Shop now!

11 Common English Words We Actually Took From Native American Languages

While the English language derives from both Latin and Germanic languages, there are also plenty of words stolen from other cultures. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of English colonists took words from Native American tribes to describe things that weren't around on the other side of the Atlantic.

Here are 11 words we get from Native Americans:

1. Opossum 

Opossums are native to North America, so it's not surprising Europeans didn't have a word for the animal. Opossum roughly translates to "white dog" in the Powhatan language.

2. Squash

Well, technically squash was always an English word meaning to crush something, but the food we know as squash was foreign to English colonists. One tribe referred to the fruit as askútasquash, which the colonists shortened to "squash."

3. Chocolate

Yep, that's right. Even our beloved chocolate isn't an English word. The Aztecs made a drink using ground cocoa seeds that they called chikolatl. Definitely a delicious addition to our vocabulary.

4. Hammock

No one knows the exact origin for hammock, but many believe it comes from some tribes use of the word "hamaca" to describe a stretch of cloth.

5. Barbecue

Native American tribes were barbecuing food far before the Europeans, and they referred to it as "barbacoa." The Spanish thought it was pretty cool and stole it themselves, before the English put their own twist on the word.

6. Avocado

There's a popular myth that the word avocado was originally a word used by some tribes to describe testicles. And that's half-true. The Nahuatl tribe called avocados "ahuacatl," and supposedly many people also used that word as slang to describes testicles, the way we refer to them as "balls." The Spanish then began using a slight differentiation on the word, aguacateto describe the fruit, which became avocado in English.

7. Guacamole

If we got avocado from Native Americans, then it's probably not surprising we got guacamole from them as well. The Nahuatl tribe used their word for avocado, ahuacatl, with their word for sauce, molli, to describe guacamole. But them together and you get ahuacatlmole, which is sort of like guacamole. 

8. Canoe

While boats similar to canoes were present in almost all cultures, the actual word for canoe comes from a South American tribe that used the word canaoua to describe their little boats. 

9. Kayak

Similar to canoe, the word kayak actually comes from a tribe that originated from Greenland. Inuits describe the boats as qajaq, which is pretty darn close to kayak already.

10. Poncho

Nope, poncho is not a spanish word. Well it is now, but it wasn't originally. A tribe in Chile referred to a wool shawl often worn by cowboys as a pontho. 

11. Hurricane

Considering Europe doesn't get hurricanes, it's not surprising the English didn't have a word for it. The Mayans had a Storm God that they called Hunrakan, and other tribes throughout Central and South America used the word as well. The Spanish used that word (huracán) to describe these storms they'd never experienced before, eventually becoming the English word "hurricane."

(h/t Mental Floss)


There are so many strains of marijuana available it can be nearly impossible to figure out which one is right for you. And sure, a knowledgeable budtender could point you in the right direction, but we think we've figured out a better method for choosing a marijuana strain. Take our quiz below to find out which cannabis strain is your true soulmate.

Can we see some ID please?

You must be 19 years of age or older to enter.