You may not realize it, but you use words from Indian languages all the time. When you talk about petting your Chesapeake Bay retriever, sitting in traffic at the Occoquan River or shopping at Potomac Mills, you're speaking words that come from the Washington region's Indians.
Long before white Europeans arrived, native peoples had names for the region's rivers and mountains. Some of those names are still in use. Similarly, about half our 50 states got their names from Indian words, and lots of everyday words we use come from native languages -- including toboggan, squash, kayak and succotash.
Here are a few place names you may be familiar with, what they mean in English, and their native language if known. (They are all part of an Indian language family known as Algonquian.) Our thanks to museum official Gabrielle Tayac for helping with the list.
Anacostia -- "village trading post" (Nacotchtanke).
Assateague -- "a place across the water" (Assateague).
Chesapeake -- "great shellfish bay."
Nanticoke -- "tidewater people" (Nanticoke).
Occoquan -- "at the end of the water" (Doeg).
Patuxent -- "place where tobacco grows" or "at the little falls" (Doeg).
Pohick -- "hickory" (Doeg).
Potomac -- "where the goods are brought in" (Powhatan).
Quantico -- "by the large stream" (Doeg).
Roanoke -- "shell currency of lesser value."