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Full text of "Names and places; studies in geographical and topographical nomenclature"

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®ne jB^untiteti Copies ^ttntetr. 
No 2.^... 







I. Introductory 76-82 

II. Mountains, Peaks, and Sierras . 83-128 

III. Valleys, Gorges, and Canons . . 129-172 

IV. Plains, Prairies, and Savannas . 173-234 







'HTHE Appalachian Mountains were first 
seen by Cartier, in 1535, who, when 
navigating the St. Lawrence, had in sight 
the portion of the range which extends to the 
south of that river, through what is now the 
State of Maine. De Soto in his explorations 
(1538-1543) became acquainted with this 
mountain system, around the southern extrem- 
ity of which he made his way to the southwest 
and thence up the Mississippi River. This 
bold explorer first gave currency to the name 
^'Apalache," which also appears under the 
form of Palassi (Montagues de Palassi) in the 
report of Laudonniere's expedition of 1564. 
This name was one given by the aboriginal 
inhabitants, who also furnished Laudonniere 
with a specimen of native gold from a region 
at the base of the Appalachians where large 


quantities of the precious metal have since 
been obtained. The name " Apalache " ap- 
pears on Mercator's map of 1569 in the form 
of ^^Apalchen;" and the delineation of this 
chain of mountains on this map is approxi- 
mately correct, in so far as it indicates a range 
extending parallel with the coast, through 
what is now the United States, and bending 
to the east in the northern portion (Norom- 
bega) parallel with the St. Lawrence. 

On one of the maps accompanying De Laet's 
" Novus Orbis seu Descriptionis Indiae Occi- 
dentalis Libri xviii." (1633), a group of hills 
is indicated surrounding a small lake, cut by 
the parallel of 35°; and to these hills the name 
" Apalatcy Montes " is given. The name 
"Apalache" is also found on this map a 
little farther west of the Apalatcy Montes, 
apparently intended to indicate the position 
of a region inhabited by a tribe of that name, 
since in the text, in a summary of the discov- 
eries of Panfilo de Narvaez, in speaking of 
nuggets of gold given to this explorer by the 
natives, they are described as " auri ramenta 
aliquot, quae barbari ab Apalache^ longissimo 
intervallo ab ipsis dissita et auri divite regione, 
se habere testabantur." The word " Apalache " 
seems therefore, beyond doubt, to have come 


from the southern part of the region now 
called Appalachian, and to have been the ab- 
original name of a locality, or of a tribe of 
Indians inhabiting that portion of the country. 
The first recognition of the peculiar topo- 
graphical character of the Appalachian system, 
and, indeed, the first important approximately 
correct map of any portion of the interior of 
the United States, is due to Lewis Evans, the 
first edition of whose map bears the date of 
1749. On this map, which is entitled "A 
Map of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New 
York, and the Three Delaware Counties," the 
Appalachian Mountains are indicated as be- 
ing made up of a number of distinctly paral- 
lel ranges, and in accompanying " remarks " 
engraved upon the map the principal topo- 
graphical features of the system are de- 
scribed with remarkable perspicuity and insight 
into their character. These mountains are 
said by Mr. Evans to be " not confusedly scat- 
tered here and there in lofty peaks overtopping 
one another, but stretching in long uniform 
ridges, scarce half a mile perpendicular in any 
place I saw them." In another map by the 
same geographer, entitled ''A General Map 
of the British Colonies in America," bearing 
date of 1755, and to which thirty- two quarto 


pages of text are appended, the Appalachian 
Mountains are indicated with more detail, and 
as being made ap of a much larger number 
of subordinate ranges than are shown on the 
map of 1749. On the map of 1755 the main 
subdivisions of the Appalachian System, as now- 
recognized, are clearly outlined by Mr. Evans, 
and a distinct name given to each. The South 
Mountains and the continuation of them un- 
der the name of the Blue Ridge are laid down ; 
the Alleghany Ridge (spelled by Mr. Evans 
AUe-g^ni) is shown ; and the Appalachian sub- 
division of the Appalachian System, as this term 
was used by the First Pennsylvania Geologi- 
cal Survey, also receives a distinct name — 
the Endless Mountains — and is described 
in considerable detail with a remarkable com- 
prehension of its principal topographic fea- 
tures. The name ''Endless" is said to be 
''a translation of the Indian name bearing 
that signification." This name " Endless," 
adopted or suggested by Mr. Evans, seems 
not to have met with approval, never having 
become current ; but most of the other names 
on his maps are those still in use, while some 
have entirely disappeared. 

On the map of the southern portion of 
North America compiled by Poirson from the 


materials collected by Humboldt on his Amer- 
ican journey, and published in i8ir, a con- 
tinuous lofty range of mountains is indicated 
as extending from Alabama to New York, the 
southern portion of which is designated as the 
"Montagues Apalaches ou Alleghany" while 
the northern extension is called " Mont Alle- 
ghany," thus indicating as existing at that time 
a condition of things which continued for 
many years later; namely, an uncertainty as 
to whether the complex of ranges in question 
should bear the name of Apalachian (Appa- 
lachian) or Alleghany. Morse, the earliest 
American geographer, in his Gazetteer (third 
edition, 1810) says as follows : "The general 
name of the whole range, taken collectively, 
seems to be undetermined. Mr. Evans calls 
them the Endless Mountains ; others have 
called them the Appalachian Mountains, from 
a tribe of Indians who live on a river which 
proceeds from this mountain, called the Appa- 
lachicola ; but the most common name is the 
Alleghany Mountains, so called probably from 
the principal ridge of the range." 

On Maclure's Geological Map of the United 
States, accompanying an article read before 
the American Philosophical Society in 181 7, 
and published in 18 18, the name "Alleghany," 


spelled "Allegany," is repeated three times, 
but always on the westernmost member of the 
system of ranges, while various other desig- 
nations are applied to more eastern portions 
of the system. Some of these designations 
appear never to have become current ; others, 
like that of the Blue Mountains, are still, and 
have — since the time of Evans, at least — 
been in use. Maclure's map emphasizes a 
tendency existing from early days to limit 
the use of the name *' Alleghany " to that por- 
tion of the Appalachian Range which in the 
form of a bold escarpment marks, in Pennsyl- 
vania, the most western important topographi- 
cal feature of the region, and from the crest 
of which to the west declines a gently rolHng 
plateau-like region, uninterrupted by conspic- 
uous ridges. 

At the time of the beginning of the Geo- 
logical Survey of Pennsylvania (1836), when 
the necessities of a more precise geographical 
nomenclature began to be felt, the State geol- 
ogist, H. D. Rogers, wished to retain the name 
"Alleghany" (spelled by him "Allegheny") 
for the escarpment and plateau for which this 
name was most current, and also to limit the 
term " Appalachian " to the middle area of 
Pennsylvania, comprising the "wide mountain- 


ous zone embraced between the southeastern 
region [the South Mountams and Blue Ridge] 
and the principal ridge of the Allegheny Moun- 
tains." In reference to this matter of nomen- 
clature, Professor Rogers says, in his First 
Geological Report (1836): "It is true that 
the signification of the word [' Appalachian '] 
has been so extended as to comprehend the 
great table-land of the Allegheny Mountains 
and its spurs, though it is greatly to be wished, 
for the sake of giving greater exactness to 
geographical reference, that the latter moun- 
tain, with the ridges west of it, should be 
known exclusively as the Allegheny chain ; 
and the mountains from its base, east, to the 
great Cumberland Valley, exclusively as the 
Appalachian chain. When occasional allusion 
may be necessary to these two systems of 
mountains, so dissimilar both in their geolog- 
ical structure and their external configuration, 
we shall always employ the names ^ Allegheny ' 
and * Appalachian ' in the restricted sense here 

In spite of the manifest desire of the geolo- 
gists of the First Pennsylvania Survey to limit 
the name " Appalachian " to a portion of the 
range, the need of some general designation 
for the whole region becoming more and 


more decidedly felt, and such not having 
been furnished by Professor Rogers, his 
wishes and those of his assistants have been 
disregarded; and during the past twenty 
years, by general usage, the entire system of 
ranges from Gaspe to Georgia, with all its 
valleys and table-lands, has become known to 
physical geographers and geologists as the 
Appalachian Range or System. No doubt 
the fact that Guyot's all-important paper, pub- 
lished in 1861, bore the title "On the Ap- 
palachian Mountain System," had a marked 
influence in favor of bringing about the pres- 
ent unanimity of usage in this matter among 
geographical and geological writers. 

That Guyot was himself somewhat in doubt 
whether to call this system of ranges " Appa- 
lachian " or " Alleghany," is evident from the 
fact that on the map accompanying this paper, 
which was engraved and published in Germany 
a year before its appearance in America, the 
latter name is used. This map, in both the 
German and American editions, has as its title 
" Physikahsche Karte des Alleghany-systems." 


npHE mountainous region on the western 
"^ side of the continent remained almost a 
terra incognita until after the beginning of the 
present century. In spite of the known great 
breadth of the continental mass in the latitude 
of the United States, and notwithstanding the 
fact that as early as the middle of the sixteenth 
century ranges of mountains had been seen on 
the Pacific coast by explorers, notably by Cor- 
tez and Cabrillo, and named by them, while 
subsequent explorations down to the time of 
those of Vancouver made the pubHc aware 
that there were high mountains on the western 
side of the continent, the fact that these were 
a portion of an immense complex of ranges, 
valleys, and table-lands seems hardly to have 
become appreciated by geographers until 
nearly the middle of the present century. 

As late as the year 1794 the text-book of 
geography chiefly, if not exclusively, used in 


the United States (Morse's " Geography made 
Easy," fourth edition), contained the follow- 
ing statement repeated from former editions : 
" North America, though an uneven country, 
has no remarkably high mountains. The 
most considerable are those known under the 
general name of the Allegany Mowitains. 
These stretch along in many broken ridges 
under different names from Hudson River to 
Georgia. The Andes and Allegany Moun- 
tains are probably the same range interrupted 
by the Gulf of Mexico." 

In 1802 there seems to have been the first 
recognition, on the part of American geogra- 
phers, of the fact of the existence of moun- 
tains on the western side of the continent 
which were in some sort the continuation 
of the already somewhat familiar Andes of 
South America. In Morse's " American Uni- 
versal Geography," fourth edition, 1802, we 
read as follows : " In New Spain the most con- 
siderable part of this chain [the Andes] is 
known by the name of Sierra Madre. . . . 
Farther north they [the ranges of the Sierra 
Madre] have been called from their bright 
appearance the Shinifig Moimtainsr Again, 
in the fifth edition of the " Elements of Geog- 
raphy " by the same author, published in 1804, 


we have the same statement repeated in re- 
gard to the " Shining Mountains," with the 
additional notice that they He " away west of 
Louisiana," and are but little known. 

At the beginning of the present century the 
names '^ Shining " and " Stoney," or " Stony," 
were both given by different geographers and 
cartographers to a range of mountains on the 
western side of the continent, which was in- 
dicated on various maps as a single ridge, 
and placed in various positions, sometimes in 
the vicinity of the one hundredth meridian 
and sometimes on the remotest northwestern 
edge of the continent. Thus Arrowsmith's 
map of North America (1795) has the name 
^' Stony Mountains " upon it, with the remark 
that " they are 3,5 20 feet above the level of their 
base, and according to the Indian accounts of 
five ridges in some parts." But a later edition 
of this work — that of 1 802 — has " Rocky " in 
the place of " Stony " Mountains. The name 
" Mountains of the Shining Stones " is also 
used on various maps issued towards the close 
of the eighteenth century; also "Mountains 
of Bright Stones," which latter is the name 
found on the map accompanying Carver's 
Travels, and which bears the date of 1778. 
In the text, however, these mountains are called 


the " Shining," and the origin of this name is 
thus stated by him : " Among these momi- 
tains, those that he to the west of the River 
St. Pierre are called the ' Shining Mountains/ 
from an infinite number of chrystal stones 
of an amazing size, with which they are cov- 
ered, and which when the sun shines full upon 
them sparkle so as to be seen at a very great 
distance." Carver seems to have been the 
first to use the names '•' Shining Mountains " 
and " Mountains of the Bright Stones." The 
locality where the sparkling crystals occur 
which so excited Carver's imagination, is not 
known; but it has been suggested by the 
Abb^ Domenech that the crystalline plates 
of selenite in the Tertiary beds of the Bad 
Lands may have been the " Shining Stones " 
which gave the name for a time to the moun- 
tainous region to which the Bad Lands form 
a sort of introduction, and which had at a 
very early period become known to the fur- 
hunters and trappers of the Far West. 

Although the name " Rocky Mountains " is 
the one exclusively employed by Lewis and 
Clarke in the report of their expedition 
(1804-1806), yet the term "Stony," which 
was that used by Jefferson in his instructions 
to them, continued to make its appearance 


on the various maps issued by Morse up to 
as late, at least, as 181 2 (American Universal 
Geography, sixth edition). Gradually, how- 
ever, " Rocky " took the place of " Stony ; " 
and "Shining," as a name for the complex 
of ranges, or any part thereof, soon entirely 
disappeared from the map. Long after the 
time of Lewis and Clarke, however, various 
attempts were made to give entirely new 
names to these mountains ; as, for instance, 
by Tardieu in his finely engraved map of 
Louisiana and Mexico, published at Paris in 
1820, in which the main range, forming the 
back-bone of the Far West, is, in three places, 
named "the Columbians \sic\ Mountains," 
while the designation "Rocky " is hmited to 
a small spur or parallel range on the east, 
occupying a very subordinate position as 
compared with that assigned to the " Colum- 
bians." Again, in the geological map and 
sections accompanying the English edition 
of Hinton's " History and Topography of the 
United States," of which a new and improved 
edition was published in Boston in 1834, the 
Rocky Mountains are called the "Chippe- 
wayan Mountains." 

All the older maps are defective, especially 
in that they do not recognize the fact that the 


western highlands are made up, not of one, 
but of many ranges, quite distinct from each 
other, and often separated by wide valleys and 
table-lands. The map accompanying Hum- 
boldt's " New Spain," previously alluded to as 
having been compiled by Poirson, was the first 
attempt to make it appear that the orography 
of the western region was much less simple 
than it had been previously assumed to be. 
On this map a very marked mountain range 
is indicated as closely bordering the Pacific, 
and continuous from the southern extremity of 
Lower California to the northern limit of the 
map in latitude 42°. Another very strongly 
indicated continuous range extends through 
the centre of Mexico, north through what is 
now the United States as far as the northern 
limit of the map. This range is placed approx- 
imately on the meridian of 109° to iio^ (west 
of Paris). Behind the Pacific Coast Range 
thus represented, there is in the latitude of 
Central CaHfornia a vague indication of another 
range lying farther eastward ; to this the name 
of "Sierra San Marcos" is given, and this may 
be taken as a hint at a recognition of the exist- 
ence of the Sierra Nevada, although the range 
is placed much too far from the Pacific. The 
remainder of the area between the tv/o enclos- 


ing ranges, to neither of which is any gen- 
eral designation assigned, is occupied with 
a few vague and incorrect details, but more 
nearly correct than that which is given on 
most of the maps published during the 
twenty years following the appearance of 
Humboldt's map, since in these the streams 
running into the Pacific are made to head 
far to the east, in what would now be des- 
ignated as the Rocky Mountain Range 
proper, and to run almost due west to the 
sea. On Humboldt's map different portions 
of the range forming the eastern boundary 
of the Cordilleran region are designated as 
the Sierra de los Mimbres and the Sierra 
de las Grullas. A part of the Pacific Coast 
Range is called the Sierra Santa Lucia, a 
name still current ; and the extreme northern 
portion of the Coast Range bears the name 
of Sierra Nevada, which is that now given 
to the range next east of the San Joaquin and 
Sacramento Valleys.* 

* This name first appears on the map made after Verra- 
zano's chart, by Michael Lok, published in 15S2, and repub- 
lished by the Hakluyt Society in 1850. It is spelled " Sierre 
Neuada," and designates a range of mountains running east 
from the head of the "Mare Bermejo," and forming the 
northern boundary of the continent along an extent of 15° 
of longitude. 


The expeditions of Bonneville (1832-1836) 
and of Fremont (184 2- 1844), which made 
known the existence of an interior closed ba- 
sin in the western highlands, and also revealed 
the principal features of the topography of that 
region, soon followed as they were by the dis- 
covery of gold in the Sierra Nevada, almost 
immediately made this designation a familiar 
one all over the world ; and with the adoption 
of this name for the prominent and important 
range on the western edge of the country, it 
was natural that the designation of "Rocky 
Mountains " should become more and more 
limited to the eastern edge of what was grad- 
ually becoming recognized as being a great 
complex of ranges, of which, however, the lim- 
iting ones on the east and west were on 
the whole the most elevated and continuous. 
Meanwhile the interior ranges, or those en- 
closed between the Rocky Mountains and the 
Sierra Nevada, received names, or retained 
those already given by the aboriginal inhabi- 
tants, so that by the time the Pacific Railroad 
was completed nearly all the ranges had dis- 
tinctive appellations. Still, up to quite a re- 
cent date there was no collective name for the 
whole system of ranges on the western side of 
the continent, including the Rocky Mountains 


proper on the east and the Pacific Coast Ranges 
on the west, and all the region of mountains, 
table-lands, and valleys enclosed between 
them. The desirability of such a name be- 
came, however, more and more manifest, as the 
region in question began to be written about 
as a whole, and to be recognized as forming 
one all-important feature in the topography of 
the country. The condition of things in re- 
gard to the nomenclature of the western com- 
plex of ranges was almost exactly what it 
had been in the east before the name " Appala- 
chian System " or "Appalachian Range " had 
been adopted by geographers as a designation 
for the highlands of the eastern side of the 

In 1868 the present writer, in a work de- 
voted to a topographical description of a por- 
tion of the Sierra Nevada (the Yosemite Book), 
suggested the use of the name " Cordilleras " 
(with the adjective " Cordilleran "), as a 
proper, convenient, and euphonious designa- 
tion of the great western complex of ranges ; 
and this name has been generally accepted and 
made use of, especially in the various publica- 
tions of the Census Bureau, including those 
of the Census of 1870 and 1880. A few 
words, however, may here be added in refer- 


ence to the origin of this designation and the 
convenience and propriety of its use in the 
manner designated. 

