The Grammar of Arapaho Place Names

Arapaho is a polysynthetic language, in which many different concepts are combined to form a single world. Typically, Arapaho place names have a descriptive noun or adjective first part, and a geographical terms such as 'river' or 'mountain' as the second part. In some cases, these elements combine to form nouns, while in other cases they are verbs, but the overall structure is similar. Common final elements are listed below. To see examples of each ending used in an actual place name, click on the links below, and discover what place each Arapaho name refers to.

-bóoó = 'trail' SEE: 'deer trail' 'child's trail'
-esoo' = 'grass, open area, pass' [verb ending] SEE: 'thunder pass' 'green field'
-hoowu' = 'house, lodge' SEE: 'kit fox lodge'
-hooxeb/ -nooxeb = 'spring' SEE: 'rock spring'
-ho'oowu'/ -no'oowu' = 'house, building' SEE: 'stingy house' 'cheyenne house'
-koh'owu' = 'stream, creek' SEE: 'deer creek' 'fish creek'
-niicie or -niicii = 'river' SEE: 'buffalo bull river' 'shell river'
-niiciihehe' = 'little river' SEE: 'little coyote river' 'tallow river'
-ni'ec = 'lake' SEE: 'still lake' 'holy lake'
-oooyoo' = 'rocks, rocky area, mountains' [verb ending] SEE: 'red rocks'
-oowu' = 'flowing water' [verb ending] SEE: 'red flowing water'
-otoyoo' (verb) = 'mountain' [verb ending] SEE: 'long mountain' 'black mountain'

Other Arapaho place names are simply everyday verbs, used descriptively to talk about a place. Many of these "verbal names" begin with 'where...' or 'when...'. The prefixes indicating these concepts are niit(oh)- or heet(oh)- meaning 'where' and tih- or toh- meaning 'when.' Click on each prefix to see an example of it in a place name.

Places Home