ETYMOLOGY OF STATE NAME OF ALABAMA


Etymology of state name of Alabama
The Alabama, a Muskogean tribe, which resided just below the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers on the upper reaches of the Alabama River, served as the etymological source of the names of the river and state. In the Alabama language, the word for an Alabama person is Albaamo (or variously Albaama or Albàamo in different dialects; the plural form "Alabama persons" is Albaamaha). The word Alabama is believed to have originated from the Choctaw language and was later adopted by the Alabama tribe as their name. The spelling of the word varies significantly between sources. The first usage appears in three accounts of the Hernando de Soto expedition of 1540 with Garcilasso de la Vega using Alibamo while the Knight of Elvas and Rodrigo Ranjel wrote Alibamu and Limamu, respectively. As early as 1702, the tribe was known to the French as Alibamon with French maps identifying the river as Rivière des Alibamons. Other spellings of the appellation have included Alibamu, Alabamo, Albama, Alebamon, Alibama, Alibamou, Alabamu, and Allibamou.

Although the origin of Alabama was evident, the meaning of the tribe's name was not always clear. An article without a byline appearing in the Jacksonville Republican on July 27, 1842, originated the idea that the meaning was "Here We Rest." This notion was popularized in the 1850s through the writings of Alexander Beaufort Meek. Experts in the Muskogean languages have been unable to find any evidence that would support this translation. It is now generally accepted that the word comes from the Choctaw words alba (meaning "plants" or "weeds") and amo (meaning "to cut", "to trim", or "to gather"). This results in translations such as "clearers of the thicket" or even "herb gatherers" which may refer to clearing of land for the purpose of planting crops or to collection of medicinal plants by medicine men.

Luciano Mende

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