Before any definite knowledge of the moun- 
tainous region on the western side of North 
America had been obtained, considerable 
progress had been made toward a clear un- 
derstanding of the nature and extent of the 
clearly defined and lofty ranges on the Pacific 
side of the southern division of the American 
continent. The journeys of Humboldt in 
that region, and the voluminous publications 
following the completion of these explora- 
tions, were the principal cause of this condi- 
tion of things; but the great simplicity of 
the orographic structure of South America 
as compared with the complexity of the 
northern topography, and especially of that 
portion within the Hmits of the United States, 
was an additional reason why the geography 
of this latter region was so slowly worked 

Humboldt, in his "Personal Narrative" of 
his South American travels, uses the term 
"Cordilleras of the Andes" as the most general 
designation for the system of ranges extend- 
ing from Patagonia along the Pacific coast 
" to the mountains lying at the mouth of the 


Mackenzie River." In this work he some- 
times calls the South American division of the 
Cordilleras simply the Andes, and sometimes 
the Cordillera (and also Cordilleras) of the 
Andes; the prolongation of these ranges to 
the north of the Isthmus is designated by a 
variety of names, sometimes as the Andes of 
New Mexico, sometimes as the Cordilleras 
of Mexico, and sometimes the Andes of Ana- 
huac. The most western division of the Cor- 
dilleras he usually calls the Maritime Alps, 
and occasionally the Mountains of California. 
That the topography of the western side of 
the North American continent was but vaguely 
and imperfectly known at this time, is indicated 
by the fact that Humboldt prolongs the east- 
ern chain of the Andes from Potosi through 
Texas and the Ozark Mountains to the Wis- 
consin Hills, of which he says : "Their metallic 
wealth seems to denote that they are a pro- 
longation of the eastern Cordillera of Mexico." 
In Humboldt's last great work, " Kosmos," 
written soon after the results of the Pacific 
Railroad surveys had become known, he uses 
the name " Cordilleras " as the equivalent of the 
Andes, understanding by it, in general, the 
Andes of South America ; sometimes, however, 
including the mountains of Mexico. For the 


continuation of these ranges farther north the 
name generally adopted by him is "Rocky 
Mountains" (Felsengebirge), and instead of 
" Maritime Alps " he uses the names, abready 
current in the United States, of " Sierra 
Nevada" and "Cascade Range." 

From Humboldt's time on, however, the 
name "Andes" became more and more Hmited 
in its use to South American ranges, and the 
word " Cordilleras," * which simply means 
"mountain ranges," was omitted, so that a 
long time has now elapsed since geographers 
began — as a general rule — to designate the 
South American Pacific coast mountain system 
as simply the Andes, that term having been 
entirely dropped as a name for any part of 
the North American ranges. This condition 
of things seems to leave the term " Cordilleras" 
as a convenient, suitable, and euphonious one 
for designating the entire complex of western 
North American ranges, although it was not, 
as some have stated, thus used by Humboldt, 
who never at any time proposed any general 
designation for the northern division of his 
" Cordilleras of the Andes," as is clearly evident 
from what has been stated above. That the 
introduction of the name " Cordilleras " with 

* See further on in this volume (p. 88). 


the meaning given to it by the present writer 
met a distinctly felt want among geographers, 
is sufficiently proved by its immediate adop- 
tion by authors of important works in which 
the general topography and geology of North 
America came under discussion. 


" Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound 
Save his own dashings." 

nPHERE are two geographical names in 
-"- North America which have given rise 
to much speculation as to their origin and 
derivation, with as yet but very unsatisfactory 
results. These names are Canada and Ore- 
gon. The present communication will, as the 
writer believes, settle the difficulty with regard 
to the second of them, although it is possible 
that the Oregonians themselves may not be 
particularly well pleased with the solution. 

The first appearance in print of the name 
"Oregon" was in the "Travels through the 
Interior Parts of North America in the Years 
1766, 1767, and 1768," by J. Carver, Esq., 
from which (second edition, published at Lon- 
don, 1779) the following extract is quoted: 
" The four great rivers that take their rise 
within a few leagues of each other, nearly 
about the centre of this great continent ; viz. 


the River Bourbon, which empties itself into 
Hudson's Bay ; the waters of Saint Lawrence ; 
the Mississippi, and the River Oregon, or the 
River of the West, that falls into the Pacific 
Ocean at the Straits of Annian." 

Carver furnishes no explanation of the origin 
or meaning of the name " Oregon." Besides 
its occurrence in the quotation above given, the 
name (spelled " Oregan ") is once more used 
by him (p. 542) when this river is again called 
the " Oregan or River of the West." On the 
general map attached to this work the name 
" Oregon " does not appear, but only that of 
"River of the West," the head of which is laid 
down in about longitude 104° and latitude 
46°, and the mouth in latitude 45°, with the 
legend "discovered by Aguilar." The course 
of this river as given by Carver on this map 
is an exact copy of the same on a map of J. 
Palairet, revised by L. Delarochette, and pub- 
lished in 1763. Carver did not himself see 
any part of the river which he called the Ore- 
gon, or any of its tributaries ; but it seems 
that soon after the appearance of his book 
this name began to come into use. Had it not 
been picked up by him, it might never have 
become known beyond the region where it 
originated. Carver's representation of the 


country to the north and west of Lake Supe- 
rior, as far west as the "Western Sea/' as well 
as that of the Pacific coast, is an almost exact 
copy of Palairet, the legends only being some- 
what altered, while his use of that map in 
preparing his own is also clearly shown by the 
fact that the scales of the two are exactly the 
same. These remarks apply to that one of 
the two maps accompanying Cancer's travels 
which bears the title of " A New Map of North 
America from the Latest Discoveries, 1778. 
Engraven for Carver's Travels." The other 
map in the same volume, entitled " A Plan of 
Captain Carver's Travels in the Interior Parts 
of North America in 1766 and 1767," em- 
braces Lakes Superior and Michigan and the 
region west, extending a little way beyond 
the Mississippi with the Lake of the Woods 
in the northwestern corner. It has the author's 
route upon it, and is somewhat different in its 
details from the other map in the same vol- 
ume, which embraces all of North America 
lying between the parallels of 25° and 70°. 
Directly south of the Lake of the Woods, on 
the parallel of 47"^, on Carver's route-map, are 
the words " Heads of Origan." 

It is very easy to make out whence Carver 
got the idea of a " River of the West." Dur- 


ing the French occupation of Canada, from 
the early part of the last century on, there 
was constant talk among the explorers about 
the possibihty of reaching the "Sea of the 
West " by some interior route starting from 
the Great Lakes. Since the French carried 
on their explorations almost exclusively by 
the aid of canoes and boats, they naturally 
followed the streams and lakes, in this respect 
forming a marked contrast to the Spaniards, 
who spread themselves on horseback towards 
the northwest, introducing the horse among 
various Indian tribes far down the Columbia, 
to such an extent that Lewis and Clarke, 
through much of the region they traversed, 
found that the aborigines were as familiar with 
this animal as the Spaniards themselves. 
Indeed, no inconsiderable part of the work of 
these adventurous explorers was done by the 
aid of horses purchased from the Indians.* 

* " The horse is confined principally to the nations in- 
habiting the great plains of the Columbia, extending from 
latitude forty to fifty north, and occupying the tract of ter- 
ritory lying between the Rocky Mountains and a range of 
mountains which pass the Columbia about the Great Falls 
from longitude 16" [j:V, in both English and American 
editions, — should be 1 16°] to 121° west. The Shoshonees, 
the Chopunnish, Sokulks, Escheloots, Eneshures, and Chil- 
luckittequaws, all enjoy the benefit of that docile, noble, 
and generous animal ; and all of them, except the last three, 


The French, on the other hand, were as 
naturally led to extend their trading-posts, and 
to explore geographically the region lying to 
the north and northwest of Lake Superior, 
towards Lake Nepigon, the Lake of the 
Woods, Winnipeg, and the Assiniboine River. 
Explorations in this direction took them far 
away from the continental divide, which they 
must have crossed before they could find 
waters flowing into the Pacific. 

Still, the idea of reaching the Sea of the 
West from the east through a connected chain 
of rivers and lakes was a favorite one with the 
Canadian explorers, both lay and missionary, 
among whom certainly were men of unbounded 
zeal and abundant courage. Based on vari- 
ous stories gathered by the traders from the 
Indian tribes to the west of the Lake of the 
Woods and the Assiniboine, the idea of a 
" River of the West " leading to the " Sea of 
the West" gradually took form, and began 
to be made a feature of the maps furnished 

possess immense numbers." — Lewis and Clarke, Eng. 
ed., p. 461. 

" The Chayennes reside chiefly on the heads of the 
river [Chayenne], and steal horses from the Spanish settle- 
ment, a plundering excursion which they perform in a 
month's time." — Lewis and Clarke, Am. ed., vol. i. 
p. 95. 


by various explorers. In one of the maps 
accompanying the " Histoire et Description 
G^n^rale de la Nouvelle France," by Charle- 
voix, we find the notion of a River of the 
West completely developed. This map bears 
on its face the legend " dress^e par N [ico- 
las] B[e]lin] Ing. du Roy, et Hydrog. de la 
Marine" (1743). It shows a complete water- 
way, consisting of alternate river and lake, 
through from Lake Superior to about longitude 
135° (west of Paris), where " suivant le raport 
des Sauvages commence le Flux et Reflux." 

In a later map of Bellin's, published sepa- 
rately, and bearing the title of " Carte de 
I'Am^rique Septentrionale depuis le 28 Degr6 
de Latitude jusqu'au 72" (1755), the geog- 
raphy of the Northwest is very considerably 
changed, and in some respects improved. 
Lake of the Woods is moved ten degrees 
nearer to its true position. Lakes Winnipeg 
and Winnipegosis are better defined, but still 
greatly too far to the west. The " River of 
the West " disappears ; while along the course 
of the Assiniboine (Riv. des Assiniboiles), 
which is correctly given as uniting with the 
Red River just before it falls into Lake Winni- 
peg, it is noted " qu'on pent croire aller a la 
mer de I'Ouest." 


A few pages may here be devoted to an 
examination of what was done by the French 
during their occupation of Canada in the way 
of geographical exploration of the region ly- 
ing to the west and northwest of the Great 

D'Iberville, in 1 700, proposed an explora- 
tion of the region beyond the Mississippi to 
the southwest. In a note developing this 
idea he says : " Trouvant la hauteur des terres 
et les rivieres qui descendent a la Mer de 
rOuest, sgavoir si on les descendra, si elle 
tombe dans la Californie pres des establisse- 
mens des Espagnols, et s^avoir s'il y aura 
seuret^ de s'aller livrer a eux ou aux Sauvages 
qui leur sont soumis." 

Again, in 1 703, the same officer, in a letter 
dated at La Rochelle, speaks of twenty Cana- 
dians having started from Tamaroas for New 
Mexico, "pour y commercer des piastres et 
voir ce que sont les mines dont les Sau- 
vages leur ont parl^." In 1 705 " un nomm^ 

* The facts here stated in regard to the various attempts 
of the French to reach the Sea of the West, or to explore 
the region at the head of the Missouri, are compiled from 
the original documents published in the sixth part of Mar- 
gry's " Decouvertes et :^tablissements des Frangais dans 
rOuest et dans le Sud de I'Amerique Septentrionale " ( 1 614- 
1754). ^Memoires et Documents originaux: Paris, 1SS6. 


Laurain '* brings to the Chevalier de Beaurain 
news about the Spaniards Hving on the borders 
of New Mexico. In 1708 La Salle plans an 
expedition to discover the source of the Mis- 
souri. He says, in giving reason why this 
should be attempted, that he has learned pos- 
itively "que des hommes blancs, comme nous, 
qui ne sont autres que les Espagnols, vont 
fort frequemment avec des mulets en ce pays. 
... II y a des voyageurs canadiens qui Font 
remontee presque 3 a 400 lieues au nord-ouest 
et a I'ouest, sans qu'ils aient pu apprendre 
d"ou provient la source." In 1709 a French 
officer named Mandeville reports that the ex- 
ploration of the Missouri would lead to great 
discoveries. In 1714 the Missionary Lemaire 
says, " On a remonte la Missouri plus de 400 
lieues sans renconti-er aucune habitation Es- 
pagnole, et ce n'est qu'a quelque 500 lieues 
qu'on commence a en avoir des nouvelles par 
des Sauvages, qui font la guerre avec eux." 

An elaborate memoir addressed to the 
"Conseil de la Marine" in 171 7, by the 
Sieur Hubert, sets forth the advantages which 
would accrue to the Government of France 
from the exploration of the Upper Missouri. 
In this memoir the mines worked by the 
Spaniards, akeady several times mentioned in 


despatches of previous years, are again brought 
forward, and reason given why the high moun- 
tains at the head of this river might be expected 
to prove metaUiferous. The point is raised 
whether, if the Spaniards should be found to 
be in possession of valuable mines in that re- 
gion, it might not be possible to drive them 
out with the aid of the natives, " qui out les 
Espagnols en horreur, et qui seroient dans les 
interests des Frangois." Furthermore, it is 
suggested that at the source of the Missouri 
there will be found " une grande riviere qu'on 
pretend qui sort de la mesme montagne ou 
est la source du Missouri. On croit mesme 
qu' e'en est une branche qui va tomber dans 
la Mer de I'Ouest." This seems to be the first 
time the idea of a " River of the West " was 
prominently brought forward in any official 
despatch from the French in Canada to the 
home Government, and it is strongly insisted 
on that by this route commercial relations 
could be opened with Japan and China, — " le 
chemin en serait court." To this is added : 
" Cela paroist d'une grande importance a 
m^riter d'en approfondir la verite." 

In a memoir signed " B^gon," added to a 
letter of Messrs. Vaudreuil and B^gon, bearing 
date Nov. 12, 1716, the statement is made 


that twenty-eight years before — in 1688, 
namely — the Assiniboines had offered to 
conduct a traveller named De Noyon to the 
Sea of the West, on the borders of which peo- 
ple went on horseback. The journey thither 
and back was to occupy five months ; the river 
(Ouchichiq, " which leads to the Lac des As- 
siniboils [Manitoba and Winnepegosis] and 
thence to the Sea of the West ") is said 
to be " tres belle," and tide-water (" le flux 
et reflux ") would be met at three days' 
journey from the sea. It is insisted at the 
end of this memoir that in order to derive 
any profit from commerce with the Sea of the 
West, it must be by means of the land route 

In view of the great expense of the explora- 
tions thus meditated, it was decided to wait 
and endeavor to acquire more definite infor- 
mation in regard to the Sea of the West ; and 
it was for that purpose that the services of 
Charlevoix were engaged, who in 1723, after 
three years of exploration and inquiry, reported 
that the best way to reach the Sea of the West 
was to ascend the Missouri ; but this plan was 
definitely rejected by the Government, and it 
was concluded, instead of carrying out the 
ideas of Charlevoix, to estabUsh missions among 


the Sioux, which was done on the borders of 
Lake Pepin, where, from the year 1723 on, a 
post was irregularly maintained and finally 
definitely abandoned by Legardeur de Saint 
Pierre in 1737. 

A few years later the name of Pierre Gau- 
thier de la Verendrye became conspicuous in 
the French Archives as that of an explorer 
strongly possessed with the idea of reaching 
the Sea of the West. He was a man of zeal, 
of some means, and the father of three sons 
who helped him in his task, and one of whom 
was killed in the course of his explorations. 
De la Verendrye, in a memoir addressed to 
the Minister of the Marine, dated Oct. 31, 
1744, sets forth that for thirteen years he 
has been engaged in endeavoring to reach 
the Sea of the West, during which time he has 
suffered the greatest hardships. He had es- 
tablished trading-posts on Rainy Lake, Lake 
of the Woods, Lake Winnipeg, the Assiniboine 
River, and the Saskatchewan (Poskoyac). In 
1742 he sent two of his sons with a well- 
equipped party " aux Mantanes," — that is, to 
the region inhabited by the Mandans, — with 
the idea of penetrating in a southwesterly direc- 
tion to the mountains, and reaching the much- 
wished-for Western Sea. They returned after 


fifteen months of absence, and the report of 
their journey was forwarded by the Governor- 
General of Canada (De Beauharnois) to the 
Minister, Oct. 27, 1744. Unfortunately this 
report is so vague that it seems impossible 
to make out much more from it than that the 
expedition came within sight of the Rocky 
Mountains in January, 1743, having left the 
Mandans July 23, and having travelled in 
general in a southwesterly direction, probably 
in the wide belt of land lying between the 
Yellowstone and the Missouri. The French 
were accompanied for some time by a large 
band of Indians (" Gens de I'iVrc"), and with 
them were obliged to turn back, when near 
the base of the mountains, on account of their 
fear of the " Gens du Serpent." At the time 
of this turning back they may — as nearly as 
can be guessed — have been within one or 
two hundred miles of Snake River, and dis- 
tant fifteen degrees of longitude from that 
Western Sea, of which La Verendrye hoped 
to get a sight from the summit of the moun- 
tain at whose base he was. Here they heard 
accounts of the missions of the Spaniards in 
California, which contained enough of truth- 
ful items to prove beyond doubt that there 
had been communication across the country 


between the Pacific coast and the Upper 
Missouri Region.* 

The maps accompanying the work of 
Charlevoix have already been noticed. This 
work was published at just about the same 
time that the expedition of La Verendrye 
took place. Indeed, its preface bears a date 
very near that of the day of the return to Fort 
la Reine of La Verendrye's expedition, July 2, 
1 743. How confident Bellin, the cartographer 
who prepared the maps accompanying the 
narrative of Charlevoix, was, that the Sea of 

* The following is a quotation from the report of La 
Verendrj'e to De Beauharnois in regard to this journey. It 
contains a part of what the old chief of the " Gens de I'Arc " 
told him in regard to the people living on the ocean, and 
whom they were prevented from reaching by fear of the 
*' Gens du Serpent," 

" II poursuivait son discours ainsi : ' Les Fransois {^Span- 
iards-^ see further on] qui sont k la mer, me dit-il, sont 
nombreux ; ils ont quantite d'esclaves, qu'ils etablissent sur 
leurs terres dans chaque nation ; ils ont des appartements 
separes, ils les marient ensembles et ne les tiennent pas 
genes, ce qui fait qu'ils se plaisent avec eux et ne cherchent 
pas k le sauver. lis elevent quantite de chevaux et autres 
animaux, qu'ils font travailler sur leur terre. lis ont quan- 
tite de chefs pour les soldats, ils en ont aussi pour la priere.' 
II me dit quelques mots de leur langue. Je reconnus qu'il 
me parloit Espagnol, et ce qui acheva de me le confimier 
fut le recit qu'il me fit du massacre des Espagnols qui 
alloient \, la decouverte du Missouri dont j'avais entendu 



the West would be reached by way of internal 
exploration, can be easily seen by reference 
to his remarks, in the volumes of Charlevoix, 
in regard to his own cartographic work. He, 
namely, expresses his belief that Lake Supe- 
rior is not more than three hundred leagues 
from the " Mer de I'Ouest," and adds that it 
is almost certain that there is " une suite de 
Lacs et de Rivieres, par lesquelles on pent 
communiquer de Lac Sup^rieur avec cette 
mer ; " and the region is thus represented 
on Bellin's maps, as already mentioned. 

