon.
Plume Bayou — Feather Bayou.
Point au Chien — Dog Point.
Point Au Fer — Iron Point.
Point a la Hache — Point of Broken Ground.
Point aux Herbes — Grassy Point.
LaFourche — The Fork.
Paradis — Paradise.
Pomme de Terre — Apple of the Earth (Potato).
Pitre Juan Bayou — John the Fool Bayou.
Pitre Lening Canal — Lening the Fool Canal.
Petit Lake — Little or Small Lake.
Raccourci River — Short Cut River.
Robeline — Robbers Land, as per a legend that the name is a corruption of “Robbers’ Land.”
Rigolets — Trench, Ditch, a Channel or Gutte. From the French word rigole.
Rigolettes — Little Channel.
La Vieille Riviere — The Old River.
Petite Riviere — Little River.
Sabine — Neighbor of the Romans.
Tambour — Drum.
Tante Phine Pas — Aunt Phine Pass
Terrebonne — Good House Servant (house keeper).
Tete Butte — Small Hill or Mound (shaped like a head).
My all-time favorite
Bassa Bassa — Shoal! Shoal!
I can just picture someone shouting as if to warn the pilot of a boat that there was a shoal just ahead. (Bassa Bassa is, in fact, still a shoal in the western part of Barataria Bay.)
Forgive me if I left your favorite or special place out of this listing, but there are so many names that all have such a history or story to tell that I just had to limit the selection.
Where else but in Louisiana could we have taken this adventure?Special thanks for translations and assistance provided by Ronald Wimprine Jr., MSHCM, BSN-RN and Terry Jones, PhD American History, Professor of History, University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Britannica Encyclopedia on Line, p2.www.britannica.com
Harper Collins Robert French College Dictionary, 3rd Edition 2000
Hoover, Herbert T. The Chitimacha People. Phoenix: Indian Tribal Series, 1975.
Hodge, William. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington D. C.:
Johnson, Bobby H. The Coushatta People. Phoenix: Indian Tribal Series, 1976.
Kniffen, Fred B., Hiram F. Gregory and George A. Stokes. The Historic Tribes of Louisiana: From 1542 to the Present. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987.
Langenscheidt French Dictionary, 1992
Los Isleños.Org of St. Bernard Parish, www.losislenos.org/
Louisiana Indian History web site, www.eatel.net/~wahya/contents.html l
Reed, PhD., William A. Reed “Louisiana Place-Names of Indian Origin,” 1927
Shannon, Jr., PhD, George Ward, Caddo Lore www.sec.state.la.us/museums/shreve/education/Caddo.swf
Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, 1905.
Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, 1950.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Native Americans web site
Valazquez Spanish and English Dictionary, 1964
Webster’s Dictionary, 1992
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