Algonkian Language

Language Families of North Carolina

When the first English arrived on North Carolina's shores, they were met on the beach by a small group of Algonkian men. The Englishman in charge walked up to one of the Indian men and asked "What is this place called?" The Algonkian looked at the English thoughtfully, and then said "Wingandacon." The Englishman who asked the question wrote down the word the way it sounded, and later put it on the map one of his companions was drawing to indicate where they landed.

The Algonkian man, however, had not answered the Englishman's question. This was the first time he saw the English and did not understand the newcomer's language. Because Indian tradition was to greet strangers politely, some response was needed. So the Algonkian simply said: "Those are nice clothes you are wearing."

While it is not surprising that Native Americans and Englishmen could not understand one another, there were also language differences among North Carolina Indians. There were three language families among the Native peoples of North Carolina at the time of European contact. A language family can be defined as a common root language from which other languages have developed.

The three language families among North Carolina Native Americans were Algonkian, Iroquian and Siouan. Algonkian speakers lived in villages along the coasts and sounds north of the Cape Fear River. Algonkian tribes included the Chowan, Hatteras, Moratok, Pamlico, Secotan, and the Weapemeoc. Iroquois speakers lived in two different places: along the coastal plain were the Tuscarora and the Meherrin, and in the Blue Ridge Mountains were the Cherokee. The Siouan lived in the Piedmont and their tribes included the Cape Fear, Catawba, Eno, Keyauwee, Occaneechi, Saponi, Shakori, Sissipahaw, Waccamaw, Wateree amd Woccon.

Like everywhere else in the world, North Carolina’s Indian peoples had considerable language differences. Verbal communication could be difficult, especially across the language families. But even tribes, such as the Cherokee and Tuscarora, who spoke dialects belonging to the same language family, had to find ways to "talk" to one another. Some scientists think many Native Carolinians may have communicated using a simplified common language.

ENGLISH            TUSKERURO            PAMPTICOUGH         WOCCON
                   (Iroquoian)          (Algonquian)       (Siouian)