A comparison of the various maps published 
about the middle of the last century shows 
how extremely vague were the notions of 
people in regard to the trend and position 
of the northwestern coast of North America. 
The map accompanying Hennepin's Travels 
arranges things so as to accord as completely 
as possible with the theory of reaching the Sea 
of the West with ease from the region of the 
Great Lakes. The coast north of 45° is made 
to trend to the eastward so as to bring it only 
a httle over 20° in longitude west of the head 
of the Mississippi ; " La terre de Jesso " and 
the upper part of the Gulf of California are 
in the same latitude, and only distant five 
degrees of longitude from each other. In 


conformity with the idea already alluded to 
as prevalent during the earlier part of the last 
century, that Asia could be easily reached from 
the Great Lakes of North America, the map 
accompanying Venegas's '* Noticia de la Cali- 
fornia," bearing the legend " Formado sobre 
las Memorias mas recientes y exactas hasta el 
aiio de 1754" gives an independent existence 
to the Sea of the West, distinguishing it from 
the Mar del Sur or Pacific, calling it the " Mar 
o Bahia de el Vest," and representing it as a 
vast interior sea extending from the opening 
discovered by Aguilar east to within five de- 
grees of the Lake of the Woods and north to 
the latitude of the central portion of Hudson's 
Bay. On Carver's map (1778) the legend 
"Western Sea" occupies a space only about 
ten degrees west of Winnepegosis, but no at- 
tempt is made to give its boundaries. This 
map, however, is simply an exact copy of 
Palairet's map, of thirteen years' earlier date, 
as already mentioned. The first discovery of 
the point at which the " River of the West " en- 
ters the Pacific was made by Heceta, on the 
17th of August, 1775. This navigator did 
not, however, enter the mouth of the river, as 
he found the difficulties greater than he could 
overcome, nor did he positively ascertain that 


this was the mouth of a great river, although 
he surmised that it was. Hence this discovery 
of Heceta's must be looked upon as being a 
very unsatisfactory one. Meares, the English 
navigator, also failed to enter this river, al- 
though he was in the bay of the Columbia 
and gave to its northern headland the name 
which it still bears — that of Cape Disappoint- 
ment. The disappointment was that there 
was no good harbor here, as he had been led 
by Heceta's account to expect. The entrance 
to the Columbia is indeed a dangerous and 
difficult one for sailing vessels, except under 
specially favorable conditions of wind and 
weather. Only steamers with skilful pilots 
can get in or out without liability to great 
delay or even serious danger, as is clearly 
shown by the great number of shipwrecks 
which have taken place on the bar of the Co- 
lumbia, including that of the United States ship 
*' Peacock " — one of the Wilkes Exploring 
Expedition vessels. 

Vancouver was also unfortunate in missing 
the mouth of the great River of the West, 
although he noticed that the color of the 
water in the bay was that indicating the out- 
let of a river. The surf was breaking in a 
continuous line along the bar from highland 


to highland, north and south, and he did not 
dare incur the risk of crossing it, especially 
as he had no idea of the importance of the 
discovery he would have made had he been 
successful in getting over the bar. 

These various navigators were either not 
acquainted with, or paid no attention to, the 
prevalent ideas of the French explorers from 
the East overland, with regard to the existence 
of a great river system, through which access 
could be had to the region to the northwest 
of the head of the Missouri. The relatively 
small importance of the rivers entering the 
Pacific from the western side of South and 
North America, as compared with the magni- 
tude of those draining the Atlantic slope, may 
not unreasonably be supposed to have oper- 
ated as a check on the search for great rivers 
on the Pacific coast. It is only fifty years 
since the character of the drainage of the 
part of the coast lying between the Colorado 
and the Columbia became known even in its 
rudest oudines ; and the writer has within ten 
years purchased, from prominent map estab- 
lishments in London and on the Continent, 
maps offered for sale as including all the 
newest investigations, in which this drainage 
was represented as it was beheved to be before 


the explorations of Bonneville had revealed 
the existence of the " Great Basin." Fremont 
himself, when at Tlamath (Klamath) Lake, in 
1843, expected soon to strike, in going south, 
the " famous Buenaventura River . . . form- 
ing, agreeably to the best maps in my [his] 
possession, a connected water line from the 
Rocky Mountains to the Pacific." He seems 
either to have been unacquainted with Bonne- 
ville's work, published six years earlier, or else 
to have ignored or misunderstood it.* And 
yet at that time Fremont was himself within 
the Great Basin, Klamath Lake, like many 
others in that vicinity, being without any 
drainage to the sea. 

Mr. Robert Gray, commander of the ship 

* Fremont could not have been entirely unacquainted with 
Bonneville's expedition, since he met with Joseph Walker, 
and mentions the fact that this renowned fur-hunter and ex- 
plorer "was associated with Bonneville in his expedition to 
the Rocky Mountains." This is the only allusion made in 
any part of Fremont's reports to his predecessor and the 
unquestioned discoverer of the Great Basin. It would seem 
impossible that a work coming from the pen of so distin- 
guished an author as Washington Irving could have been 
unknown to one who was about to undertake the explora- 
tion of the same region which Bonneville had visited a few 
years before. Bonneville was unfortunate in having Irving 
as the editor of his travels. The editing is badly done ; but 
the maps mark an important step in the progress of geo- 
graphical knowledge in this country. 


" Columbia," which had sailed from Boston, 
Sept. 28, 1790, was more fortunate. On a 
second trial, he succeeded, May 11, 1792, 
in overcoming the dreaded obstacle, and en- 
tering the river, up the estuary of which he 
sailed about twenty miles. Lieutenant Brough- 
ton, of the " Chatham," one of Vancouver's 
expedition, shortly after this ascended the 
Columbia, as far as what he called Point 
Vancouver, about eighty miles from the 
mouth, where was afterwards Fort Vancou- 
ver, the chief trading-post of the Hudson's 
Bay Company on the Pacific. This is a 
little below the Cascades, and nearly oppo- 
site the entrance of the Willamette into the 

Captain Gray gave the name of his vessel 
to the river whose mouth he was undoubtedly 
the first white man to enter, but which was 
well known to the numerous natives along its 
course, and which, as we now know, was the 
great " River of the West " and the Oregon 
or Oregan of Carver. The name given by 
Gray to the river is the one which it now 
bears; but many years elapsed before this 
name became generally current. To see what 
names were in use at any particular time in 
the early history of the geography of this 



country we naturally look in the various edi- 
tions of Morse's "American Gazetteer," or of 
the Geographies of the same author. In the 
Gazetteer, edition of 1 797, we find only " River 
of the West " used as the name of what is 
now called the Columbia. In the edition of 
the "American Geography" of 1805, how- 
ever, the new name " Columbia " makes its 
appearance in the text ; but the accompany- 
ing map has only " Oregan." The riv^er is 
said to " deserve notice, and to have been 
ascended in boats to more than eighty miles." 
Lewis and Clarke speak only of the Columbia 
River ; and except that they mention its In- 
dian name,* never once allude to its having 
at any time borne any other appellation in 
any part of its course, or to its identity with 
the " River of the West." Neither do they 
ever mention the name of Carver, Gray, or of 
any of the previous explorers of the region 
they visited, with the exception of that of Mr. 
Fidler, one of the geographers in the service 
of the Hudson's Bay Company. 

But at the time the instructions for the 
Lewis and Clarke expedition were made out 
(1803) by Jefferson, it is evident that he 

* Mentioned twice — once as " Shocatilcum " and again 
as " Chockalilum." 


did not consider that it was known whether 
the Oregon and the Columbia were one and 
the same river ; for he expressly directs them 
to find out whether " the Columbia, Oregan, 
Colorado, or any other river may offer the 
most direct and practicable water-communi- 
cation across the continent for the purposes of 

The explorations of Vancouver on the 
northwestern coast of North America had 
just about this time put an end to the pre- 
vailing condition of uncertainty with regard 
to a possible unbroken navigable communica- 
tion between the Atlantic and the Pacific ; but 
it remained to ascertain how far rivers could be 
made to take the place of the ocean, and what 
difficulties would have to be surmounted in 
order to get from navigable water on the 
Atlantic slope to the same on the Pacific side 
of the continent. 

The Arrowsmith maps are those which con- 
tain the geographical information collected 
by the Hudson's Bay Company, so far as they 
saw fit to allow it to be given to the world. 
The Arrowsmith map of North America, which 
Lewis and Clarke had with them, or used 
when writing up their notes for publication, 
is evidently that of 1795, perhaps "with cor- 



rections to 1802." On this map nothing is 
given in regard to the region at the head of 
the Missouri, or of that traversed by any of 
the head-waters of the Columbia, which could 
have been of any use to explorers of that 

How vague the knowledge of the geogra- 
phy of this part of the country was at the end 
of the eighteenth century, and even during 
the earlier years of the nineteenth, is shown 
by the fact that Mackenzie, when he crossed 
over the divide between Peace River and a 
river which, as the natives assured him, ran 
into the salt water, did not know at all what 
river he had reached. In his journal he care- 
fully avoided giving it a name, calling it only 
'^ the great river." It was in fact the Fraser ; 
and learning from the Indians how much it 
was obstructed by rapids, he, after having de- 
scended it for a short distance, retraced his 
steps, and made his way to the Pacific by 
land, crossing some of the southern affments 

* The " remarkable mountain called the Tooth " {vide 
Lewis and Clarke, Am. ed. vol. i. p. 253), laid down by 
Arrowsmith from Mr. Fidler's observations, it seems quite 
impossible to recognize or locate. The same may be said 
of Mr. Fidler's other names given to various points in the 
Rocky Mountains, no one of which appears to have become 



of Dean's River, and reaching the head of 
the Bentinck Arms, near what is now called 
New Aberdeen. This was in 1793, and the 
narrative of his journey was not published 
until some years later, — namely, in 180 1. By 
this time the name given to the Columbia 
River by Gray in 1789 had become known, 
and Mackenzie had heard of it ; for in the 
general remarks at the close of his volume on 
the discovery of a passage from the Atlantic 
to the Pacific, he speaks of the Columbia, call- 
ing it "the Tacoutche or Columbia," but not 
in such a manner as to render it certain whether 
he did or did not consider the "great river " of 
his journal to be the Tacoutche. Arrowsmith, 
however, did so consider it ; for his map, pub- 
hshed about that time, part of which is included 
in Mackenzie's volume, shows the river which 
this explorer reached as connecting by a dotted 
line with the Columbia, which is laid down 
from Broughton's Survey, and the whole is 
named the " Tacoutche Tesse {Tesse=z river 
in Chipevvyan) or Columbia River." 

Humboldt as late as 181 1 — the date of the 
pubhcation of his great work on New Spain 
— was still very much in the dark as to the 
identity of the Tacoutche with the Columbia, 
which he calls the " Tacoutche Tesse ou Or^- 


gan de Mackenzie." It should be '' of Arrow- 
smith ; " for Mackenzie never used the name 
"Oregan," or '"Oregon," and he e\-idently 
depended on Arrowsmith entirely for his gen- 
eral cartographic ideas outside of the field of 
his own especial explorations. Humboldt at 
that time was decidedly inclined to consider 
the Oregon as being distinct from the Colum- 
bia, and as perhaps empt}ing into Great Salt 
Lake (" un des grands lacs sales que, d'apres 
les renseignemens donnes par le pere Esca- 
lante, j'ai figur^ sur ma carte de Mexique sous 
les 39^ et 41° de latitude"). Humboldt 
calls attention to a curious blunder of Malte- 
Brun's, who in his geography had seemed to 
recognize the name '' Oregan " on a map of 
Mexico published by Antonio Alzate, on 
which in regard to the Colorado River it is 
said, " cuyo origen se ignora " (whose source 
is unknown) .* Malte-Brun at this time agreed 
with Humboldt in inclining to the belief that 

* It is not a little curious that Humboldt makes, in his 
"Ansichten der Natur," a slip almost as amusing as that 
of Malte-Brun, which he twice records, once in his " New 
Spain" and again in the " Ansichten der Natur." In the 
last-named work he remarks that Malte-Brun thought he 
recognized the name " Oregon" in the ignora of "aun se 
ignora." Of course it should have been, as above, the 
origen of "cuyo origen se ignora." 


the Oregon was distinct from the Columbia ; 
but the first-named geographer considered it 
more hkely that the Oregon emptied into the 
Gulf of California, while Humboldt thought 
that this would be ascribing to that river a 
very improbable length, and therefore pre- 
ferred to adopt the view that it was a river 
belonging to the Great Basin System, as, with 
our present knowledge of the region, it would 
be proper to say. It may seem strange that 
so much ignorance in regard to the topography 
of the Northwest should have prevailed as late 
as 1811 ; but it must be remembered that it 
was not until several years after the completion 
of Lewis and Clarke's explorations that the 
results of their memorable journey were given 
to the world. The very eccentric course of the 
Columbia proper, and the enormous distance 
between its head and that of its principal south- 
ern tributary — the Snake — are sufficient 
reasons why the hydrography of this region 
should have offered a puzzling problem to the 
early explorers ; and it was not until about 
1864 that the difficulties were all finally cleared 
up, although Fraser and Stuart descended the 
river named for the first of these explorers as 
early as 1808. The name " Tacoutche-Tesse," 
as that of the Fraser, is seen in maps published 


in England certainly as late as 1832, and per- 
haps much later. 

From the time of the naming of the River 
of the West by Gray, this western region rap- 
idly increased in importance, and the names 
of tribes, places, and rivers began to become 
more or less fam.iliar to Europeans, and to the 
inhabitants of what was then the United States. 
The exploration of Lewis and Clarke brought 
the region at once into notice, and the vague 
way in which " Louisiana " had been described 
in the purchase of that vast and not distinctly 
Hmited region made it not unlikely that the 
claims of the United States would, sooner or 
later, be extended over it. 

Although the name '^ Oregon " nowhere 
occurs in Lewis and Clarke's report on their 
expedition, yet this name continued in use, 
and gradually became a familiar word in the 
United States as well as in Europe. The Co- 
lumbia River was called the Oregon, as well 
as the Columbia, down almost to the present 
day. Twiss says, writing in 1846, "The Great 
River of the West is best known in Europe 
by the name of Oregon." The quotation given 
at the head of this article, from a poem pub- 
lished in 1 82 1, shows that the name was in 
this country also a familiar one at this time. 


Bryant, in the original edition of "Thanatop- 
sis," spells the name " Oregan," and the same 
spelling is preserved in the authorized edition 
of 1847. In later editions, and especially in 
that of Parke Godwin of the collected works 
of this author (1883), the name is spelled 
" Oregon." As a good illustration of the un- 
certainty in the use of the name, it may be 
mentioned that Flint, in his " History and 
Geography of the Mississippi Valley" (1832), 
twice calls this river the Oregon, on the very 
same page in which he says that the name 
of Columbia was given to it by Captain Gray. 
Indeed, it was not until the limits of the State 
of Oregon became fixed, and it had been 
received into the Union, that Columbia began 
to be the generally accepted name of the river. 
The State and the river might, however, easily 
have both retained the name of Oregon, as 
there are thirteen States which have the same 
designation as the principal rivers forming 
portions of their boundaries, or by which 
they are traversed (Mississippi, Missouri, 
Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee, 
Arkansas, Minnesota, Kansas, Connecticut, 
Delaware, Alabama) . The popularity of the 
name " Columbia," and the desire to perpetuate 
the memory of the fact on which so much 


seemed to turn in the settlement of the boun- 
dary question with England — namely, that 
this river was first entered by a citizen of the 
United States — finally inclined the scale in 
favor of Columbia, especially after the name 
''Oregon" became definitively fixed as the 
name of a State. 

While " Oregon " continued in common use 
as the name of the Columbia River, the same 
name was universally applied from a very early 
period to a region of indefinite extent border- 
ing the Pacific Ocean. The area to which 
this name was generally given was that lying 
between the possessions of Mexico on the 
south, and of Russia on the north, on the 
Pacific coast ; and it was understood that Ore- 
gon extended eastward from the coast as far 
as the crest of the Rocky Mountains. As 
soon as Oregon became a State, and the name 
of Washington was given to the region bor- 
dering the Pacific north of the Columbia 
River, the former name acquired a definite 
meaning, and at the present time by Oregon 
only the State of that name is meant. 

We come next to a consideration of the 
meaning of the word " Oregon," first appear- 
ing in print in Carver's Travels, but of the 
origin of which he gives no hint. As before 


remarked, the word in question has been a 
stumbhng-block ever since Carver's day. No 
one has ever professed to have discovered 
its derivation or meaning. Various — in fact, 
numerous — suggestions have been made by 
writers ; but no one has been insisted en, or 
attempted to be sustained by evidence. In 
fact, the condition of things in regard to the 
meaning of this name remains, up to the pres- 
ent time very much as indicated by Greenhow : 
" As to the name ' Oregon,' or the authority for 
its use, the traveller [Carver] is silent ; and 
nothing has been learned from any other 
source, though much labor has been expended 
on attempts to discover its meaning and de- 
rivation. It was most probably invented by 

It has never been seriously claimed that 
Oregon was an Indian name, although Mr. 
Twiss does say, " The native name, however, 
will not totally perish in the United States, for 
it has been embalmed in the beautiful verse 
of Bryant." Neither is it French nor English. 
The only language left from which it possibly 
could come is Spanish ; and here, too, it has 
been repeatedly sought, but apparently never 
by any one acquainted with that language and 
at the same time with the names of the Indian 


tribes inhabiting the region drained by the 
Columbia. The nearest approach made to 
the real signification of the word " Oregon " was 
that of Lieutenant Symons in his official Report 
on the Columbia River (p. ^d)^ who has the 
following : " Although it does not seem possi- 
ble to determine with certainty the origin of 
the word ' Oregon/ it does not seem at all 
probable that it is a meaningless word invented 
or coined by Carver. It has been claimed, 
and not without some reason, that it is from 
the Spanish word Oregano, the wild marjoram 
(^Origanum Vulgar e, L.), found growing in 
abundance along the coasts. It may also be 
from the Spanish word oreja^ ' the ear,' or some 
of its derivatives, as ore/on, or ore/ones, signify- 
ing ' dried fruits ; ' and in the familiar language 
of Spain signifies 'a'ogs'-ears,' an ^ ear-pulling^^ 
etc. A derivative word, orejera, signifies * a 
sort of ear-ring worn by Indians.' " It seems 
strange that Lieutenant Symons, having got so 
near the origin of the word in question, did 
not advance farther in the same direction. 

The name " Oregon " is unquestionably the 
Spanish word Orejon, as we will now proceed 
to show. 

In the first place, it may be mentioned that 
on the Columbia River this word was admitted 


to be of Spanish origin. Alexander Ross, who 
was one of the Astor Expedition, and who 
published a book entitled " Adventures of the 
First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia 
River," expressly calls this river the " Oregon 
of the Spaniards." Hence, if we can find a 
plausible or reasonable derivation of the word 
from the Spanish, we shall have no difficulty 
in accepting it. 

It may seem to some that the evidence of 
the presence of the Spaniards on the various 
branches of the Columbia was not so clear as 
to warrant the belief that they gave a name to 
this river. We may here recall what has been 
already mentioned with regard to the expec- 
tations of the French explorers, that, in case 
they attempted to reach the ocean, they would 
be brought in contact with the Spaniards, of 
whom and of whose doings reports were con- 
stantly being brought to the French posts by 
the Indians. The abundance of horses along 
the Columbia and to the north of that river, 
and the skill of the natives in the use of that 
animal, are already strong proofs of the pres- 
ence of the Spanish race in that region. The 
Indians not only had an abundance of horses, 
but they knew how to take care of them, 
and even had learned to use the lasso with 


dexterity. But Lewis and Clarke speak re- 
peatedly of the near neighborhood of Spanish 
colonies from whom the Indians stole or pur- 
chased horses, and supplied themselves with 
bridles and stirrups. They do not, however, 
locate these colonies with any degree of exacti- 
tude. In the case of the Shoshones it is said 
that they could reach the Spanish settlements 
in ten days " by way of the Yellowstone ; " 
but whether this means by going up or going 
down that river is not certain, since at the 
time of Lewis and Clarke's expedition the 
Shoshones lived alternately on the Columbia 
and the Missouri sides of the Rocky Mountain 
divide. The evidence, therefore, that the 
Spaniards during the last century were more 
or less spread over the Columbia basin is 
positive ; and there is no reason whatever why 
they should not have had a name for that 
river, or why this name should not have been 
known to people of other nationalities over a 
wide area. 

