Missionary Charles Arnaud derived it from Montagnais irno-kué (“terrible people”). Linguist Gordon Day notes that though no form irno "person" is attested, one is plausible (given iriniou and ilnu), but application to a non-Montagnais is unlikely, and kué is too short: the root is kwet-. Day finds support for a longer form kwedɛč ("an Iroquois", lit. "terrible, frightening person") in Pacifique's Micmac grammar, in "goetètjg", and sees "fairly good indications that the name [i.e. kwedɛč] was an ancient one for Iroquoian peoples generally", but then "irno kwedɛč" would awkwardly mean "a person, an Iroquois", which could not have been a usual term. Day theorizes the awkward phrase may nonetheless have been uttered by some interpreter and used thereafter by the unaware French, or alternatively the Montagnais may have borrowed an Iroquoian autonym whereafter Montagnais folk-etymologizers adapted it to resemble those words; for example, Mohawk i-ih rongwe (“man”) would have entered Montagnais as /iːrohkwe/. (Some earlier scholars proposed that an Iroquoian term like the Mohawk term was the direct etymon of the French.)
Linguist Peter Bakker alternatively proposes that the etymon is a Basque pidgin word (h)ilokoa "killers" (mirroring Algonquian names for the Iroquois), from hil (“to kill”) and a suffix -koa (“those of”) which may be the source of some other tribal names ending in -quois. Hilokoa, as Brad Loewen notes, is ungrammatical in standard Basque (Loewen suggests irikoa (“those of the walled town”) as an alternative etymon).
Iroquois (plural Iroquois)
- A member of a confederacy of (originally) five Native American (Indian) tribes: the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, and the Senecas. Also known as the Iroquois League.
- A kind of hairdo where both sides of the head are shaved, leaving only a stripe of hair in the middle.
- Any of the languages of the Iroquois, belonging to the Iroquoian family of languages.
- ^ “Iroquois” in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present.
- ^ “Iroquois” in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
- Gordon Day, Iroquois: An Etymology (1968)
- ^ Peter Bakker, A Basque etymology for the amerindian tribal name Iroquois, Man in the Northeast 40 (1990): 89-93
- ^ Brad Loewen, Contact in the 16th century (2016)