The Meaning Behind The Names Of These 7 Michigan Places Are Truly Amazing!

Michigan has lots of towns and cities with very unique and sometimes hard to pronounced names. This is because of the state’s strong historical connection with French and Native American culture. In fact, the name MICHIGAN itself is a French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa that means “large water” or “large lake”.

Lots of people, especially those who are not born in or native of Michigan, wonders about the meaning behind Michigan’s popular destinations and places. If you are one of those people this article can surely satisfy your hunger for answers.

Charlevoix, Michigan

Charlevoix is named after Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix, a French explorer who travelled the Great Lakes and was said to have stayed the night on Fisherman’s Island during a harsh storm in 1721.

Cheboygan, Michigan

The name of this city may have come from an Ojibwe word zhaabonigan meaning “sewing needle”. Alternatively, the origin may have been “Chabwegan,” meaning “a place of ore.”

Manistee Township, Michigan

This place got it’s name from its principal river. Manistee is a native language word that means “river at whose mouth there are islands.”

On the shores of Lake Michigan in Manistee Michigan. #greatlakes #puremichigan #waitingforsummer #manistee

A photo posted by Brian Copeland (@bcope10s) on

Traverse City

Traverse City is named after the Grand Traverse Bay, which the city heads. The bay earned its name from 18th-century French voyageurs who made la grande traverse, or “the long crossing”, across the mouth of bay.

Where else can you kayak right through the downtown area? #traversecity #downtowntc #midwestliving #boardmanriver

A photo posted by Traverse City (@traversecitytourism) on


The city was named by French colonists, referring to the Detroit River (French: le détroit du lac Érié, meaning the strait of Lake Erie), linking Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Detroit was founded on July 24, 1701 by the French explorer and adventurer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and a party of settlers.

#myhometown #christmas #beautiful #missingmyfamily #love

A photo posted by Cheryl Hartigan (@cheryl_and_bode) on

Mackinac Island

Native Americans in the Straits of Mackinac region likened the shape of the island to that of a turtle so they named it “Mitchimakinak” (Ojibwe: mishimikinaak) meaning “Big Turtle”. The French spelled it with their version of the original pronunciation: Michilimackinac. The British shortened it to the present name: “Mackinac.” Michillimackinac is also spelled as Mishinimakinago, Mǐshǐma‛kǐnung, Mi-shi-ne-macki naw-go, Missilimakinak, Teiodondoraghie.

September’s here. Morning view at @missionpointresort . #makeitmackinac #Mackinac #mackinacisland #missionpointresort

A photo posted by Poppins Mackinac Island (@poppinsonmackinac) on

Kalamazoo, Michigan

French-Canadian traders, missionaries, and military personnel were quite familiar with this area during the French era and thereafter. The name for the Kalamazoo River was then known by Canadians and French as La rivière Kikanamaso. The name “Kikanamaso” was also recorded by Father Pierre Potier, a Jesuit missionary for the Huron-Wendats at the Assumption mission. Legend has it that “Ki-ka-ma-sung,” meaning “boiling water,” referring to a footrace held each fall by local Native Americans, who had to run to the river and back before the pot boiled. Still another theory is that it means “the mirage or reflecting river.” Another legend is that the image of “boiling water” referred to fog on the river as seen from the hills above the current downtown. The name was also given to the river that flows almost all the way across the state. The name Kalamazoo, which sounds unusual to English-speaking ears, has become a metonym for exotic places, as in the phrase “from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo.”

#Repost @discoverkzoo ・・・ #Repost @amandacperson ・・・ I’m quite obsessed with the sky 😍

A photo posted by Michigan (@stateofmichigan) on

16 thoughts on “The Meaning Behind The Names Of These 7 Michigan Places Are Truly Amazing!

  1. WOW! What an awesome post! That photo of Detroit is breath taking! God I love the city! This was such an interesting post to come across. My girlfriend and I were just in Traverse City this past weekend and she is headed to Cheboygan this coming weekend for the Delmac. I can go home tonight and drop some Cheboygan knowledge! 🙂

  2. I love how it shows the history as well, when you were explaining how each place was named. There were different settlers and they had their own versions. My favorite is Mackinac Island, there were so many versions of the name!

  3. Such a great information as I have always wondered about the reasons behind such complicated names that are hard to pronounce. The history behind each of this name is quiet amazing and interesting to read.

  4. I always wondered about Cheboygan and Charlevoix. This is cool, I love learning little random things to bring up later and impress my friends. 😉

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