Monday, October 7, 2013


Q: I want to understand the meaning behind the lake I live on.  I've heard different meanings. The lake is called Tichigan. In the past this was spelled Tish Shar Gan.

A: Unless somebody contemporary wrote down what the meaning of the name was supposed to be, there's a lot of educated guesswork involved in puzzling out place names. The final version of the name rarely bears enough resemblance to the original to be 100% certain of its origins. In his book Native American Placenames of the United States, the extremely reliable linguist Bill Bright suggested it might have been shortened from "tchigi-kitchi-gama," from the Ojibwe words jiigew-gichigami, which mean "along the great lake." We'd add that it could even have just been corrupted from gichigami, "great lake." Although it's not exactly common for English speakers to change a "g" into a "t" unprovoked, stranger things have happened.

In either case, the final spelling of "Tichigan" was probably influenced by the better-known place name Michigan, which comes from a different Ojibwe synonym for "big lake" or "great lake" (mishigami).

Hope that helps, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Native American Indian names
Ojibwe language
Michigan tribes


  1. Thank you so much!

    I'm leaning towards "jiigegichigami" due to it's relative proximity to the Great Lake. Tichigan Lake was not much more than a widening of the fox river when it was residence to Native Americans.

  2. Sorry but Tichigan is NOT a widening of the Fox River! Tichigan is north of the river, and although it joins to the south, the Fox river by no means flows through it!!!!!!!!!!