How Were the Great Lakes Named?

Great Lakes art

The Great Lakes are five freshwater lakes located in the central-eastern part of North America. Most people know this, but few also know the origin of their names.

Lake Superior

Its name is merely a reflection of its huge size - 82,100 square km and 12,100 cubic km, but probably also of its position, north of Lake Huron (“lac supérieur” in French means “upper lake”).

Lake Michigan

Its name comes from the Ojibwa Indian “mishigami”, which means "large lake." Lake Michigan is actually only the third largest of the Great Lakes, but its size is still impressive and it also has an unusual water flow.

Lake Huron

Lake Huron shares the same body of water with Lake Michigan and is the second largest (59,600 square km) of the Great Lakes. It was named after the Hurons (Wyandot Indians) who lived there.

Lake Ontario

In the language of Wyandot Indians, “Ontario” means "lake of shining water". Located at the base of Niagara Falls, Lake Ontario is the smallest of the five lakes (only 18,960 square km), but it is deep and holds about 1,600 cubic km.

Lake Erie

Its name comes from “erielhonan”, which in the Iroquoian language means "long tail". It has to do with the lake`s shape. Although it is slightly larger than Lake Ontario, it has the smallest water volume of the Great Lakes (only 484 cubic km).

Look for beautiful Great Lakes art created by Cap’n Jim Clary at Cap’n Jim’s Gallery in St. Clair, Michigan.