If you live in the United States, you are probably familiar with raccoon. In the heart of Silicon Valley for example, they come down at night to forage in the streets and backyards. But do you know the origin of the word?

Raccoon

 

According to Wikipedia:

The word “raccoon” was adopted into English from the native Powhatan term, as used in the Virginia Colony. It was recorded on Captain John Smith’s list of Powhatan words as aroughcun, and on that of William Strachey as arathkone. It has also been identified as a Proto-Algonquian root *ahrah-koon-em, meaning “[the] one who rubs, scrubs and scratches with its hands”.

Similarly, Spanish colonists adopted the Spanish word mapache from the Nahuatl mapachitli of the Aztecs, meaning “[the] one who takes everything in its hands”. In many languages, the raccoon is named for its characteristic dousing behavior in conjunction with that language’s term for bear, for example Waschbär in German, orsetto lavatore in Italian, mosómedve in Hungarian and araiguma (アライグマ) in Japanese. In French and European Portuguese, the washing behavior is combined with these languages’ term for rat, yielding, respectively, raton laveur and ratão-lavadeiro. The raccoon’s scientific name, Procyon lotor, is neo-Latin, meaning “before-dog washer”, with lotor Latin for “washer” and Procyon Latinized Greek from προ-, “before” and κύων, “dog”.

There are quite a few English words who derive from Native American terms, for example chipmunk, moose, toboggan, opossum, moccasin, and even cisco!

Chipmunk