Morning names: Ouachita(s)

Today’s morning names: the Ouachita Mountains, or the Ouachitas for short, in the Appalachian Mountains in Arkansas and Oklahoma; and the Ouachita Parish of Louisiana, just to the south of Arkansas (with Monroe as its parish seat). The OkArLa territory in question (from a Google map):


Wikipedia pages on the two places of interest here: on the Ouachitas here, on Ouachita Parish here.

Very pretty country in the Ouachitas, as in this hazy photo in Arknsas:


Now the name Ouachita. Everyone seems to be agreed that the name is Native American, but there is some dispute as to the details: possibly from Choctaw (in the Muskogean language family; the Choctaw are famous because they were the first Native Americans exiled by the Indian Removal Act), with at least two competitors for the specific expression; or possiby from Caddo (in Oklahoma, now the only surving Southern Caddoan language of the Caddo family, not apparently related to Choctaw at all).

3 Responses to “Morning names: Ouachita(s)”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    And I will opine that the name was first transliterated by Francophones.

  2. Joseph F Foster Says:

    There’s also Ouachita County, Arkansas, seat at Camden, Lake Ouachita shown on the map above N and W of Hot Springs, and the Ouachita River which rises in either extreme W Central Arkansas or extreme E Central Oklahoma, depending on what you take the source headwater to be. It is a tributary of the lower Red River. There is also a Washita River out in Oklahoma that is a tributary of the upper Red River, and along and near whose banks was fought the Battle of the Washita featuring the Southern Cheyenne and George Armstrong Custer.

    And, yes, Ouachita is certainly a francophone / francowrite rendition. As in Louisiana and parts of Missouri, many place names in Arkansas are either French or a French rendition of an Indian name. Little Rock is actually a loan translation from an originally French name.

    There are others whose votes on the question of origin are worth more than mine, but we should note that the name apparently antedates the movement of the Choctaw from E of the Mississippi into what elderly people in W Arkansas back in the ’40’s and ’50’s still sometimes called “Indian Territory”, i.e. Oklahoma. So my vote, absent compelling counterevidence, goes to either Caddoan, or possibly Siouan, but not Choctaw or other Muskogean sources.

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