How Did the Great Lakes Get Their Names?

Situated in the Northeastern part of the country, the Great Lakes border Canada and are among the United States’ most prized natural resources. Superior, Huron, Eerie, Michigan and Ontario are all part of the Great Lakes, having received their names in extraordinary circumstances that continue to be remembered today through exquisite nautical artwork.

Lake Superior used to be called gitche-gumee, meaning “Great Water” and was later used in the Song of Hiawatha. It was, however, the French who gave the lake the name that stands even today. Superior comes from the French “superieur,” and the term was used as the “Upper Lake” due to the fact that the French were among the first ones to explore that area. 

When it comes to Lake Michigan, it has to be understood that the lake was named first, and the state was named after it. The name Michigan originates in “meshi-gami,” which means “big lake.” 

Lake Huron was named after the Hurons, which were named that way by European settlers. The word “huron” in French means  "bristle-haired" and it was an apt name given to the natives of the area in question, after whom the Lake of Huron would eventually be named. 

Eerie also comes from French and originates in the word Rhiienhonons, which means “racoon nation.” At the same time, Lake Ontario was actually named after a Wyandot name. In Wyandot, ontariio means Great Lake.