Monday, May 23, 2011


"Illinois" is the modern spelling for the early French missionaries and explorers' name for the Illinois people, a name that was spelled in many different ways in the early records.
The name "Illinois" has traditionally been said to mean "man" or "men" in the Miami-Illinois language, with the original iliniwek transformed via French into Illinois. However, this etymology is not supported by the Illinois language itself, in which the word for 'man' is ireniwa and plural 'men' is ireniwaki. The name Illiniwek has also been said to mean "tribe of superior men", though this is nothing more than a folk etymology. In fact the name "Illinois" derives from the Miami-Illinois verb irenwe·wa "he speaks the regular way". This was then taken into the Ojibwe language, perhaps in the Ottawa dialect, and modified into ilinwe·(pluralized as ilinwe·k). These forms were then borrowed into French, where the /we/ ending acquired the spelling -ois. The current form, Illinois, began to appear in the early 1670s. The Illinois's name for themselves, as attested in all three of the French missionary-period dictionaries of Illinois, was Inoka, of unknown meaning and unrelated to the other terms.

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