Origin of the name “Canada”

There are several theories as to the etymological origin of the word Canada. The Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles Online considers that the etymology of the word Canada is not clearly established and gives an extensive list of various theories that have been presented throughout the ages.

One probable source of the name of this country is in the word k’anata, which means a village or a town in the language of the indigenous Iroquês. The Iroquois people, which also included the Cherokees, inhabited large areas of the North American continent.

The word was brought into the vocabulary of Western languages ​​by the explorer Jacques Cartier in 1535 to refer to the northeastern region of North America.

In 1535, Native Americans living in the area used the word to explain to the French explorer Jacques Cartier the way to the village of Stadacona, where the city of Quebec is now.

After that, Cartier used the word not only in reference to Stadacona, but also to the whole region reigned by Chief Donnacona, then cacique of Stadacona. Around 1547, European maps named this region, plus the areas surrounding it, by the name Canada.

Another possible source of the name Canada has to do with the Spanish explorers, who went to the Canadian lands to look for riches and, because they did not find anything there, they called it the place of “aca nada” (which means “nothing here”, so basically a free translation in context of Canada would be: “the place where there is nothing”).

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