The question arises, then, What does Orejou 
mean, and how is it applicable to this river? 
Orejon is the regularly formed augmentative 
from oreja^ " ear ' ' — orejon, " big ear." This is 
the original meaning ; and if it is not found with 
that meaning in dictionaries of the present 


time, this only shows that, like many other 
words, it has lost in part its original significa- 
tion. An orejoii at present is a slice, or " big 
ear," of a peach or some other fruit cut off 
and dried in the sun. The ear-shape of the 
piece thus prepared is sufficiently suggestive of 
the reason why it came to be thus named. If, 
however, we look in a Spanish dictionary two or 
three hundred years old, we find " Orejon^ one 
that hath large eares." (Minsheu's Dictionarie 
in Spanish and English. London, 1599.) 

Whence comes it that big ears have any- 
thing to do with the river called the " Big- Ear 
River," or, as it undoubtedly w^as in the origi- 
nal Spanish, " Rio de los Orejones," or Ore- 
gones, the River of the Big- Ears ? 

The Big-Ears are the Indians called by the 
Spanish explorers and traders in the region 
drained by the Columbia River the " Orejones," 
a word which would be more likely to be writ- 
ten by English-speaking travellers with a g 
than with a /, the first-named letter more 
nearly representing the sound of the Spanish 
/. The reason for the giving of this name 
will be easily understood in reading the fol- 
lowing extract from Car\^er's book : — 

"The young Indians, who are desirous of 
excelling their companions in finery, slit the 


outward rim of both their ears ; at the same time 
they take care not to separate them entirely, 
but leave the flesh thus cut still untouched 
at both extremities. Around this spongy sub- 
stance from the upper to the lower part, they 
twist brass wire, till the weight draws the am- 
putated rim into a bow of five or six inches' 
diameter, and drags it almost down to the 
shoulder. This decoration is esteemed to be 
excessively gay and becoming." 

Carver, who was sufficiently near the region 
inhabited by the people thus adorning them- 
selves, to have heard of this custom, also heard 
at the same time of the name which the Span- 
iards had given to the river in the vicinity of 
which these Big-Ears lived. To the river called 
by the Spaniards the Rio de los Orejones or 
Oregones, he would naturally give in English 
the name "Oregon," although he perhaps did 
not understand its meaning or connect it with 
the method of aural decoration which he so 
carefully describes. At all events, he makes no 
mention in his book of any such connection. 
If he had been acquainted with the Spanish 
language, he could hardly have failed to rec- 
ognize the origin of the name. 

The name of " Oregons," "Orejones," or 
"Oregones" is not one known among the nu- 


merous appellations given to the Indian tribes 
of North America; and this might possibly 
lead to a doubt whether there were not some 
mistake about the fitness of the name as applied 
to a tribe or persons decorating themselves in 
the way described by Carver. Fortunately for 
the theory of the origin of the name "Oregon " 
here advocated, we are able to find, in another 
region colonized by the Spaniards, this very 
name actually in use at the present time as 
designating a tribe of Indians decorating them- 
selves, if not in precisely the same way as that 
described by Carver, at least in a manner so 
nearly akin to it as to leave no doubt of the ap- 
plicability of the name to the North American 
as well as to the South American " Big-Ears." 
The following is an extract from a paper en- 
titled " Notice of Recent Journeys in the In- 
terior of South America," * by Alfred Simson : 
"The next tribe is that of the Oregones. . . . 
As their name implies, they have large ears, 
the lobes of which are bored and stretched 
until a block of wood up to an inch and a half 
diameter can be inserted. . . . The Oregon 
language is very agreeable to the ear," etc. 
Professor Raimondi, in 1869, visited this 
tribe, whose present residence is at or near 
* Proc. Roy. Geog. Soc, vol. xxi. pp. 556-580. 


Pebas, on the banks of the Amazon, within 
the limits of Brazil, but not far from the Peru- 
vian boundary. This distinguished explorer 
of Peru describes the " Orejones," as he calls 
them, very much as does Mr. Simson, but says 
that the lobe of the ear is sometimes enlarged 
to such an extent as to touch the shoulder.* 
He adds that this " barbarous custom," as he 
calls it, is fast disappearing, since only the older 
people were seen with these peculiar append- 
ages. It appears, indeed, that the Big-Ears 
were personages of importance in former times 
in Peru, since we read in Velasco's " History of 
the Kingdom of Quito," in regard to Huyana- 
Capac, as follows : " [They were] his best troops 
. . . the flower of the nobility and of the army. 
Their distinctive mark was that they wore 
large golden rings in their ears, which fact, on 
account of the great size of these, caused them 
to be generally designated as the Orejones." 

The name of " Orejones " or " Oregones " 
— the Oregons — as the appellative of a tribe 
of North American Indians seems not to have 
found its way into print ; as distinguishing cer- 
tain South American tribes having a fancy for 
this particular adornment of the aural append- 
ages, it is, as has been seen above, still in use. 

* Raimondi's El Peru, vol. i. p. 402. 


The Big- Ears of North America seem first 
to have been made known to the world under 
the designation of " Ear bobs ; " at least, this 
name is found on the Arrowsmith map of 
North America, edition of 1795, with correc- 
tions to 181 1, given to the lake now called 
Arrow Lake, which is on that map designated 
as " Chatth-noo-nick or Ear bobs Lake," and 
the region adjacent to this lake has the name 
" Ear bobs " upon it, as indicating it as the 
residence of a tribe of Indians of that name. 
On a later Arrowsmith map the name " Ear 
bobs " has disappeared, Arrow Lake appearing 
with the name which it at present bears, while 
the lake which in the earlier Arrowsmith maps 
bore the name of *' Kullespelm " appears as 
" Pend d'Oreilles or KuUispelm Lake," the river 
of which it is an enlargement being designated 
as " Clark, Pend d'Oreille, Flat Head, Kallis- 
pelm or Salish R." It is the central one of 
the three great branches which unite to form 
the Columbia River. 

For many years the Big-Ears, or the Ear 
bobs of Arrowsmith, have been chiefly known 
by their French name, as indicated above; 
but sometimes this has been supplemented 
by a translation of the name into English ; 
sometimes the Indian name of the tribe has 



been added; and, in a few cases, French, 
English, and Indian have been used by the 
same author, either at the same time or in 
different parts of his work. The number of 
variations in the spelHng and translation from 
one language to another of the name of the 
lake in question, and of the tribe living adja- 
cent to it, is large, as may be seen from an 
inspection of the following table, which, how- 
ever, does not pretend to completeness, al- 
though it seems to include every possible 
change which could be rung on the name 
Pend' Oreilles. When the author has given 
a translation of the name, or its equivalent, 
either as applied to the lake or the tribe, 
whether in English, Indian, or both, it is so 
set down in the table. 




Duflot de Mofras 



Simpson and 

many others. 
De Smet 
Many later 


Pends Oreilles 

Pend' Oreilles 

Pen d'Or'eill'e ' 

Pend' d'Oreilles 




Pend d'Oreilles 

Ear bobs 
Hanging ears 
Ear Bobs 


Ear rings 





The name in French has been supposed, 
as is seen above, to stand for either ear-rings 
or hanging ears, both being appropriate des- 
ignations, — the one for the ornament itself, 
the other for the ear as thus adorned. The 
French would therefore correctly be, if writ- 
ten in full, in the former case, " Pendants 
d'Oreilles ; " in the latter, " Pendantes 
Oreilles." The abbreviated form of the first 
of them should be, nearly as De Smet (a 
Belgian) has written it, Pend's d'Oreilles ; or 
possibly as Governor Simpson and others have 
written it, Pend' d'Oreilles. It seems easier 
to take the word, in agreement with the French 
authors Bonneville and Duflot de Mofras, 
as meaning " Hanging Ears — Pendantes 
Oreilles " — and to abbreviate this into 
" Pend' Oreilles." * Twiss, Duflot de Mofras, 
and other educated men write it thus. The 
form now most usually adopted by map- 
makers — " Pend d'Oreilles " — is certainly 
not correct, since there is no indication in 
the name as thus written that the syllable 
" Pend " is an abbreviation, as it must be, 
either of " Pendantes " or of " Pendants." 

Although Carver so minutely and accurately 

* This is the way the name is pronounced, however 



describes the method of adorning the ear, 
which has^ both in North and South America, 
been the origin of the name " Oregon," yet he 
does not locate the custom among any par- 
ticular tribe or in any particular region. His 
description is simply a part of an account of 
the Indians in general. Neither does it appear 
that this practice was Hmited to any one tribe, 
although it is reasonable to infer that it was 
especially common among the tribe designated 
by the name of " Oregones," or " Pend' 

Among the 150 portraits of North American 
Indians, mostly in full parade dress, included 
in M'Kenney and Hall's great illustrated work, 
quite a large proportion of the individuals 
portrayed have their ears more or less orna- 
mented. In the majority of cases this orna- 
mentation is effected by rings of beads or 
bugles which are inserted in perforations all 
along the internal border of the helix, and 
frequently hang down in festoons, so as al- 
most or quite to conceal the ear. In several 
cases the lobe of the ear exhibits a large per- 
foration, as if it had once been occupied by a 
block of wood, in the manner described by 
Simson in speaking of the South American 
Oregones, which block had been subsequently 


removed. There are two individuals among 
those depicted in M'Kenney and Hall's book 
which have the ear ornamented exactly in the 
manner described by Carver. In one of these 
two cases the ear-ring is much larger than in 
the other. The original picture from which 
this lithograph was copied is of life size, and is 
apparently very accurately painted ; and as 
it is at present at the Peabody Museum in 
Cambridge, it is easy to give very nearly the 
exact dimensions of the elongated portion of 
the ear, around two thirds of which a thin 
plate of metal, or else a fine wire, apparently 
of brass, is bent or wound. The extended 
ear, as thus enclosed in its sheath or ring, 
hangs down so as just to touch the shoulder. 
The distance from the external auditory mea- 
tus across the longest diameter of the ring is 
five inches : a measurement at right angles to 
this gives about three inches as the transverse 
diameter of the oval. The name of this Big- 
Ear is given as Payta Kootha, signifying 
" Flying Clouds ; " and he is said to be " a 
Shawanoe of the Chilicothe tribe, but born in 
the country of the Creeks, and in 1833 living 
west of the Mississippi." The other Indian 
with a similar aural appendage, but of lesser 
size, is also described as being a Shawanoe, 


or Shawnee — a migratory tribe which made 
its way gradually from the extreme southeast 
of the country into Virginia and Ohio, and 
still farther to the northwest. Nothing what- 
ever is said in the text of M'Kenney's 
work as to the distribution of this peculiar 
method of ornamentation, but it was evi- 
dently not hmited to any one tribe, and 
must certainly have been practised at about 
the same time by tribes separated from 
each other by a distance of at least 2,000 

There have long been missions established 
among the Pend' Oreilles. Father de Smet, 
a Jesuit, has published two small volumes in 
regard to these missions among the Pend' 
Oreilles, the Coeurs d'Alenes (Pointed-Hearts), 
and the adjacent tribes. He is enthusiastic 
in his descriptions of the success of these 
missions, and of the good effects which they 
have had on the Indians, especially on that 
tribe which he calls his " dear Pends- 
d'Oreilles." De Smet's books date back 
about forty years. The later travellers have 
spoken well of these tribes, but of their precise 
condition at the present time the writer has 
no special knowledge. The Flat-Heads of 
this region still keep that name, although their 


heads are no longer flattened ; and of the Pend' 
Oreilles a similar remark may be made, for it 
would appear that this method of decoration 
is no longer in vogue. 

Since the above was written, the writer's 
attention has been called to an article by 
Mr. J. Hammond Trumbull on the origin and 
meaning of the name " Oregon," pubhshed 
in the " Magazine of American History," * in 
wliich it is endeavored to be shown, — or, 
rather, it is distinctly stated, — that " the name 
is not Spanish." Every argument offered in 
support of this view has, in the preceding 
pages, been met, and, as the present writer 
believes, fully and satisfactorily answered. 
The name was recognized on the Columbia 
as being of Spanish origin ; Spaniards did in- 
habit the region ; there is a tribe of Indians 
dwelling on one of the main branches of the 
river to which the name is " peculiarly appro- 
priate ; " the word " ore j on " would naturally 
be written " Oregon" in Enghsh, as it has here 
been shown to be at the present time by per- 
sons writing about South America, because g 
* Vol. iii. no. i. p. 36. 


much more nearly renders the sound of the 
Spanish/ than does the EngHshy, and as proof 
of this we find that, in the early days of Cali- 
fornia, Spanish names having ay in them were 
frequently written, by those not familiar with 
that language, with a g, — as *' Vallego " for 
"Vallejo," etc.* 

Mr. Trumbull's theory of the origin of the 
word " Oregon " is : that " it comes from an 
Indian language, with which Carver had been 
for many years somewhat familiar, and it is 
the accurate ti-aiislation into that language of 
the name by which, as Carver had reasons for 
believing, '■ the Great River of the West ' was 
designated by the tribes that lived near it. It 
is the Mohegan waui'cgan, the Abnaki ouri- 
ghen^ the Delaware wnlie^en, the Massachu- 
setts wunnegan; signifying in all dialects 
'good,' 'fair,' 'fine.'" How a river on the 
western side of the continent came to be called 
by a Mohegan, Abnaki, or Delaware name, is 
thus explained by Mr. Trumbull. "The In- 
dians through whose countries he [Carver] 

* It is well known to those acquainted with the Spanish 
language that ^ and/ were formerly interchangeable letters, 
although not so much so as b and v. An examination of 
works written in Spanish and published in America shows 
that this interchangeability of g and j still prevails in this 
country to a very considerable extent. 


travelled all spoke either Sioux or Algonkin 
dialects. Neither of his interpreters (one was 
a Mohawk, the other a French Canadian) 
understood the Sioux, but the Algonkin desig- 
nation of a ' Fair River ' — wauregaii, ourigJieii^ 
or alleghajty, according to local dialect — 
must have been well known to them and to 
Carver himself." That is to say, — as near as 
the present writer can make out, — Carver, 
before starting on his journey, had gathered 
information which led him to believe that the 
river now known as the Columbia was called, 
by the tribes residing upon it, by a name which 
meant " Fair River." What he learned among 
the Sioux convinced him that this was true, 
and he therefore gives us that name, not in 
the original, nor in the language of the Sioux 
from whom he got the information, but in some 
dialect of the Algonquin language ; the reader 
can take his choice among these dialects, ac- 
cording as bethinks "Wauregan," " Ourighen," 
''Wulie^en," "Wunnegan," or " Alleghany," 
to be most like Oregon. 

This theory involves the following improba- 
bilities : — First, that Carver was sufficiently 
acquainted with recent English and French 
literature to have heard of the mythical story 
of Moncacht-ap^ and of his descent of what 


he called " La Belle Riviere " to the Sea of 
the West; Second, that Carver was so little 
acquainted with the geography of the North- 
west as to believe that his Oregon could be 
reached in a few days of foot-travel from some- 
where in the region inhabited by the Kansas 
Indians ; Third, that the Sioux were sufficiently 
well acquainted with the languages spoken on 
the Columbia or Oregon to be able to give 
the native name of that river, and to explain 
its meaning ; and Fourth, that Carver did not 
make known what that name was in the origi- 
nal, but translated it into a dialect of the 
Algonquin, because one of his interpreters (as 
Mr. Trumbull designates them, servants as 
Carver calls them) was a " Mohawk Cana- 

In regard to the first of these improbabilities, 
a few remarks may be added, since Mr. Trum- 
bull has brought up the story of Moncacht-ap^, 
and has seemed to think that it had something 
to do with Carver's name " Oregon." The 
individual in question, according to M. Le 
Page du Pratz,* was a " sage vieillard " be- 
longing to the Yazoo tribe, whom he met near 
Natchez, at a time not specified. It is impos- 
sible to go into minute details in regard to the 

* Histoire de la Louisiane, Paris 1758, vol. iii. pp. 83-140. 


two journeys — one to the Atlantic and the 
other to the Pacific — of which the Yazoo 
Indian gave an account to the credulous 
Frenchman. It is sufficient to say that the 
narrative is a tissue of impossibilities from be- 
ginning to end. One or two extracts will be 
sufficient to show its character. Moncacht- 
ap^ was on the Missouri, at a distance of a 
month's travel on foot from its mouth, when 
he found himself among the '' Nation des 
Loutres." From here he was accompanied 
by a native of that tribe and his wife, who 
" se croyoit prete d'accoucher," and who, 
for some unknown and mysterious reason, 
wished to be confined on what, if the story 
be true, would be the other side of the Rocky 
Mountains. With these two companions the 
Yazoo Indian travelled nine "petites journ^es " 
up the Missouri, and then turned north and 
travelled five days more, at the end of which 
time — as he says — " Nous trouvames une 
Riviere d'une eau belle et claire ; aussi la 
nomment-ils la Belle Riviere." This river he 
descended in a " pirogue," without difficulty, 
to the "Grande Eau," over which bearded 
people were in the habit of coming every 
year (Japanese, Du Pratz calls them) in ships, 
to get a yellow, ill-smelling wood, with which 


they were able to dye a beautiful yellow. After 
remaining some time here, and helping the 
natives fight a battle with the bearded dye- 
stuff collectors, Moncacht-ap^ returned home 
*^par la meme route qu'il avoit tenue en 

It does not appear that the Yazoo Indian's 
name of " La Belle Riviere " ever obtained 
a place upon any map, except on that of 
Du Pratz himself, on which it is represented 
as heading somewhere in the vicinity of the 
present town of Bismarck ; and it is in the 
highest degree improbable that the story of 
Moncacht-ap^ should have been known to 
Cancer while he was in America. He had no 
maps with him during his journey, and his 
cartographic work was limited to putting his 
route, as nearly as he could guess at it, on such 
maps as he found current in England when 
he went there to prepare and publish an ac- 
count of his journey. 



It is proposed, in the present section of this 
little work, to discuss the origin and meaning 
of the names given in the United States to 
prominent topographical features of the earth's 
surface. In doing this, it will soon become 
evident to the reader that it would be impos- 
sible to limit our range to one country or one 
language. It will be seen that, owing to the 
vast extent of the territory embraced within 
the limits of this country, and to the manner 
in which portions of it have been occupied 
from time to time by races speaking different 
languages, names of natural objects or features 
of the landscape are current, in some sections 
of the country, which are not English — that 
is, which are not current in England except 
as they have been carried from the United 
States back to the land of the mother-tongue. 
We shall find also that there are words which 



are perfectly familiar to the people of one 
portion of this country, but which are quite 
unknown in other sections except through 
books. Furthermore, we shall find that the 
number of words used to designate the vari- 
ous natural features of the earth's surface is 
large — much larger, in fact, than would have 
been expected previous to making a special 
study of the subject. Indeed, so numerous 
are these words, that it cannot possibly be 
claimed that the list will be exhausted in the 
present attempt to bring them together. A 
beginning may, however, be made on the 
present occasion, and the subject taken up 
again for a fuller treatment at some future 

Of all the terms which are mentioned in 
the following pages, there is not one which 
comes to us from any of the aboriginal or 
" Indian " tongues once spoken over the re- 
gion now occupied by the United States. A 
considerable number of Indian words form 
all or part of various proper names, and have 
thus become quite familiar to us — as, for in- 
stance, "sipi," ''minne," " squam," " kitchi," 
and many others ; but no one of all these words 
has been generalized so as to have become 
applicable to any class or form of scenic 


feature. We do, it is true, to a very limited 
extent find it convenient to make a distant 
approach to such a generalization of certain 
names ; as, for instance, if we should say — 
as has been said — that the Shoshone Falls 
are a smaller " Niagara," or that the Hetch- 
Hetchy Valley is almost a " Yosemite ; " but 
this is not carried far enough to justify us in 
putting either Niagara or Yosemite in any 
dictionary other than one of proper names. 

