List of Canadian provincial and territorial name etymologies

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This page lists the etymologies of the names of the provinces and territories of Canada.[1]


Named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848–1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of the Governor General of Canada Lord Lorne in the late 19th century.
British Columbia 
Takes its name partly from Britain and partly from the Columbia Rediviva whose crew were the first non-indigenous people to discover the mouth of the Columbia River. It also references the Columbia District, the British name for the territory drained by the Columbia River, which was the namesake of the pre–Oregon Treaty Columbia Department of the Hudson's Bay Company. The adjective "British" was added to the name to distinguish it from Colombia and from what became the state of Washington in the United States, whose name was originally going to be Columbia, after the river. Columbia is a poetic name for the American continent discovered by Christopher Columbus. Columbia was often personified as a woman or goddess wearing a gown and Phrygian cap, which was meant to signify the spirit of freedom and the pursuit of liberty.
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, though it is generally thought to be named after straits in Lake Manitoba.
New Brunswick 
Named in honour of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the ancestral home of the British king George III.
Newfoundland and Labrador
(Latin: Terra Nova) Was named by its European discoverers before 1500; possibly by the Portuguese explorer João Vaz Corte-Real in 1472, making it the oldest European name in North America.
Probably named after João Fernandes Lavrador, a Portuguese navigator who visited the area in 1498, whose surname means "farmer".[2]
Nova Scotia 
Latin for "New Scotland" (Scottish Gaelic: Alba Nuadh). 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.
Named after Lake Ontario, which got its name from a First Nations language, most likely from onitariio, meaning "beautiful lake", or kanadario, translated as "sparkling" or "beautiful", or possibly from Wyandot (Huron) ontare ("lake").
Prince Edward Island 
Named in 1798 after Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, father of Queen Victoria, the son of George III and lieutenant-general in British army in Canada. The next year, he would become commander-in-chief of North America, before being transferred to Gibraltar in 1802.
From the Míkmaq kepék, "strait, narrows"[3]
From the Saskatchewan River (Cree: kisiskāciwani-sīpiy, "swift flowing river").


Northwest Territories 
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, one of which (Yukon) has superseded it as the northwesternmost part of Canada, but has retained its name.
Means "our land" in Inuktitut, a language of the Inuit.
Takes its name from the Yukon River, whose name in turn means "great river" in Gwichʼin.

Historical regions[edit]

  1. Credited to Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano, who first named a region around Chesapeake Bay Archadia (Arcadia) in 1524 because of "the beauty of its trees", according to his diary. Cartographers began using the name Arcadia to refer to areas progressively farther north until it referred to the French holdings in maritime Canada (particularly Nova Scotia). The -r- also began to disappear from the name on early maps, resulting in the current Acadia.[4]
  2. Possibly derived from the Míkmaq word akatik, pronounced roughly "agadik", meaning "place", which French-speakers spelled as -cadie in place names such as Shubenacadie and Tracadie, possibly coincidentally.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Provinces and Territories - The origins of their names". 2007-09-18. Archived from the original on 2008-06-04. Retrieved 2011-11-23.
  2. ^ "João Fernandes Lavrador, exploration dates". Retrieved 2007-08-31. (broken link)
  3. ^ Afable, Patricia O. and Madison S. Beeler (1996). "Place Names". In "Languages", ed. Ives Goddard. Vol. 17 of Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, pg. 191
  4. ^ Acadia: Origin of the Word by Bill Casselman
  5. ^ Provinces and Territories - The origins of their names Archived 2008-06-04 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Nunatsiavut Government| Archived 2010-02-11 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]