Have you ever wondered where the name “Connecticut” comes from?
If you read through my article “What’s in a Name? — Street Names,” you might determine that Connecticut is a Native American name. But what does it mean? Who chose it to be the official name for our state?
What we now call Connecticut was once called Quinnitukqut by the Algonquian-speaking Mohegans. The Mohegan people lived here long before the first European settlers came and still live in southeastern Connecticut. Quinnitukqut roughly translates into English as “long tidal river.” Based on where the Mohegan people lived, this name probably referred to the Thames River located between New London and Groton rather than to the more centrally located Connecticut River
Tidal rivers are affected by the ocean’s tides. The water in a tidal river rises and falls twice a day. In Connecticut, all tidal rivers flow into Long Island Sound. These rivers were important to Native Americans and early colonists because of their rich sea life. Clams, mussels, crabs, fish, and eels all live in tidal rivers in great numbers. The rising and falling tides make these animals easier to catch.
Visit the tidal river in your town. Every shoreline town in Connecticut has at least one tidal river. In Greenwich, the best example is the Mianus River. If it’s nice out, visit Cos Cob Park, where the Mianus River meets the Sound. See if you can spot some of the animals that made tidal rivers important fishing spots and hunting grounds for the Native Americans who lived here; so important that our state was named after one!