Setting aside, therefore, as seems necessary, 
all consideration of the aboriginal tongues, 
even a very elementary knowledge of the his- 
torical development of our country will suffice 
to make it clear that we shall have in the 
main to deal with three languages — English, 
French, and Spanish. Not that the United 
States are not occupied, and very extensively 
occupied, by people speaking other tongues 
than these ; but with the exception of a few 
words which have come down from the early 
Dutch settlers, there is hardly a trace of na- 
tionalities, other than those mentioned, in the 
entire range of our topographical nomencla- 
ture. Among words which we must call 
English, because they are in familiar use in 
England, there are many which belong to 
the Celtic and Scandinavian families, some of 


which have found their way to this country, 
although many of them are unknown to us 
except through the reading of EngHsh books. 

It is the features of the land surface of the 
globe which here particularly demand our 
attention ; but as a preparation for that which 
is to follow, a few lines may be devoted to 
the consideration of the nomenclature of the 
water. The most important division of the 
earth's surface is into land and water; and 
the coast-line of a country is, for any region 
wholly or in part bounded by the ocean, that 
feature which first claims the attention of the 
investigator of its geography. The first step 
in geographical discovery was to establish 
the shore-lines of the continents, or the great 
land masses of the globe ; and the next was 
to fix the position and determine the outlines 
of those smaller areas of land which, not be- 
ing large enough to be called continents, 
receive the name of islands. Only in the 
case of Australia, with its three million square 
miles of land, is there doubt whether the 
designation of continent or island would be 
more appropriate. 

The most general and most satisfactory 
division of the land is into two parts — the 
Old World and the New. Asia and Europe 


(Eurasia) belong together, the line of separa- 
tion between the two being purely an artificial 
one. Africa was not long since joined to 
Eurasia, but has only within the past few years 
been artificially separated from it. Hence 
the Old World is essentially one land mass, 
with very numerous islands attached to it, 
especially on its southeastern side, one of 
which, as before remarked, is almost or quite 
large enough to rank as a separate continent. 
The New World is, with the exception of its 
extreme northwestern corner, entirely and 
widely separated from the Old World. It is 
naturally subdivided into two portions, which 
are in connection with each other, and yet by 
so narrow an isthmus as to have led many to 
beheve that an artificial separation of the two 
parts would be possible. Indeed, at the pres- 
ent time a large expenditure of money is being 
made for this purpose. 

By the simple word ocean is meant the 
whole body of water which envelops and 
covers almost three quarters of the surface of 
the globe ; but when the ocean is spoken of 
in a general way, without reference to any 
particular portion of it, it is often called the 
sea, and its edge the " sea-shore," but never 
*' ocean-shore," although it is allowable to say 


^'shores of the ocean." Shakspeare uses "sea" 
and "ocean" synonymously, but the former 
much more frequently than the latter. With 
the English poets in general the two words are 
synonymous ; and both are used in close prox- 
imity to each other, according to the require- 
ments of rhyme and metre. By physical 
geographers the ocean is subdivided into five 
areas, each of which is considered a separate 
ocean, although these divisions are largely arti- 
ficial, the lines by which they are indicated 
being in no small part parallels and meridians. 
Seas, gulfs, bays, sounds, straits, coves, holes, 
harbors, etc. are the names of the minor sub- 
divisions of the ocean, or of such portions of 
the water surface as are more or less com- 
pletely "land-locked," or separated by capes, 
headlands, or sinuosities in the coast-line. 
The nomenclature of these subdivisions is in 
general simple and easily understood, and it 
is not proposed to enlarge on them in the 
present connection. It is with the names 
of the various portions of the land surface 
of the globe that we here have to do : the 
water will only be considered when its 
presence is necessarily connected with the 
land in the scope of the definitions under 



There is one all-important feature of the 
earth's surface, from the point of view of to- 
pographical nomenclature, and this is fornu 
To this everything else is subordinate. The 
landscape — and by " landscape " is meant 
the total impression made on the artistic or 
educated eye by such portion of the surface 
as is embraced within the field of vision — is 
a complex thing. Form is usually the prime 
factor in the impression produced; but this 
is not always the case. Besides form, there 
are color, and light and shade ; and the re- 
sulting effect may vary greatly according as 
the landscape is seen under a more or less 
favorable illumination or at different seasons 
of the year. A region in the highest degree 
monotonous when every object is wrapped 
in a sombre rain-cloud may be transformed 
into beauty by the glow of a rising or a setting 
sun. Of all this, nomenclature takes but Httle 
heed. In the names given to the more level 
portions of the earth's surface, however, where 
form is wanting, there the character and dis- 
tribution of the vegetation become all impor- 
tant, as will be seen farther on. 


The surface of the land, when looked at 
from the most general point of view, consists 
of mountains, valleys, and plains. These are 
the most comprehensive terms which can be 
used in English for regions conspicuously- 
elevated above the adjacent land, for depres- 
sions within such elevated regions, and for 
areas which preserve a certain uniformity of 
level, and over which absence of considerable 
elevations and depressions is the important 
topographical feature. This seems a very 
easily comprehended statement of a very sim- 
ple fact; and yet, when we come to look 
more closely into the matter, we find great 
complexity in the forms in which mountains, 
valleys, and plains exhibit themselves in dif- 
ferent regions, and a surprising — one might 
almost say bewildering — variety of names 
which are applied to these various forms. 
This is often true for regions inhabited by 
people speaking one and the same language ; 


for local peculiarities of the landscape and 
dialectic variations of the mother-tongue may 
give rise to names, some of which are current 
only within very circumscribed areas, but all 
of which essentially form a part of the lan- 
guage, and which for that reason must be 
studied. But in investigating a subject of this 
kind we are led, almost as a matter of neces- 
sity, to take a wider range, and include more 
than one language within the scope of our 
inquiry, because there are few important divi- 
sions of the earth's surface over which only 
one tongue is spoken, and fewer still in which 
there is not more or less mixture of various 
languages, offering words which are relics of 
former races of inhabitants, or which for va- 
rious reasons have been borrowed from other 
countries, and whose study may lead to in- 
teresting historic results. For instance, no 
one could investigate the orography of the 
Alps in any detail without the aid of some 
knowledge of Latin, Italian, French, and Ger- 
man, as well as of various dialectic forms of 
these languages. For the Pyrenees we need 
both French and Spanish, since that chain is di- 
vided between nations speaking those tongues ; 
and in France we find the Celtic element 
becoming of importance in the topographical 


nomenclature, while in Great Britain it is still 
more prominent, the composite character of 
the English language showing itself in the 
most marked degree in the wealth of names of 
the features of the landscape which we there 
find current. 

While the present inquiry has especially 
to do with English words in use as topographi- 
cal designations, we shall not hesitate to seek 
for hght in the study of other languages, to 
which indeed we are naturally led by those 
circumstances connected with the former 
occupation of large portions of our present 
territory by people not having English for 
their mother-tongue, as has already been 

By the term '' orography " is meant the 
investigation of the forms and structure of 
mountains and mountain-chains, and it needs 
but litde orographic study to find out that a 
single entirely isolated mountain is something 
of comparatively rare occurrence in Nature. 
Almost without exception, every mountain 
belongs to a "system of mountains" — to a 
"group," "range," or "chain." Indeed, 
most of the great mountains of the world 
belong to great mountain-chains, and have 
around them other summits of similar charac- 


ter and of somewhat nearly the same eleva- 
tion. This is due to the fact that mountains 
are the result of general causes, which have 
been active on a grand scale and through long 
periods of time, and not of such as were con- 
fined within narrow limits. The most striking 
exception to this general statement will be 
found in the fact that volcanic cones are 
sometimes quite isolated, and rise, in such iso- 
lation, high above the adjacent region. As 
a remarkable instance of this, the grand cones 
on the plateau south of the Colorado River 
may be mentioned, as well as those which 
extend in an east and west line across Mexico. 
But the Colorado volcanoes are almost near 
enough to each other to form a group ; and 
those of Mexico, in spite of their isolation, 
may well enough be taken as belonging to one 
chain. Etna, however, rises in solitary gran- 
deur ; and Vesuvius, with Somma as a portion 
of the once united whole, towers high above 
the minor cones in its vicinity. 

Mountains, then, as a rule, occur extended 
over elongated areas of the earth's surface, 
occupying regions where elevations, foldings, 
breaks, and protrusions of the stratified and 
imstratified masses of which the earth's crust 
is made up have taken place along lines which 


are sometimes of extraordinary length, and 
which are generally so grouped as to have 
the element of length greatly predominating 
over that of breadth. Hence we find that 
most mountains are grouped in such a way 
as to form what are called " chains " or " ran- 
ges," the two words being nearly synonymous. 
Several "ranges" make up a "system" of 
mountains. There is a very general tendency 
to designate by the term " chain " a succession 
of high points connected by lower ones in 
such a manner as to impress upon the mind 
the fact that, in spite of these differences of 
altitude, there is an essential unity in the mass 
thus designated. In accordance with this, we 
find the word " chain " (Lat. catena, Fr. chaine, 
Sp. cadena, Ger. Kette, etc.) in common use 
where mountains are written about scientifi- 
cally. Quite analogous to this use of the 
word " chain " is that of " cord " or " string," 
which, however, we do not have as topogra- 
pliical terms in English ; but which, as such, 
are of frequent occurrence in Spanish, in the 
form of " cordon " and " cordillera," both de- 
rived from " cordel " (Lat. chorda), a cord, or 
rope — the one being defined in the diction- 
ary of the Spanish Academy as " mountains 
stretching over a long distance ; " the other 


as " a chain (cadena) of mountains." * This 
word " Cordillera " is one of special interest to 
us, and we may well go somewhat into detail 
in regard to it, at the same time noticing another 
Spanish word which has become very familiar 
to the American ear — namely, " sierra." 

" Cordillera " and " sierra " are nearly sy- 
nonymous words in Spanish, the latter mean- 
ing primarily a " saw " (Lat. serra), and hence 
the jagged outline of a mountain-range, as 
projected against the sky, which we can call 
in English "serrated," although we cannot 
call the range with a serrated outline a " saw," 
as the Spanish do. The subordinate ranges 
which make up the system of the Pyrenees 
are usually called " sierras," and the number of 
these is large. The ''Sierra Nevada" (Snowy 
Range) is an important and picturesque 

* We saj', in English, a "chain," but not a "string," 
of mountains. These verbal distinctions are somewhat 
delicate. We say a "string " of fish, and a " line " of trees, 
and also, though rarely, a " line " of mountains. We say, 
" his life hangs by a thread ; " but " his life hangs by a 
string " would sound very queerly. So we say a " file " of 
men, but not of mountains. (See farther on, in connection 
with " defile.") And yet chorda, lima, zndjiliim all have 
essentially the same meaning of "cord, string, or thread." 
" Cord" in the form of " cordel " (Fr. cordelle) is a word 
well known and formerly much used west of the Mississippi, 
meaning " to pull a boat up-stream by means of a rope or 


group of mountains in the south of Spain ; 
and this name is familiar to us as that of what 
may with truth be called the grandest and 
most important single member of the Cordil- 
leran system of North America. The Rocky 
Mountains are made up of a considerable 
number of more or less independent ranges, 
and these together form the eastern division 
of the Cordilleras. The Sierra Nevada and 
Cascade Range, with the associated and more 
or less closely connected Coast Ranges of 
California and Oregon, constitute the western 
border of the great complex of mountains, 
table-lands, and valleys which occupies the 
western third of that portion of the continent 
which belongs to the United States. But this 
nomenclature is not valid so far north as 
Alaska, which is a part of our territory, although 
separated from the main body of it by a wide 
interval. North of the 49th parallel the ranges 
— the system there beginning to be much 
diminished in breadth — are generally known 
collectively simply as the Rocky Mountains. 
The name "Sierra Nevada" was the first to 
appear on any map of North America, as 
designating either the whole or any part of 
the Cordilleran system.* 

* See ante^ p. 21. 


The word " Cordilleras " is of special inter- 
est to us as being the most general designation 
of the system of ranges which borders the 
entire Pacific coast of both North and South 
America, forming the longest connected sys- 
tem of mountain chains in the world, its linear 
development being fully eight thousand miles. 
The South American division is called the 
*' Cordilleras of South America," or the " Cor- 
dilleras of the Andes," or more generally sim- 
ply " the Andes ; " while the *' Cordilleras of 
North America " are, for brevity and con- 
venience, known as " the Cordilleras," that 
part of the country which they occupy being 
called the "Cordilleran Region." How this 
has come about has been already explained 
at length.* 

Almost the entire mass of the South Ameri- 
can Cordilleras is included in States having 
Spanish as their official language, although 
the aboriginal tongues are still current over 
various portions of the region. Moreover, 
nearly the whole of the North American Cor- 
dilleras was, not many years ago, also under 
Spanish control, that being the official lan- 
guage not only of Central America and Mexico 
(as it now is) but also of both Lower and 

* See ante^ pp. 15-27. 


Upper California, while the settlements of that 
nation had spread themselves, to a considera- 
ble extent, through the Rocky Mountains, and 
over the great Central Plateau, to beyond the 
Columbia River.* Thus it has come about 
that Spanish names, derived from simple 
and homely words meaning " string " and 
" saw," have become familiar to us, English- 
speaking people, and are permanently fixed 
upon the grandest features of our topography. 

Passing next to a consideration of the 
names which individual mountains or parts 
of mountain ranges have received, we find 
that their number is very considerable, and 
that the study of the sources from which 
they are derived opens an interesting field 
of investigation. 

A mountain range is made up of a number 
of more or less distinctly marked elevations, 
and for each of these by far the most common 
designation is the term mountain, which may 
be applied to any high point or mass suffi- 
ciently elevated above the surrounding country 
or range of which it forms a part to be con- 
sidered worthy of a distinctive appellation. 
Mount is simply an abbreviated form of 
" mountain ; " and it seems to be largely a ques- 

* See ante, pp. 31, 58, 59. 


tion of euphony whether the point in question 
shall be called " mountain " or "mount," the 
usage being that if the word moimfam is 
employed it follows the proper name, and if 
mou7it it precedes it. But there is a decided 
tendency to use moiuitain when a range or 
group of elevations is meant, and mowit when 
a particular summit of this group is to be 
designated. Thus we have "White Moun- 
tains " and " Mount Washington ; " " Green 
Mountains " and " Mount Mansfield ; " '- Adi- 
rondack Mountains " and " Mount T^Iarcy," 
etc. In the term " Rocky Mountains " is 
included a large number of ranges ; the entire 
system, as it might properly be called, occu- 
pying almost half a million of square miles. 
The subordinate divisions of this grand sys- 
tem are usually called ratigcs ; as the "Sa- 
watch Range," " San Juan Range," etc. One 
subdivision, the '' Park Range " of Colorado, 
is — or was, a few years ago — frequently 
called " the Snowy Range," the exact equiv- 
alent of " Sierra Nevada " and nearly the 
same as " Himalaya." The name " Rocky 
Mountains" is frequently abbreviated in fa- 
miliar language to " Rockies." Similarly, the 
"Appalachian System" is often called the 
"Appalachian Mountains/' and also, more 


concisely, the " Appalachians." This latter 
designation may properly be employed by 
scientific writers ; but the term " Rockies " 
would hardly be allowed in a geographical 

As soon as we look for more specialized 
designations of single mountains, or for such 
names as are indicative of peculiarities of form 
or structure, we begin to find great variety in 
the nomenclature. Perhaps the most com- 
mon term, next to " mount," for an individu- 
alized mountain is peak, which means simply 
a "point " or '^pointed." But in the United 
States this designation is often applied to 
mountains which are not particularly remarka- 
ble for having pointed summits. This usage 
is rather common in the Rocky Mountains, 
where Long's, Pike's, Gray's, and other 
" peaks " might as well, or better, have been 
called " mounts." In the Appalachians there 
are a few summits designated as " peaks " 
— as, for instance, the Peaks of Otter, in 
Virginia — but, in general, this system of 
mountains is remarkably free from conspicu- 
ously pointed elevations. 

The word " peak " is used both in French 
{pic) and Spanish {pico') very much as it is in 
English. As examples, may be mentioned : 


" Pico de Urbion," in which heads the Duero 
River ; "Picacho de la Valeta" — "picacho " 
being the augmentative of "pico." T/ie pico, 
however, is the well-known island of that 
name in the Azores, on which is the " Pico 
Alto," the highest point of the group. There 
are several " picachos " in New Mexico and 
Arizona, and one or more in California. To 
the name " picacho " is occasionally added 
the word " peak " — a kind of reduplication of 
a name in two different languages, the origin 
of which is easily understood. A large num- 
ber of high and generally pointed summits on 
the French side of the Pyrenees and in the " 
French Alps bear the name of " pic ; " for 
example, " Pic de Nethou," '' Pic du Midi," 
" Pic du Frene," " Pic du Pyramide," etc. 
This word also appears in the Pyrenees in 
the form of "pique," and its diminutive 
" piquette." 

The form in which " peak" occurs in the 
Lake District of England is " pike," a name 
there given to any summit of a hill, but more 
generally to such as are peaked or pointed. 
" Scawfell Pike " (3,160 feet) is the highest 
point in England proper. It is the culminat- 
ing summit of the group of elevations col- 
lectively known as " Scawfell," standing at the 


head of the Wastdale. Scawfell is an interest- 
ing name, concerning which information will 
be given farther on, under " scar," or '' scaur," 
and " fell." " Pike o' Stickle," one of the two 
" Pikes " of Langdale, is another curious name. 
" Stickle " (A. S. sticai, Ger. Stachel) means 
" a sharp point " — a word which we have only 
in the familiar name of a fish, the ^'' stickle- 
back," so called from the stickles or prickles 
on its back. In the name " Pike o' Stickle " 
we have a reduplication similar to that to 
which allusion has already been made. 

The word " peak " appears, in the form of 
*' pique," in a work published in London in 
1679,* in which the summit of Mount Athos 
is called ''the high Pique or Peer." The 
" Peak " of England, however, is not a peak^ 
but a plateau — a picturesque region in Der- 
byshire, near Castleton, about five miles in 
length, from half a mile to two miles wide, 
and having an elevation of about 2,000 
feet. The mountainous part of Derbyshire 
is frequently called the "Peak Country." It 
is — to quote the language of the author of 
" All about Derbyshire " — "a wide expanse 
of alternating moor and mountain, green val- 

* The Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches. 
By Paul Ricaut, Esq. London, i6;9. 


ley and glancing stream, limestone tor and 
forest ridge." This name, which may have 
been given because portions of the edge of 
this table-land present a " peaky " aspect when 
seen from a distance, is a very old one.* 
It appears in Heylyn's Cosmographia, the 
first edition of which was published in 1664. 

