Friday, August 16, 2013

The Name Seneca

Q: My last name is Seneca, and I hope this site and the people behind it can answer a question for me.  Does the tribe, Seneca, have any connection to Seneca the old who was born in Spain and later on was forced to commit suicide by Nero?

A: Only in a roundabout way.  :-)  The tribal name Seneca probably came from a Native place name, Osininka. English speakers corrupted that to "Seneca," undoubtedly influenced by the name of the Roman philosopher/statesman they would have already have been familiar with from school. It was pretty common for indigenous names to get corrupted into different names the English speakers found easier to pronounce.

As for the Seneca people, their own name for themselves in their language is not Seneca (or Osininka) at all, but Onödowága (also spelled Onondowaga, Onandowaga, Onötowáka, Onundawagona, and any number of other ways.)

Hope that is interesting to you, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Seneca language
Native American names
Native American tribes

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