Anonymous asked in SportsOutdoor RecreationFishing · 2 months ago

Why do some lakes have the word lake before, like Lake Michigan one some after like Pike lake?

1 Answer

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    In Latin and Romance languages, the word for "lake" comes first in the names of lakes.  That's actually true of all bodies of water. 

    Sometimes, lakes and other bodies of water originally get their names from a Romance language. That can result in the English name following the same pattern, especially since there was a movement that started a few hundred years ago and didn't end until the 20th century to try and make English more like Latin.  

    You mention Lake Michigan. That's a perfect example. Lake Michigan is called Lake Michigan instead of Michigan Lake because Lake Michigan was named "Lac Michigan" by French explorers back in the 1600s, French being one of those Romance languages I talked about. The transliteration of the French name "Lac Michigan" into English then became "Lake Michigan." 

    Just as a side note, the word "Michigan" the French borrowed from Ojibwa for "great body of water": "michi-gami." 

    Another side note, not every body of water actually takes a word for the type of body of water it is as part of its name. The Nile, for example, is not named Nile River or even River Nile, though you do hear that. That's because the English name "Nile" is a transliteration of the Ancient Egyptian word meaning "river," thus "Nile River" is saying "River River," which is redundant, so it's simply called the Nile. The same is true for the Potomac, which courses through Washington, DC, because its name "Potomac" is Greek for "river," so it's simply called "the Potomac."

    Source(s): lifelong Michigander
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