A word of which the English form is spit 
is one of those most commonly used in the 
Alps to designate a sharp or pointed mountain 
summit. It appears in German as " Spitze," 
"Spitzli," and " Piz ; " in Italian, as "pizzo." 
As " spit " it is familiar to us in English as 
the name of the long, pointed utensil on which 
meat is roasted. As a topographical word it 
is Hmited to the sea-shore, with the meaning 
of a sandy, projecting, not very elevated point. 
Wedgwood says : " Root uncertain ; but it 
would seem reasonable to connect spit with 
spike J spine, and spire ; all of these words con- 
tain the notion of a sharp point." " Piz " is 
the form of this word most used in the Grisons 
Alps, especially on the Engadine ; "pizzo," in 
the Italian Alps : thus, Spitzliberg, in Uri ; Piz 
Roseg and Piz Morteratsch, in the Engadine ; 

* Skeat says of it : M. E. pek ; ' the hul of the pek ' = 
the hill of the Peak, in Derbyshire ; Rob. of Glouc, p. 7. 
In the A. S. Chron. an. 924, the same district is called 
Pcac-land = Peak-land. 


Pizzo di Verona, in the Italian Tyrol ; etc. The 
Latin ''spica,"a point, spear of grass, spike 
(Fr. espty epi), appears in the augmentative 
form in Spanish as " espigon," with the 
same topographical meaning as " Spitze " in 

Puy is a word in common use in Central 
France to designate any kind of a hill or 
mountain. In the volcanic region of Auvergne 
all the elevations are " puys." Although this 
word would seem to be allied to " pic," it is 
thought by etymologists that this is not the 
case. Jaubert, in his " Glossaire du Centre 
de la France," derives it from the Latin po- 
dium. The variety of forms in which this 
word presents itself in various parts of France 
is indeed bewildering. In the Eastern Pyr- 
enees we find " pueche," "pech," "puch," 
" puig ; " in the Landes, " poy " and " pouy." 
Another word, " peu," seemingly a variant of 
*' puy," is in use in Southern France ; thus, le 
Peu, a locality near Saint Severe (Indre), and 
in various other places. " Pie " is still another 
form ; thus. Pie Montaigu, in the Commune 
de Palais (Cher), and Pie de Bourges, near 
Clion (Indre). 

From the Spanish " pena," a rock, a large 
number of topographical words have been 


formed, either as augmentatives or diminu- 
tives, or with various other terminations, so 
characteristic of the language, and sometimes 
so difficult of definition. These names are ap- 
plied to mountains and mountainous regions, 
but evidently not with any particularly nice 
discrimination as to the peculiarities of form of 
the object to which they are given. Any rock 
or rocky point may be called in Spanish a 
" pena," which is perhaps itself a diminutive 
of " pen," a word having a wide range over 
Europe. " Penon," the regularly formed aug- 
mentative of " pefia," is a word very com- 
monly used in Spanish to designate a high, 
rocky point. " Pefiol " is the equivalent of 
"penon ; " and '* pefioleria " means a district 
or region where such elevations are numerous. 
*' Penasco " is another augmentative, and is 
one very frequently met with in Spanish moun- 
tain nomenclature ; " pefiascoso " is the corre- 
sponding adjective form.* *' Pefia Blanca " is 
the name by which a certain prominent mass 
of quartz, on the summit of a hill, and form- 
ing part of the outcrop of the " Mother Lode," 
is known in the Sierra Nevada ; it is also 

* " Penasco " is defined by Barcia as a " peiia grande y 
elevada ; " and " pefiascoso," as a " sitio, lugar <5 montana 
donde hay muchos peiiascos." 


called the " Penon Blanco " by some. " Pene," 
the French form of "pena," is also a word 
in use in the Pyrenees. " Pico de la Pena- 
lara " is the name of a high point in the Sierra 
de la Guadarrama. 

The following is a synoptical statement of 
the more important Spanish names for moun- 
tains and mountain ranges, with some remarks 
on their meaning supplementary to what has 
already been given : — 

From the Latin mons. Monte, montana^ 
viontanuelo. " Monte " sometimes means rath- 
er the forest than the mountain, because the 
forests, in many regions, are so closely limited 
to the mountains. In the Peruvian Andes 
" montana " has a peculiar meaning. It is the 
densely forested region on the eastern slope of 
the range, the country being divided into three 
longitudinal belts, — the " Coast," " Sierra," 
and "Montaiia," the "Sierra" being the 
region of the Andes proper. 

Latin chorda (Sp. cor del). Cordon^ Cordil- 
lera. Already sufficiently explained. 

Latin serra. Sierra^ serrata, serrania, ser- 
ra?w. " Serrata " seems to be occasionally 
used as the equivalent of " sierra." A " ser- 
rania " is a region of " sierras," a mountainous 
district. " Serrano "is an inhabitant of a 


"serrania," a "mountaineer," with the mean- 
ing of a resident of a mountainous region, not 
an amateur climber of mountains. '' Serre," 
" serrat," and "serrere" are various French 
forms of "sierra" used in the Pyrenees. 

Latin psnna (O. 'L. J>ennus, sharp, pointed). 
Fena, penon, pehol, penoleria^ penaranda, 
pehalara, pehasco (adj. penascosd), 

Celtic, related to Latin spica. Fico, picachOy 
esplgon ; the latter is an augmentative, with 
the meaning of " high, bold, sharply pointed 
hill," — much less frequently used, however, 
than "picacho," which is heard among the 
mountains wherever Spanish is spoken. 

Latin cirrus, a lock, curl, and hence a crest 
of feathers or crest in general. Cerro, cerrito, 
A very common designation of a hill, espe- 
cially if not very high, but rough and rocky.* 

Latin collum. Colina, collado. These two 
words are, as generally used, synonymous, and 
are nearly equivalent to the French "col- 
line," English " hill." " Collado," also written 
" collada," is sometimes used for pass.f 

* Barcia says : " Cerro es la colina en que abundan riscos 
y piedras y cuyo terreno es escabroso." 

t Barcia says of " collado " : " Altura de tierra que no 
llega i. ser monte." Caballero : " Sitio que va subiendo en 
cuesta, formando garganta en la montaila, por donde facilita 
su subida y bajada." 


Latin lumbus. Lomay lomita^ lomeria. The 
use of words derived from " lumbus," mean- 
ing "loin," as a topographical designation, is 
akin to our use of " flank " for mountain side. 
A " loma " is an elongated gentle swell of the 
ground, a rounded, inconspicuous hill. A 
" lomeria," a region of low, rounded hills ; 
the " foot-hills," as the comparatively low un- 
dulating region along the western base of the 
Sierra is called in Cahfornia. 

Latin ventus, with '^re." Reventon^ reven- 
tazon. A topographical designation of some- 
what uncertain appHcation, which seems 
peculiar to the Pyrenees. The idea con- 
veyed is that of a cliff or precipice which 
repels the v/ind, as the waves on the sea- 
shore are thrown back by the rocks against 
which they are dashed. Barcia defines " re- 
venton " as " a mountain slope extremely steep, 
and to be chmbed only with difficulty." But 
*' el Reventon *' is also the name of the pass 
which crosses the Sierra de Guadarrama (" the 
glorious ridge," as Ford * calls it) to the north 
of the route from Madrid to the Escorial. 

Latin quadro, quadratum. Esqiierra, spelled 
also ezquerra, A name given to mountains 

* Ford's Handbook for Spain, 5th edition, London, 
187S, p. 89. 


terminating in square or tabular forms, or 
squarely cut at one end. The modifications 
of this word in French are numerous ; for 
example, " queyre," " caire," " quairat," etc. 
A part of the French Alps where this form 
prevails is known by the name of " queyras," 
and the valley or gorge at the base of Monte 
Viso is called '' Val de Queyras." 

It would be hardly worth while to attempt 
to enumerate all the names given to moun- 
tains in the French Pyrenees. A number 
have been already given, and it will be suffi- 
cient to add what Ramond says in regard to 
the mountain nomenclature of that region : 
*' L'idiome des Pyr^n^es a bien d'autres ri- 
chesses ; Pique et Piqiiette, Tuque et Tuquet, 
Roque, Foey ou Fouy^ Cau qui se prononce 
Caou, Serre et Sarrat^ Vigfte, Heche, Soum, 
Coste, Pene, Mount, et vingt autres mots bar- 
bares et mal sonnans, ^chapp^s du celte et du 
latin, voila autant d'appellations sp^cifiques 
qui modifient Tid^e g^n^rale de sommet, au 
gr^ des circonstances accessoires de la forme 
ou de la nature de chacun." * 

Pen and ben are Celtic words, meaning 
" mountain," " highland," or *' headland ; " and 
these names are applied to a large number of 

* Ramond, Voyages au Mont Perdu, Paris,T8oi,p. 255. 


localities, — either mountains, headlands, or 
something analogous in various parts of Great 
Britain, especially in Wales, Northern Eng- 
land, and Scotland. The word " pena " and 
its derivatives, so frequently heard in Spain, 
as already noticed, are evidently allied to the 
Celtic " pen " and " ben." The word " pen " 
is occasionally seen in poetry, as in the fol- 
lowing quotation from W. Crowe : — 

"... save only where the head 
Of Pillesdon rises, Pillesdon's lofty Pen." 

Band is another word of Celtic origin 
(Welsh, ba?it; Gael, heaiin^ a hill). It is a 
name quite commonly given to the summits 
of not very conspicuous hills in the Lake 
District : for example, Swirl Band, near Con- 
iston; Taylor's Gill Band, and Randerson 
Band, Borrowdale. This word appears to be 
another form of " ben " and " pen." 

There are certain words which are in cur- 
rent use throughout the Western United States, 
and which on that account are familiarly known 
all over the country, either by personal ac- 
quaintance with the objects to which they are 
applied or through books, but which are not 
much used as topographical designations in 
the Eastern States. The most important of 
these words are "bluff" and "butte." 


The etymological relations of the word 
bluff do not seem to have been clearly in- 
dicated. Wedgwood connects it with the 
Dutch blaf, which he defines as *' planus, 
sequus et amplus, superficie plana, non ro- 
tunda," and thinks the word derived, in the 
first instance, from the sound of something 
falling flat on the ground. Be this as it may, 
" bluff" is the term applied everywhere in 
the Mississippi Valley, and to a very consid- 
erable extent as far west as the Pacific, to the 
steeply inclined sides of the river valleys. 
Throughout the prairie region the ascent is 
made from the river bottom to the rolling prai- 
rie by a sudden, sharp rise, the difference of 
elevation between bottom and upland varying 
in different regions from a few feet to several 
hundred. These abrupt rises, which are some- 
times rocky and precipitous, and which might 
properly be designated as " chffs," are almost 
universally known throughout the Mississippi 
Valley as " bluffs." In a portion of Wisconsin, 
however, there are several highly picturesque, 
isolated masses of rock quite castellated in 
form, which bear no other name than that of 
"bluff" among the people living near them. 

In Holderness, Yorkshire, some detached 
hills are called barfs ; one in the Vale of 


York is also thus denominated. There seems 
to be a connection between "bluff" and 
"barf/' and of both with "blaf;" but the 
matter is not clear. " Bluff " as a topographical 
designation is of comparatively modern origin. 
Cook, in his Voyages, speaks of a " bluff 
point," meaning thereby a " steep headland." 
The French word butte is one often heard 
throughout the Cordilleran Region and on 
the Plains. As used in France, it is almost 
exactly the equivalent of our word " knoll," 
meaning a gently swelling eminence, or incon- 
spicuous rounded hill. It is a word of rather 
uncertain etymological relations, but appears 
to be allied to (French) but and botit It was 
introduced into the United States by the 
French trappers and employes of the Hudson's 
Bay Company, and has gradually come to be 
used as the designation of mountains of all 
degrees of grandeur, up to Shasta itself, — 
14,440 feet high, and second only to Rainier 
among the great volcanic cones of the Sierra 
Nevada and Cascade Range. This grand 
mountain was " in the early days " of Califor- 
nia most generally known as " Shasta Butte ; " 
but this name is gradually giving way, and that 
of *' Mount Shasta " taking its place. There 
are a number of conspicuous, more or less 


isolated mountains in the northern portion of 
the Cordilleras which are still called '^ buttes," 
and which are likely to be so denominated 
for a long time to come : for example, Medi- 
cine Butte (called also *' Pill Hill"), Pilot Butte, 
Church Buttes — all in Wyoming ; as well as 
many in Colorado and the adjacent Territories. 
A high, craggy mass of rock, forming the 
crest of the Sierra in Yuba County, California, 
is known as the "Downieville Buttes;" and 
the remarkable, isolated, and lofty volcanic 
range in the Sacramento Valley is called the 
" Marysville Buttes." 

Knob is the favorite — indeed, almost 
exclusive — designation of any more or less 
isolated hill or mountain throughout the 
Southwest, and especially in Tennessee and 
Kentucky. There are various " Pilot Knobs ; " 
but the most famous one is that of Missouri, 
which is so largely made up of iron ore, and 
which is not far distant from the still more 
celebrated ''Iron Mountain." There is an 
occasional "knob'' in the Eastern United 
States, both in the White Mountains and 
in the Catskills ; but the topographical use 
of this word is decidedly a Southwestern 
pecuharity. " Knob " and " nab " seem to be 
the same words, the latter form being in com- 


mon use in Northern England, and especially 
in the Lake District : for example, Nab Scar, 
Rydal ; Nab Crag, Patterdale ; etc. In North- 
eastern Yorkshire the abrupt hill edges are 
called "nabs." 

Knock is another word belonging with 
" knob" and " nab." There are several 
" knocks " in the Lake District of England 
and in Scotland; as Knockmurton, Knock 
Pike, Knock Craig, etc. This word has been 
carried as far away from home as Australia 
and the adjacent islands. " Knocklofty " is 
the name of a " respectable eminence " near 
Hobart, Tasmania. 

The words just enumerated run, with many 
variants, through the languages of Northern 
Europe. Thus, Gael, cnap, to strike or beat, 
and hence, as a substantive, that which is 
produced by beating, namely, a lump, or boss ; 
and, going a litUe farther in the same direc- 
tion, a hillock, or hill, which is also the mean- 
ing of c?tac and cnoc in the same language. 
The Welsh is cnwpa, a knob or club, and 
cn7vc, a lump or bunch, etc.* 

Again, knoll and knot are closely allied to 
the words just mentioned. The former is in 
common use, both in this country and in 

* See Wedgwood, under "Knob." 


England, as designating a low, rounded hill. 
"It was a rocky knoll, that rose forty feet 
above the surface of the water," Cooper says 
in describing the locaHty which gave the 
name to the story called " Wyandotte, or the 
Hutted Knoll." " Knot " seems peculiar to 
the Lake District of England, where some of 
the hills of bare rock are called by this name ; 
for example, Hard Knot, Farleton Knot, 
Amside Knot, etc. 

Dodd is another name for mountain, cur- 
rent in the Lake District, but not heard in the 
United States. This word is another of the 
same class as "knob" and "nab." It is 
defined in the glossary attached to Black's 
Guide as being a " hill with a blunt summit 
attached to another hill." In Frisian — a 
language closely allied to English — " dodd " 
means a "bunch." "To dod," in English, 
is " to cut off an excrescence." " Toddi," in 
Icelandic, is "a fragment or piece cut off." 
" Todi," like " pen," has a wide range. The 
word appears in the name of the grand peak 
of Glarus, the "Todi," or "Todi;/' and per- 
haps " dolde " in Doldenhorn, in the Bernese 
Alps, may be the same word. The following 
are examples of mountains in the Lake Dis- 
trict bearing the name of " dodd : " Skiddaw 


Dodd ; Hartsop Dodd, Kirkstone ; Dod Fell, 
near Hawes. 

Mound, which, as usually applied both in 
England and America, means an artificial 
eminence of no great altitude, is the name 
given in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa to those 
isolated flat-topped hills which occur in and 
near the Lead Region, and which rise a few 
hundred feet above the adjacent nearly level 
country. The West Blue Mound is about 
500 feet above its base; others, as Platte, 
Sinsinnewa, Sherald's, Waddell's, etc., are 
from 200 to 300 feet in height. They are 
conspicuous objects in the vicinity of Galena 
and Dubuque, and they are all capped with 
the harder Niagara limestone, while their 
lower, more gently sloping portions are made 
up of the soft, shaly, and easily disintegrated 
strata of the Hudson River group, which lie 
between the Niagara and the lead-bearing 
hmestones — or, more properly, dolomites, 
the latter being, in general, throughout the 
region the rock which occupies the surface 
of the country. 

The word cobble as the name of a hill of 
moderate elevation is heard occasionally in 
this country, but, so far as known to the pres- 
ent writer, not in England. There are at least 


two " cobbles " in the Adirondacks, and one 
or more in Berkshire, Mass. ; and there is 
also a Cobblekill (mountain rivulet) in the 
Catskills. "To cob," in English, is "to beat 
or strike " — a word in common use among 
miners, the breaking of masses of ore into small 
lumps being called " cobbing." " Cobble," 
as meaning a rounded fragment of rock, not 
so small as a " pebble " and not so large as 
a "bowlder," is also a word of every-day 
occurrence, both in England and America. 
" Cobble," as meaning a rounded stone, seems 
to be a diminutive of " cob," a lump : " cob- 
ble," as designating a mountain, is a word 
not so simple in its etymological relations. 
" Koble " is an old German word having the 
meaning of " rock " and " mountain," and 
" Kofel " has the same signification in the Bava- 
rian Alps, Tyrol, and Carinthia. Many of the 
more prominent peaks in Tyrol are thus desig- 
nated, the word being frequently written " kofl." 
Large stones are also called by the same name, 
and "kofeln" is "to throw stones." 

Again, "Kopf " (head) is a common Ger- 
man designation of a prominent, rounded 
mountain summit, especially in the Bavarian 
and Austrian Alps — thus, Rosskopf, Ochsen- 
kopf, Schwarzkopf, Adlerkopf, etc. ; and the 


corresponding English word is by no means 
a rare name for mountain in English-speaking 
countries. Thus, we have a " Blackhead " 
in the Catskills, a " Bullshead " in the South- 
ern Appalachians, a *' Doublehead " in the 
White Mountains, etc. " Cob," " cop," " kop," 
"kopf" are all one and the same word ori- 
ginally, with the meaning of " rounded lump, 
or head," the association or meaning being 
evident and natural, as we see from the fact 
that large cobbles are, in this country, fre- 
quently called " nigger-heads." 

The word kogel as a mountain name, fre- 
quently heard in the Austrian Alps, either as 
''kogel" or "kogl," — for example, Kreuz- 
kogl, Ankogl, Graukogel, near Gastein, etc., — 
is apparently related to *' kegel " (cone), a 
name naturally given to conical summits, and 
especially to those of volcanoes, which are 
often as regular in form as they are graceful 
in their proportions. 