One                Unche                Weembot            Tonne
Two                Necte                Neshinnauh         Num-perra (rra?)
Three              Ohs-sah              Nish-wonner        Nam-mee
Four               Untoc                Yau-Ooner          Punnum-punne (e?)
Five               Ouch-who             Umperren           Webtau
Six                Houeyoc              Who-yeoc           Is-sto (st?)
Seven              Chauh-noc            Top-po-osh         Nommis-sau
Eight              Nec-kara             Nau-haush-shoo     Nupsau
Nine               Wearah               Pach-ic-conk       Weihere
Ten                Wartsauh             Cosh               Soone noponne
Eleven             Unche scauwhau       -----------        Tonne hauk pea
Twelve             Nectec scaukhau      -----------        Soone nomme
Twenty             Wartsau scauhau      -----------        Winnop
Thirty             Ossa te wartsau      -----------        -----------
Hundred            Youch se             -----------        -----------
Thousand           Ki you se            -----------        -----------
Rum                Oonaquod             Weesaccon          Yup-se
Blankets           Oorewa               Mattosh            Roo-iune
White              Ware-occa            Wop-poshaumosh     Waurraupa
Red                Cotcoo-rea           Mish-cock (ck?)    Yauta
Black or 
Blue, idem         Caw-hunshe           Mow-cottowosh      Yah-testea
Gunpowder          Ou-ku                Pungue             Rooeyam
Shot               Cauna                Ar-rounser         Week
Axe                Au-nuka              Tomma-hick         Tau-unta winnik
Knife              Oosocke nauh         Rig-cosq           Wee
Tobacco            Charho               Hooh-pau           Uu-coone
Shirt              Ough-tre's           -----------        Tacca pitteneer
Shoes              Oo-ross-soo          -----------        Wee-kessoo
Hat                Trossa               Mottau-quahan      Intome-posswa
Fire               Utchar               Tinda              Yau
Water              Awoo                 Umpe               Ejau
Coat               Ouswox/Kawhitchra    Taus-won           Rummissau
Awl/Needle         Oose-waure           Moc-cose           Wonsh-shee
A Hoe              Wauche-wocnoc        Rosh-shocquon      Rooe-pau
Salt               Cheek-ha             -----------        -----------
Paint              Quaunt               Chuwon             Whooyeonne
Ronoak             Nauh-houreot         Mis-kis-'su        Rummaer
Peak               Chu-teche            Ronoak             Erroco
Gun                Auk-noc              Gau hooptop        Wittape
Gun-Lock           Oo-teste             Gun tock Seike     Noonkosso
Flints             Ou-negh-ra           Hinds              Matt-teer
A Flap             Oukhaure             Rappatoc           Rhooeyau
Belt               Oona-teste           Maachone           Wee-kau
Scissors and       Cheh-ra              -----------        Toc-koor
A Kettle           Oowaiana             -----------        Tooseawau
A Pot              Ocnock               -----------        -----------
Acorns             Kooawa               -----------        Roosomme
A Pine-Tree        Heigta               Oonossa            Hooheh
Englishman         Nickreruroh          Tosh shonte        Wintsohore
Indians            Unqua                Nuppin             Yauh-he
ENGLISH                TUSKERURO            WOCCON
A Horse                A hots               Yenwetoa
Swine                  Watsquerre           Nommewarraupau
Moss                   Auoona hau           Itto
Raw skin undrest       Ootahawa             Teep
Buckskin               Ocques               Rookau
Fawn-skin              Ottea                Wisto
Bear-skin              Oochehara            Ourka
Fox-skin               Che-chou             Hannatockore
Raccoon-skin           Roo-sotto            Auher
Squirrel-skin          Sost                 Yehau
Wildcat-skin           Cauhauweana          -----------
Panther-skin           Caunerex             Wattau
Wolf                   Squarrena            Tire kiro
Minx                   Chac-kauene          Soccon
Otter                  Chaunoc              Wetkes
A Mat                  Ooyethne             Soppepepor
Basket                 Ooyaura              Rookeppa
Feathers               Oosnooqua            Soppe
Drest-skin             Cotcoo               Rauhau
A Turkey               Coona                Yauta
A Duck                 Sooeau               Welka
A King                 Teethha              Roamore
Fat                    Ootsaure             Yendare
Soft                   Utsauwanne           Roosomme
Hard or heavy          Waucots ne           Itte teraugh
A Rope                 Utsera               Trauhe
A Possum               Che-ra               -----------
Day                    Ootauh-ne            -----------
A Pestel               Tic-caugh-ne         Miyau
A Mortar               Ootic caugh-ne       Yossoo
Stockings              Way haushe           -----------
A Creek                Wackena              -----------
A River                Ahunt wackena        -----------
A Man                  Entequos             -----------
Old Man                Occooahawa           -----------
Young Man              Quottis              -----------
Woman                  Con-noowa            -----------
Old Woman              Cusquerre            Yicau
Wife                   Kateocca             Yecauau
A Child                Woccanookne          -----------
