In his book, “On the Composition of Indian Geographical Names”, J. Hammond Trumbull states, “Near the Atlantic seaboard, the most common substantival components of river names are (1) -tuk and (2) -hanne, -han, or -huan“. Neither of these are independent words, they are suffixes that are seen in the Native American names of rivers.

‘Tuk’ normally denotes a river whose waters are driven in waves, by tides or wind. Trumbull pointed out that tuk is found in names of tidal rivers and estuaries; less frequently, in names of broad and deep streams, not affected by tides. He states ,”With the adjectival missi, ‘great,’ it forms missi-tuk,—now written Mystic,—the name of ‘the great river’ of Boston bay, and of another wide-mouthed tidal river in the Pequot country, which now divides the towns of Stonington and Groton……Near the eastern boundary of the Pequot country, was the river which the Narragansetts called Paquat-tuk, sometimes written Paquetock, now Pawcatuck, ‘Pequot river,’—the present eastern boundary of Connecticut. Another adjectival prefix, pohki or pahke, ‘pure,’ ‘clear,’ found in the name of several tidal streams, is hardly distinguishable from the former, in the modern forms of Pacatock, Paucatuck, &c.”

But what is the etymology of the word ‘tuk‘. Are the American Indian languages unrelated to the Indo-European languages of the world. The ‘Etymologiocal Dictionary of the Gaelic Language’ identifies the word ‘ teich’ which means ‘flee’. And variations of ‘teich’ appear in many Indo-European languages such as Irish teithim, Early Irish techim, Old Irish teichthech, vitabundus, Welsh techu, skulk, Middle Breton techet, flee: *tekô, *tekkô, flee.These words are derived from the Indo-European root teq-, flow, run; whose oldest forms appear in Sanskrit ‘tik’ (तीक्) – ‘go’, ‘taku’ (तकु) – ‘rushing along’ and ‘toka’ (तोक) – ‘race’.

The Mystic River gets its name from the Native American Missi or ‘great’.
The suffix ‘tic’ is avariation of ‘tuk’ which has its origins in an Indo-European root  such as the Sanskrit  ‘tik’ (तीक्) – ‘go’ or ‘taku’ (तकु) – ‘rushing along’.

More about the -hanne suffix in a later post.

Suggested Readings:

1. Native American Place Names

2. The Town and City of Waterbury, Connecticut, Vol 1 by S.J. Prichard


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