There are various names for mountains, the 
origin of which is quite obvious. They are 
given as indicating a resemblance to some 
familiar object. Some of these designations 
run through several languages ; others are 
limited in their range. The following may be 
mentioned : — 


The crest of a mountain or of a mountain 
range is a familiar expression. By it we 
mean the culminating ridge or "backbone" 
of the elevated mass. The same term is used 
in French {crete), in Italian {crista) , etc. 
" Crest " is from the Latin crista, a word which 
is allied to crinis, hair; hence, something 
which grows on the top of the head like the 
" comb " or " crest " of the cock. The Ger- 
man equivalent for mountain crest is "Kamm," 
an old word appearing in the different dia- 
lectic divisions of the language as "Kam," 
*' Kamp," " Chamb," etc., and having originally 
the meaning of " tooth " or " toothed imple- 
ment." Thus we have, so to speak, got 
back to "sierra," the use of this word 
and of " Kamra " having exactly the same 
underlying idea. We have not in the United 
States the word " kam " or " kamm " as a 
topographical designation, but it is current 
in the Lake District of England : for exam- 
ple, Catstycam, or Catchedecam, Helvellyn; 
Rossthwaite Cam ; Cam Fell, near Hawes ; 
etc. It is not a little curious that the word 
" comb " also appears in that district as the 
name of a mountain. "Black Comb," also 
spelled " Combe," is a summit overlooking 
the Vale of the Duddon, and commanding 


a very extensive view, as thus poetically 
indicated : — 

" Far from the summit of Black Comb (dread name 
Derived from clouds and storm !) " 

" Close by the sea, lone sentinel, 
Black Comb his forward station keeps." 

C. Parish. 

Thus, " comb " and " combe " or " coom " 
are seen to be two words quite different in 
origin and meaning, although not unfrequently 
the two are spelled alike. The latter is a 
hollow in the mountain side ; the former, the 
mountain crest.* 

The spurs of a mountain are the subordi- 
nate ridges which extend themselves from the 
crest, " like ribs from the vertebral column " 
(Bonney) . It is between the spurs that the 
water derived from the rain or from melting 
snow makes its way downward; and it is 
chiefly by the erosive action of this water, 
assisted by ice where the range is high enough 
to be glaciated, that the gorges, ravines, and 
valleys have been eaten out, leaving the spurs 
on either hand, as witnesses of the power of 
the erosive agencies. 

The peculiar form of many mountain sum- 
mits has led to a wide-spread use of the word 

* See farther on, p. 167. 


dome. Granitic masses frequently assume 
this shape, and with such perfection of outh'ne 
that the use of this designation seems entirely 
natural. There are several mountains called 
" domes " in the Appalachians ; but forms of 
this kind are most abundantly and charac- 
teristically displayed in the Sierra Nevada, 
especially in the neighborhood of ]\Iount 
Whitney, and near the Yosemite Valley, where 
the concentric structure of the granite is de- 
veloped on a grand scale, giving rise to dome- 
shaped masses of great regularity of form and 
of immense size. One in particular in the 
caiion of the North Fork of the San Joaquin, 
rising to a height of i,8oo feet above the river, 
looks like the top of a gigantic balloon strug- 
gling to get loose from the rock in which it 
is imprisoned.* A similar use of the word 
*^ dome" is not uncommon in the Alps, al- 
though there are no mountain summits in that 
range so perfect in their dome shape as are 
many in the Sierra Nevada. 

The rounded summits of the Vosges Moun- 
tains are also called in French " ballons," and in 
German "Belchen" or "Bblchen." "Ballon," 
of course, is the equivalent of " balloon," and 
is etymologically connected with halle^ Eng. 

* Geology of California, vol. i. p. 401. 


ball. There are six summits in the Vosges 
which are called " Belchen ; " and the most 
famous of them is the Gebweiler Belchen 
(Fr. Ballon de Soultr), the culminating point 
of the range, commanding a magnificent view 
of the Jura, a part of the Alps being also 
visible in clear weather. "Boll" in German 
means "rounded, swollen;" and " Bolle " is 
"bud." A "bolliger Berg" is a mountain 
with a swollen or rounded top ; hence the 
name "Belchen" or "Bolchen," used not only 
in Vosges, but to a limited extent in the Jura 
and Black Forest. 

Objects more prosaic and familiar than 
domes give names to mountains — names 
which are sometimes limited in their range, 
but often occurring over wide areas and 
running through various dialects or even lan- 
guages. Thus, horn is the most common 
designation of the highest peaks in the Ger- 
man Alps, and more especially in the Ber- 
nese Oberland ; for example, Finsteraarhorn, 
Schreckhorn, Matterhorn, etc The French 
use the equivalent word " corne " to a limited 
extent ; and " corno " plays the same part in 
mountain nomenclature in Southern Italy. 
This use of the term " horn " seems quite 
unknown to English-speaking people, nor 


does it appear to have extended itself into 

Dent, or tooth, takes the place of " horn " 
in the French Alps, and is one of the most 
common designations of high, more or less 
isolated peaks in that part of the chain ; for 
example. Dent du Midi, Dent Blanche, Dents 
de Bertol, etc. The similarity of a sharp 
momitain peak to a tooth seems not to have 
impressed itself on the English mind, and there 
are few if any summits in England or in this 
country which are thus designated. The first 
name, however, given to any individual moun- 
tain peak in the whole Cordilleran system, 
within the limits of the United States, was 
that of " Bear's Tooth," or the "Tooth," an 
appellation bestowed by Mr. Fidler on some 
point which cannot now be identified.* 

Other objects which have given names to 
mountains, on account of real or fancied re- 
semblance of form, and which are of interest 
because so extensively used, are : the saddle, 
the sugar-loaf, the needle, the pap or nipple, 
the hay-stack, and many others. There are 
several " saddle-backs " in England, one near 
Skiddaw (2,787 feet) being the most cele- 
brated. Black's Guide says of it : " Blentha- 

* See ante, p. 49. 


cara is the ancient name, which now-a-days 
is more usually termed Saddleback, an appel- 
lation acquired from its shape when viewed 
from the neighborhood of Penrith." In this 
country we have reversed this style of nomen- 
clature. " Saddle-back " was long considered 
a good enough name for the highest mountain 
in Massachusetts ; but of late years, the more 
elegant one of " Gray lock " has been coined 
for it. The most famous Saddle Mountain, 
however, is " La Silla," near Caracas, the first 
high point ascended by Humboldt on the 
American continent. 

There are many mountains which bear the 
name of " sugar-loaf" in various parts of the 
world. The conical peak on the west side of 
the entrance to the harbor of Rio Janeiro — 
the " Pao de Assucar " — is perhaps the best 
known of these. There is one near Aberga- 
venny in Wales, which as viewed from the east 
is " a perfect cone tapering finely to a point 
at a high angle " (Mackenzie). The best- 
known sugar-loaf in this country is one of 
diminutive size, an " eddy-peak " of Triassic 
sandstone, near Deerfield, in the Connecticut 

The term needle as the designation of a 
mountain is much more commonly used by 


the French than by the English. It is espe- 
cially in the vicinity of Chamonix that the clus- 
ters of sharply pointed peaks bear the name 
of ** aiguilles." The rocks there are of a pe- 
culiar texture (slaty-crystalline), and have an 
almost vertical position of the cleavage planes. 
These conditions cause the elevated ridges 
to weather away under the influence of the 
erosive agencies, in such a manner as to leave 
points projecting, either singly or in groups, 
above the general level, most naturally sug- 
gesting by their sharpness the idea of the 
needle. The " needles " best known in Eng- 
lish-speaking countries are the pinnacles of 
chalk on the extreme western end of the 
Isle of Wight, a famous landmark for vessels 
bound to Southampton. They are sharply 
pointed rocks " which have been produced 
by the decomposition and wearing away of 
the chalk in the direction of the joints or 
fissures by which the strata are traversed " 

There are various mountains called the 
Paps, both in England and the United States. 
The " Paps of Jura " are well-known elevations 
on the largest of the Hebrides group of isl- 
ands, visible far at sea and from all the west- 
ern coast of Argyllshire. The " Paps " on the 


north shore of Lake Superior are fine rounded 
summits, surrounded by noble scenery. " Te- 
ton," the French equivalent of " pap," is also 
used with the same topographical meaning 
as the latter word. The " Teton Range," near 
Snake River, in Wyoming Territory, is one 
of the most impressive of all the Cordilleran 
mountain groups; and the "Grand Teton," 
13,691 feet high, is its culminating point. 
This may have been the mountain called the 
"Tooth" by Mr. Fidler. It certainly has 
much the appearance of a gigantic tooth, as 
seen from one point of view. 

There are Hay-stacks without number, both 
in this country and in England. Rising high 
above Buttermere Water are the " Hay- 
stacks " of the Lake District. One point in 
the Yellowstone National Park is thus des- 
ignated; and there are various others with 
the same name in the Appalachians. 

Hog-back is not a particularly elegant word, 
but it is one put to a variety of topographical 
uses in this country. There is, among others, 
a Great Hog-back in North Carolina, 4,790 
feet high. Along the eastern base of the 
Rocky Mountains the strata are broken off 
and upturned in grand crests, producing a 
most peculiar and picturesque type of scenery, 


especially attractive to geologists from the 
clear revelation there afforded of the nature of 
the mighty forces by which that grand system 
of mountains has been upHfted. These crests 
are famiharly known to those living in that 
region as " hog-backs ; " and the belt along 
the base of the chain where these peculiar 
forms occur, is called the " Hog-back Coun- 
try." Furthermore, the remarkable ridges of 
gravel occurring in Northern New England 
and elsewhere in this country, known as 
"kames " or "eskars," and which are such a 
puzzle to geologists — although by most of 
them ascribed to the action of ice — are 
frequently called "hog-backs," as also " horse- 

The Camel's hump is not as popular topo- 
graphically as the hog's back ; but as occur- 
ring not uncommonly, and especially as des- 
ignating one of the highest of the mountains 
of Vermont, it should not be omitted from 
the list of imitative names — a list which 
might easily be considerably extended beyond 
that which has here been given. 

Among words designating some pecuHarity 
of form in the rocky outcrops which are so 
often seen in mountainous regions, and espe- 
cially near the summits of lofty peaks, the 


following may be mentioned as being in 
current use wherever English is spoken : 
"precipice," "cliff," "crag." 

Precipice (Lat. prcEceps, headlong, preci- 
pitare, to fall headlong or head-first, from 
p7'CB diwd capttf ; Yx. precip iter, precipice) is the 
most general term in English for any very 
steeply inclined wall or surface of rock. A 
" defile " is bordered by " precipices ; " a 
"gorge" has "precipitous sides." 

Cliff is nearly akin to "' precipice ; " in fact, 
there is hardly a perceptible difference in 
meaning between the two words. "Cliff" is 
etymologically the same as "cleft," "cleugh," 
and "clove," coming from the Anglo-Saxon 
"clif," a shore, a rocky shore, and hence 
rock, and connected with clifian, to cleave or 
split asunder. A cleft in the rock has pre- 
cipitous or cliffy sides ; hence a cliff is a nearly 
perpendicular face of rock. Steep faces of 
sand or gravel are more commonly called 
"banks "than cliffs. The "bluffs" of the 
Prairie Region might well be called " cliffs ; " 
and, in fact, a certain limestone which fre- 
quently is seen in the Lead Region cropping 
out and forming bluffs along the streams has 
been often called, by geologists as well as by 
the people generally, the " Cliff limestone." 


" Cliff" is a favorite word with the poets ; 
and here follow some examples of the use of 
*' precipice," " cliff," and " crag " by Scott, 
Tennyson, and Lowell : — 

" Seems that primeval earthquake's sway 
Hath rent a strange and shattered way 
Through the rude bosom of the hill, 
And that each naked precipice, 
Sable ravine, and dark abyss, 
Tells of the outrage still." 

Lord of the Isles. 

" Adown the black and craggy boss 
Of that high cliff, whose ample verge 
Tradition calls the Hero's targe." 

Lady of the Lake. 
" As over rainy mist inclines 
A gleaming crag with belts of pines." 

The Two Voices. 
" A heap of bare and splintery crags 
Tumbled about by lightning and frost, 
With rifts and chasms and storm-bleached jags 
That wail and growl for a ship to be lost." 

Pictures from Afpledore. 

Crag is a word of Celtic origin (Gal. creag^ 
Welsh craig, a rock), much in use in Scot- 
land, and very familiar to us from its occur- 
rence in books, although rarely heard, in this 
country at least, in actual use, as a designa- 
tion of any part of the rocky landscape. There 
are many names of places of which " cliff" 
forms a part ; for example, Undercliff. 


Scar is a word quite unknown to us, except 
through books^ as a topographical designation, 
however familiar it may be with the meaning 
of a mark left by a wound which has healed 
over. The word " scar " appears in a variety 
of forms ; for example, " scaur," " scarth," 
" scaw," " carr." It is related to the Icelandic 
skor, a crack or cut; Gothic skaer, a rock, 
from skaera, to cut or shear, Welsh esgair, 
the ridge of a mountain. Wedgwood says 
of this word : *' Originally, a crack or breach ; 
then especially applied to a cliff, precipice, or 
broken rock, a fragment." This is a word 
frequently heard in the North of England, 
especially in Northwestern Yorkshire, where 
the limestone cliffs are called " scars." Hence 
the name " Scar limestone," the equivalent in 
a topographical sense, but not geologically, 
of our " CHff limestone." " Scaw " forms 
a part of various names in the Lake Dis- 
trict, and especially of the Scawfell Pike, 
which has already been mentioned, and 
which may come up again under " fell." 
Any face of rock, cHff, or precipice may be 
called, in the North of England, a " scar " 
or "scaw." Although not in such frequent 
use in Scotland, Scott has it occasionally, as 
for example, — 


" Is it the roar of Teviot's tide, 
That chafes against the scaur's red side ? " 

Lay of the Last Minstrel. 

" ' She is won ! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur ; 
They'll have fleet steeds that follow,' quoth young 


The word escarpment is one rather fre- 
quently used in this country, with the meaning 
of"diff" or "precipitous face of rock." It 
is closely allied to " scar " or " scaur " in ori- 
gin, both being referred back to the ancient 
(Aryan) root "skar," to cut. The definition 
of " escarpment " given in Skeat — " a smooth, 
steep decline ; a military term " — would not 
hold good in the United States.* 

The loose stones and angular fragments of 
rock which are so often seen accumulated at 
the base of the cliffs or precipices from which 
they have fallen, are known in the Lake Dis- 
trict of England and in Scotland as screes. 
This word is not in use in the United States, 
although it is much to be wished that it were. 
There are various localities called by this 
name in the Lake District : for example, the 

* "Scarp" (also written escarp) and "counterscarp" 
are the military terms related to ' ' escarpment.' ' A " scarp ' * 
is a slope so steep that it cannot be climbed, and " to scarp " 
is "to cut down a slope so as to render it inaccessible." 
(Wilhelm's Military Dictionary.) 


Screes, Wastvvater ; Red Screes, Kirkstone ; 
Yewdale Screes, Coniston; Cautley Screes, 
Howgill. As generally used, the word 
" screes " is the equivalent of our " talus " or 
" talus-slope," and " debris " or "debris-pile." 
Talus is the Latin for " heel," and hence a 
slope, the word not being used in French as 
the equivalent of " screes," as it is in English, 
both in this country and in Great Britain. 
Thus, Geikie speaks of " the long screes or 
talus-slopes at the foot of every hill and 
crag," and of " slopes strewn with screes and 
debris." * " Scree " is used both as a singu- 
lar and a plural, although generally the latter. 
Debris is also used with the same uncertainty 
of number, both in French and English, and 
in the latter with or without the accent. 

The debris-piles which stretch along the 
lower slopes of the ranges in the Cordilleran 
Region are locally known as crashes. These 
accumulations, consisting chiefly of sand and 
gravel, brought down from the mountains 
above by currents of water, occur on a grand 
scale in some places, especially on the east 
side of the Sierra Nevada and on the west 
slope of the Inyo Range, opposite Owen's 
Valley. These "washes" start from high on 

* A. Geikie, Scenery of Scotland, 2d ed., pp. 172, 165. 


the mountain sides, and spread themselves 
downward, often with a moderate and quite 
uniform slope, along the entire length of the 
ranges, furnishing ample evidence that the 
precipitation was once much more copious 
than it is at the present time. 

The various forms which are the result of 
t!ie weathering of the rocks under the influence 
of atmospheric agencies, and which are some- 
times quite remarkable, and interesting not 
only from the geological but from the scenic 
point of view, have received appropriate names 
in the different regions where they are most 
strikingly displayed. 

There are numerous " Towers," " Monu- 
ments," "Castles," and ''Pinnacles," in the 
Cordilleran Region, as well as '"Tower" and 
*•' Castle " Peaks. Sometimes these names are 
rather fancifully given ; but often the resem- 
blance of the rock-mass to the object from 
which it is named is most striking. Thus 
the " Pah-Ute Monument " on the summit of 
the Inyo Range is an isolated columnar mass, 
extremely regular in form and of grand di- 
mensions (it is eighty-five feet high), so that 
it is visible firom far and wide. 

" Tower " in the form of tor (Lat. turris) 
is quite a common word in England, altliough 


one not at all in use in this country. It means 
sometimes simply a tower, the work of man's 
hand, and has no other definition in Latham's 
Johnson ; but, in fact, it is also frequently used 
to designate certain curiously shaped masses 
which have been left as the result of the 
weathering of various rocks, but especially of 
the granite in Devon and Cornwall.* Some 
ot these weathered masses are so poised that 
they can be moved or made to rock on their 
foundations. They are then called '^ rocking 
stones," or ^' logans," the latter name being 
peculiar to England. The " logan " situated 
in Cornwall, near Castle Treryn, St. Leven, is 
seventeen feet in length, and has been estimated 
to weigh about sixty-five tons. " Helmen 
Tor, on Dartmoor, is a rugged hill composed 
of blocks of granite, several of which ' rock ' 
with ease." t Rocking-stones in the United 
States are of rather rare occurrence. One of 
marble, near Pittsfield, Mass., is of very large 
size, being twenty-six feet long, and estimated 
(by the present writer) to weigh about 200 
tons. It is called the " balanced-rock ; " but 
is no longer to be moved by the hand, although 

* See farther on, under " Moor." 
t H. B. Woodward, The Geology of England and Wales, 
London, 1S76, p. 411. 


it is said, on good authority, that it could be 
so moved a few years ago. 

Certain blocks of sandstone and conglom- 
erate which are strewn over the surface of the 
ground in Dorsetshire and Wiltshire, England, 
are familiarly known as gray-wethers. They 
are supposed to be the remains of strata of 
Tertiary age which once covered the region 
where these gray-wethers occur. It is from 
these blocks that Stonehenge and other Dru- 
idical circles of a similar kind have been built ; 
hence they have been called also " Druid- 
stones" and "Saracen's stones" or ''Sarsens." 
The name " gray- wether " is supposed to have 
been derived from the resemblance of the 
objects in question to a flock of sheep seen 
in the distance. 