A Boy                  Wariaugh             -----------
Infant                 Utserosta            -----------
Ears                   Ooethnat             -----------
Fishgig                Ootosne              Weetipsa
A Comb                 Oonaquitchra         Sacketoome posswa
A Cake bak't           Ooneck               -----------
A Head                 Ootaure              Poppe
Hair                   Oowaara              Tumme
Brother                Caunotka             Yenrauhe
I                      Ee                   -----------
Thou                   Eets                 -----------
There                  Ka                   -----------
Homine                 Cotquerre            Roocauwa
Bread                  Ootocnare            Ikettau
Broath                 Ook-hoo              -----------
Corn                   Oonaha               Cose
Pease                  Saugh-he             Coosauk
A Bag                  Uttaqua              Ekoocromon
Fish                   Cunshe               Yacunne
A Louse                Cheecq               Eppesyau
A Flea                 Nauocq               -----------
Potato's               Untone               Wauk
A Stick                Chinqua              -----------
Wood                   Ouyunkgue            Yonne
House                  Ounouse  (Oin?)      Ouke
A Cow                  Ous-sarunt           Nappinjure
A Snake                Us-quauh-ne          Yau-hauk
A Rat                  Rusquiane            Wittau
A Goose                Au-hoohaha           Auhaun
A Swan                 Oorhast              Atter
Allegator              Utsererauh           Monwittetau
A Crab                 Rouare cou           Wunneau
A Canoe                Ooshunnawa           Watt
A Box                  Ooanoo               Yopoonitsa
A Bowl                 Ortse                Cotsoe
A Spoon                Oughquere            Cotsau
A Path                 Wauh-hauhne          Yauh
Sun or Moon            Heita                Wittapare
Wind                   Hoonoch              Yuncor
A Star                 Uttewiraratse        Wattapi untakeer
Rain                   Untuch               Yawowa
Night                  Oosottoo             Yantoha
A Rundlet              Oohunawa             Ynpyupseunne  (Yup?)
An Eel                 Cuhn-na              -----------
A T---d                Utquera              Pulawa
A F---t                Uttena               Pautyau
A Cable                Utquichra            -----------
Small Ropes            Utsera utquichra     -----------
A Button               Tic-hah              Rummissauwoune
Breeches               Wahunshe             Rooeyaukitte
Stockings              Oowissera            Rooesoo possoo
Day                    Wauwoc-hook          Waukhaway
Mad                    Cosserunte           Rockcumne
Angry                  Cotcheroore          Roocheha
Afraid                 Werricauna           Reheshiwau
Smoak                  Oo-teighne           Too-she
A Thief or Rogue       Katichhei            -----------
A Dog                  Cheeth               Tauh-he
A Reed                 Cauna                Weekwonne
Lightwood              Kakoo                Sek
To morrow              Jureha               Kittape
Now                    Kahunk               -----------
To day                 Kawa                 -----------
A little while ago     Kakoowa              Yauka
ENGLISH                 TUSKERURO                 WOCCON
Yesterday               Oousotto                  Yottoha
How many                Ut-tewots                 Tontarinte
How far                 Untateawa                 -----------
Will you go  }
along with me}          Unta hah                   Quauke
Go you                  Its warko                  Yuppa me
Give it me              Cotshau                    Mothei
That's all              Ut chat                    Cuttaune
A Cubit length          Kihoosocca                 Ishewounaup
Dead                    Whaharia                   Caure
A Gourd or Bottle       Utchaawa                   Wattape
A lazy Fellow           Wattattoo watse            Tontaunete
Englishman is thirsty   Oukwockaninniwock          -----------
I will sell you }
Goods very cheap}       Wausthanocha               Nau hou hoore-ene
All the Indians} 
are drunk      }        Connaugh jost twane        Nonnupper
Have you got    }
any thing to eat}       Utta-ana-wox               Noccoo Eraute
I am sick               Connauwox                  Waurepa
A Fish-Hook             Oos-skinna                 -----------
Don't lose it           Oon est nonne it quost     -----------
A Tobacco-pipe          Oosquaana                  Intom
I remember it           Oonutsauka                 Aucummato
Let it alone            Tnotsaurauweek(Tout?)      Sauhau
Peaches                 Roo-ooe                    Yonne
Walnuts                 Rootau-ooe                 -----------
Hickery Nuts            Rootau                     Nimmia
A Jew's-Harp            Ooratsa                    Wottiyau
I forget it             Merrauka                   -----------
Northwest-Wind          Hothooka                   -----------
Snow                    Acaunque                   Wawawa


A New Voyage to Carolina, by John Lawson, Gent. Surveyor-General of North Carolina; London, 1709.

"Indian Words and Place Names in Coastal North Carolina 400 Years Ago," by David Stick, a brochure published by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Raleigh.

See: John Lawson — Explorer, Historian, and Co-Founder of Bath.

Copyright 2001