Valleys connect the plains with the moun- 
tains. We can speak of a plain without nec- 
essarily thinking of a mountain as its boundary 
or limit. But in general, when the word 
" valley " is used, it is assumed that the region 
spoken of lies within the mountains or has 
mountains adjacent to it. There is, however, 
one way in which we employ the word with- 
out reference to any particular topographical 
form, as when we speak of the valley of a 
river, meaning its " basin," or the entire area 
drained by it and its branches. In such a 
case the usage varies very much according to 
custom and the size of the stream itself. As 
ordinarily used, we mean, when we speak of 
the " valley " of any river, the lower and more 
level belt adjacent to the stream. One who 
lived in the North Park near the borders of 
Colorado and Wyoming, at an elevation of 
7,000 or 8,000 feet above the sea, and sur- 

rounded by high mountains, could hardly be 
said to be living in the Mississippi Valley, and 
yet he would be within the drainage basin of 
that river, since that branch of the Platte which 
rises in the North Park is an affluent of the 

As the word " valley " is most generally 
used, it means a depressed area between two 
mountains or mountain ranges. Every system 
of mountains is made up, in general, of high- 
lands with inter\'ening low and comparatively 
level areas in which the drainage from the 
adjacent slopes is collected, and which widen 
out as we recede from the higher regions, and 
finally merge in the plain, or enter the ocean 
when this is so closely adjacent that there is 
no room for a plain between it and the sea. 
*' Valley " is the most general tenn in English 
for these areas, and it is applied without refer- 
ence to size or altitude, or even the charac- 
ter of the vegetation. 

Valleys are, as a general rule, parallel with 
the subordinate members of the system of 
ranges within which they lie. Thus the Great 
Appalachian Valley runs for hundreds of miles, 
for long distances varying but little in width or 
general character, parallel to the Blue Ridge, 
a very persistent member of the Appalachian 


System. Very wide and lofty ranges, like the 
Alps, have two or more systems of valleys, 
those of the first order being parallel with the 
main range, and those of the second order 
approximately at right angles to this, and 
occupying depressions between the " spurs " 
of the central range, these spurs being those 
elevated portions of the uplifted mass which 
have most successfully resisted the action of 
those erosive agencies by which the moun- 
tains are being slowly but surely worn away. 
The word " valley " (Lat. va/Z/s, Ital. va//afa, 
Fr. Tallh, Sp. valle, etc.) is used almost 
exactly in the same way in which it is employed 
in English by the people whose language is 
directly descended from the Latin. In the 
Germanic and Scandinavian tongues the 
equivalent is "Thai" (German) and " dal" 
(Swedish), which words are closely related to 
our " dale." Vale is simply an abbreviation 
of " valley." It is a poetical rather than an 
every-day word ; and both " valley " and 
" vale " are used in various phrases in which 
the topographical meaning is nearly or quite 
lost, as in "vale of years " (Shakspeare), and 
the biblical phrase " valley of the shadow of 
death," in both of which the gloom of a deep 
valley seems to be indicated. 


As long as we limit ourselves to those sim- 
ple depressions between mountains to which 
the words " valley " and " vale " are most 
commonly applied, we find comparative sim- 
plicity in the nomenclature ; but as soon as 
we inquire into the names of those lower areas 
which cut entirely across the range, or lie so 
as to be within the elevated mass, or, as it 
were, to form a portion of it, we find that 
although these areas do to a certain extent 
come within the definition of valleys, they are 
extremely varied in form and character, and 
that there is a corresponding variety and 
complexity in the names by which they are 

There are several Spanish words, resembling 
in meaning those which have just been cited, 
one of which is not only in common use in 
the Cordilleran Region, but very familiar in 
all parts of this country, and it has even been 
carried from America to England, and to the 
Continent of Europe. This word is cafiou ; 
others resembling it in meaning are Canada 
and cajon ; but the two latter are much less 
familiarly known to us than is the former. 
" Canon " is the augmentative of cana, a reed, 
or tube. As used by the Spaniards of Spain, 
it means a " cannon ; " and it is not found in 


any SpaJiish dictionary with the signification 
which it has in this country — namely, *' a val- 
ley, and especially a somewhat narrow valley, 
with steeply sloping sides ; a long, deep ravine 
or gorge, or even a defile." A river which has 
been flowing through an open valley suddenly 
becomes hemmed in between lofty, precipitous, 
or even perpendicular walls ; in the language 
of the Cordilleran Region it is said "to caiion." 
But even valleys which are rather broad and 
open are sometimes called " canons." The 
" canons par excellence are those of the Colo- 
rado Region ; and the most stupendous of all 
is the " Grand Canon," where the river flows 
at a depth of 5,000 feet below the general 
level of the country, and between almost 
perpendicular walls. 

Broad and open valleys are called in Spain 
" valles ; " when they become narrower, and 
their sides are more precipitous, they are 
known as " canadas," and not as " canons," 
either in Spain or in any part of South Amer- 
ica.* Even in Mexico the use of this word 
with the topographical meaning so familiar to 
us is almost entirely unknown. As if to keep 
us in mind that there is such a word as " ca- 

* Barcia defines " cafiada " as " el espacio que hay entre 
dos mon tanas d alturas poco distantes entre sf." 


fiada," one valley in California bears that name 
— the "Canada de las Uvas ; " but, in general, 
throughout California and the Cordilleran 
Region, all valleys except the very broad ones, 
and many gorges and defiles are called indis- 
criraininately '^ caiions." The word " cajon " 
means something intermediate between a 
" canon " and a " defile " or " pass," and will 
be noticed farther on. 

Very few ranges of mountains preserve a 
continuity of height for any great distance. 
Their outlines, as seen from a distance, are 
" serrated," * elevated crests, ridges, or peaks 
alternating with depressions. Some ranges 
are cut very deeply down by these depres- 
sions ; in others the difference between the 
most elevated and the most depressed portions 
of the range is small. The " crest height " of 
a chain of mountains is indicated by a line 
connecting its highest peaks ; its " pass height " 
by one drawn so as to touch its depressions ; 
and ranges very generally maintain something 
like the same ratio of crest height to pass 
height for long distances. 

* Not " serried," as some writers have it ; for exam- 
ple, Hull (in Physical Geography and Geology of Ireland, 
pp. 142 and 163), who speaks of " serried ridges " and of 
*' rocky and serried aspect." "Serried" means " crowded 
together," from Fr. server. 


The depressions in a range are called — as 
we see — passes, since by their aid we pass 
over the mountains. " Peaks, Passes, and 
Glaciers " is the title of the first series of vol- 
umes published by the English Alpine Club. 
The use of the word ''pass," however, gener- 
ally implies something grand and elevated. 
The Alps, Himalaya, and the Cordilleras have 
their " passes ; " while this term is compara- 
tively little used in the Appalachians, or in the 
mountains of England and Scotland. In the 
White Mountains of New England the passes 
are occasionally called notches, a local use of 
the word peculiar to this region and that adja- 
cent to it ; for example, the " Crawford Notch," 
the "Dixville Notch." In the Catskills the 
passes, as well as the valleys themselves, are 
known as hollows. In Pennsylvania and far- 
ther south they are called gaps. Those which 
are cut down deep enough to allow the water 
to pass through from one valley to another 
are designated as " water gaps ; " those which 
are but shallow notches on the edges of the 
long straight ridges so characteristic of the 
Appalachians are called ''wind-gaps." The 
" Delaware water-gap " is a famous locality, 
where the river of that name breaks through 
the Kittatinny Range. 


Passes in the French Alps are called " cols " 
(Lat. colhwi, neck), and this word is fre- 
quently used by English Alpinists. Thus, 
Tyndall says : " Crossing the col, we descend 
along the opposite slope of the chain. . . . 
If the valleys on both sides of the col were 
produced by fissures, what prevents the fissure 
from prolonging itself across the col? . . . 
The cols are simply depressions," etc., — all 
within ten lines.* " Neck," in English, as a 
topographical word, means a narrow isthmus 
connecting two distinct areas of land, and is 
a term but little used except near the sea- 

"Passe" is occasionally used in French, 
and " paso " in Spanish, as the equivalent of 
" col " and " pass ; " but in the French Pyr- 
enees the passes are much more generally 
termed " ports " (Lat. po?'ta, Fr. porte, Sp. 
Puerto, door), a word which is used in all 
these languages for " harbor " and " mountain 
pass," as well as for the ordinary door. In 
the Andes " paso " means any depression in 
the crest-line of the chain which permits a 
passage across it. The diminutive of " puer- 
to " — "portillo" — as generally used, indi- 
cates a "pass" through a narrow gorge or 

* Hours of Exercise in the Alps, London, 1871, p. 236. 


canon traversing the range. In the Lake Dis- 
trict of England a " pass " is also called a 
door, generally spelled in this case dore (M. 
E. dore, Sw. dorr, Ger. Thor, door). The 
passes thus denominated are generally narrow 
door-like openings between walls of rock, like 
the Spanish "portillos : " thus, Lowdore, Der- 
wentwater; Mickledore, Scawfell. 

The word sty (Dan. stic, a ladder, O. E. 
sty, a. path, Ger. Steige, a ladder, an ascent) 
is also used in the Lake District for ** pass." 
The pass from Borrowdale to Wastdale is 
called " Sty Head." Catstycam, often written 
" Catchedecam," Helvellyn (Wild-cats' ladder 
hill) is a word the meaning of which will be 
easily understood, on recalling what has been 
said about the word " cam " or " kamm." * 

Hause, or "haws," is another word used 
in the Lake District for "pass," and also — 
like some other words with a similar meaning 
in other languages — as designating a ridge 
connecting two higher points, even if not cut 
sufficiently deep to serve as a " pass." Oc- 
casionally a narrow gorge is also called a 
'' hause " or "haws," as, for instance, in the 
name Haws Bridge, Kendal. This word is 
closely allied in meaning to the French "col" 

* See ante, p. 112. 


(Lat. collum), since it occurs in nearly all the 
northern European languages in the form of 
"hals," meaning " neck." 

Another word used in the Lake District 
with the meaning of " pass," or depression 
in a mountain range, is s-wirl (spelled also 
''swirrel"), as seen in the names "Swirl 
Band," Helvellyn, and "Swirl Edge," near 
Coniston. This word is spelled by the older 
Scottish poets " swyre " and " swyr," as seen 
in the following quotations : — 

" The soft souch [sigh] of the swyr and soune [sound] of 
the stremys." 

William Dunbar (1450-1520). 

" Out owre the swyre swymmis the sops of the mist." 
Gawin Douglas (1474-1522). 

Professor Veitch explains the last line 
quoted in these words : " Over the col or 
neck of the hill, where the summit dips and 
rises again on the other side, swim high be- 
fore the vision the wreaths of mist. . . . 
* Swyre ' or ' sware ' is the characteristic word 
of the Tweed and Yarrow district especially, 
for the dip [depression] on the summit [ridge, 
crest] of the hill." * Black's Guide defines 
the word " swirl "as "a place on the hills 

* The Feeling for Nature in Scottish Poetry, Edin- 
burgh, 1887, vol. i. p. 274. 


where the wind or snow eddies : " such a 
place a depression in the ridge would neces- 
sarily be. 

Still another name for " pass," used to some 
extent in the Lake District and the Scottish 
Highlands, is slack, which is defined in the 
glossary to Black's " Guide to the Lakes " as 
a place '^ where the tension of the surface is 
slacke?ied, the consequence being a depres- 
sion ; a hollow generally." Professor Veitch, 
in endeavoring to explain why, among the 
older Scottish poets, feelings of terror and 
dread would naturally take precedence of the 
poetical, and for long dominate over it, says : 
*^ Moor, hope, and slack (hill-pass) were asso- 
ciated with deeds of violence, feud, and hostile 
inroad, and inspired corresponding feelings of 
dread and repugnance." 

In some parts of the French Pyrenees, 
especially near Mont-Perdu, the deeply cut 
passes or gorges traversing the range are called 
" breches " (M. E. breche, A. S. brece, frag- 
ment, Eng. breach, fracture). Thus, Ramond 
says: "La breche ou conduit le vallon de 
glace, et' qui est en face du Mont-Perdu, est 
ce que j'appelle la breche de Touque-rouye." 
The famous " Breche de Roland " is that 
mountain summit in the Pyrenees which is 


believed to have been split in two by a blow 
from the sword of the mighty Roland. 

Besides the words already given as meaning 
a mountain pass, there are several others of 
Spanish origin all of which are more or less in 
use in Central and South America. Atra- 
vieso (Lat. transversus^ Fr. travers, traver- 
ser^ Sp. atravesar, to cross, to traverse) is one 
of these, and is perhaps the most widely dis- 
tributed of all the terms having this significa- 
tion. Boquete (Sp. boca, mouth) is another 
name for pass heard in the Chilian Andes, 
and perhaps elsewhere. Plagemann defines 
it as "a deeply cut gorge, leading directly 
across a mountain chain." CoUado, often 
used as a synonym of "colina," has also 
sometimes, according to Caballero, a meaning 
nearly equivalent to that of " pass." * 

A " pass " in German is " Joch," yoke, 
the equivalent of Lat. jugtim, which is used 
for the summit or crest of a mountain as well 
as for yoke. There is somewhat the same 
confusion in English between "yoke" and 
"mountain," since we find that in the Lake 
District the former word is used for " a chain 
or ridge of hills" (Black's Guide) : thus, "the 

* He defines " coUado "as " sitio que va subiendo en 
cuesta, por donde facilita su subida y bajada." 


Yoke," Troutbeck. The Scottish poet, William 
Drummond (i 585-1 649), has as follows : — 

" Fair yokes of ermeline, whose colour pass 
The whitest snows on aged Grampius face." 

The summit of the pass is called the divide, 
or water-shed. In this last word the " shed " 
has not the present meaning, but an obsoles- 
cent one of "part" or ''divide" (Ger. schei- 
den) . Skeat says : " The old sense ' to part ' 
is nearly obsolete, except in water-shed^ the 
ridge which parts river-systems." The former 
meaning of this word is illustrated in the 
following stanza : — 

" O perfite light ! whilk sched away 
The darkness from the light, 
And set a ruler oure the day, 
Ane other oure the night." 

Alex. Hume (i 560-1 609). 

The "water-shed " of any river basin limits its 
"area of catchment," as the hydraulic engi- 
neers call it. Portezuelo, also spelled " por- 
tachuelo," is the Spanish for " divide ; " and 
this word is — or was, a few years ago — in 
current use among English-speaking people 
in parts of the Californian Coast Ranges. 

There are several words in common use 
in various parts of Great Britain as designat- 
ing valleys, of which we know little in this 


country except through English books, and 
especially English and Scottish poetry, where 
these names are of very frequent occurrence. 
Among these words are " dale," '' dell," 
" dean," " dene," and " den," differing Htde 
from each other in meaning, and being very 
nearly the equivalent of " valley " or "vale " 
as generally used in this country. 

Dale (A. S. dcel, M. E. dale^ Ice. dalr^ Dan. 
and Sw. dal, Ger. Thai). Of this word Skeat 
says : " The original sense was ^ cleft ' or 
* separation ; ' and the word is closely con- 
nected with the verb deal, and is a doublet 
of the substantive deaL'^ There seems to be 
no difference between " dale " and *' vale," 
so far as meaning is concerned, and both are 
words much affected by the poets. The use 
of " dale " for " valley " is very common in 
the North of England. In Northern York- 
shire the valleys are called both " dales " and 
" gills." 

Dell is only a variant of " dale," and like 
that is a favorite word with the poets. Latham 
rather prosaically defines it as "a cavity in 
the earth, wider than a ditch, and narrower 
than a valley." Here follow some examples 
of the poetical use of both " dell " and 
" dale : " — 


" High over hills, and low adown the dale." 

Spenser, Faerie Queene. 

" Anon the shore 
Recedes into a fane-like dell." 

T. N. Talfourd. 

" Not less the bee would range her cells, 
The furzy prickle fire the dells, 
The foxglove cluster dappled bells." 

Tennyson^ The Two Voices. 

" Would I again were with you, O ye dales 
Of Tyne, and ye most ancient woodlands ! " 


" A rocky precipice, a waving wood. 
Deep winding dell, and foaming mountain flood, 
Each after each, with coy and sweet delay, 
Broke on his sight." 

7. A'. Paulding. 

" Broad shadows o'er their passage fell ; 
Deeper and narrower grew the dell." 

W. Scoft, Rokeby. 

"Dell" as used on the Wisconsin River is 
a corruption of the French word " dalle." 
Various localities in the Mississippi Valley, 
and as far west as the Pacific, were long ago 
called by the French explorers and fur-trappers 
" dalles," the best known of the places thus 
designated being the " Dalles of the Colum- 
bia," where this river flows over broad sheets 
of basaltic lava, in a series of cascades. 
" Dalle " is the French for rock-surfaces of 
this kind, and nearly the equivalent of our 


word " flagging-stones," or " flags." The 
localities in Wisconsin, designated as the 
" dalles " of the Ste. Croix, Wisconsin, etc., 
are similar in character to the Dalles of the 
Columbia, except that the rock is sandstone 
and not basalt. Along the Wisconsin River, 
however, near the Dalles proper, are many 
little side-ravines, curiously worn out by water 
which has found its way into the numerous 
fissures or joint-planes by which the sand- 
stone is traversed, and widened them out into 
a variety of fantastic and picturesque forms. 
It is to these clefts, ravines, or gorges that the 
name " dalles " is supposed, by the English- 
speaking residents of that region, to have been 
originally applied ; and in accordance with this 
idea the word " dalles " has been changed to 
" dells." 

" Dale " occurs frequently in the North of 
England as the termination of a proper name ; 
for example, Langdale, Grisdale, Borrowdale, 
Yewdale, Kendal, etc. 

"Dean," "dene," and "den" are names 
given to valleys in various parts of England, 
although by no means in as common use as 
are " dale " and " dell." Dene and " dean " 
(M. E. de?ie, A. S. deftu, a valley) are not to be 
found, as topographical words, in the English 


dictionaries ; and den is defined in Latham's 
Johnson only as " a cave, cave of a wild 
beast ; " but both " dean " and " den " are in 
use in Northwestern Yorkshire as synonyms 
of "valley" or "dale," and they also occur 
forming a part of a large number of proper 
names ; for instance, Mickleden, Tenterden, 
Rottingdean. Wordsworth defines " dean " or 
" den " as being " in many parts of England 
a name for a valley." 

" And sweet are the woods and the vales of Dene." 

W. C. Beimett. 

" Among thy groves, sweet Taunton Dene," 

Gerald Griffin. 

The word " den "is of not infrequent oc- 
currence in Scottish poetry ; for example — 

" And long and deep shall be my sleep 
In the dowie dens 0' Yarrow." 

Henry S. RiddelL 

« We '11 sing auld Coila's plains an' fells, 
Her moors red-brown wi' heather bells, 
Her banks and braes, her dens an' dells, 

Where glorious Wallace 
Aft bure the gree, as story tells, 
Frae Suthron billies." 


" Dingle " and " dimble " are words not 
at all in use in this country, but we meet 
with them occasionally in English books. 


They are both variants of " dimple," which 
latter word is perfectly familiar to us as mean- 
ing a " hollow " or " depression," but not a 
topographical one. Dingle is defined by 
Latham as " a hollow between hills, a dale ; " 
and by Stormonth as ''a narrow valley, a 
glen." These words were formerly more in 
use than they are at the present time, and 
their meaning will be made apparent by the 
following quotations : — 

" Within a gloomie dimble shee doth dwell 
Down in a pit oregrown with brakes and briars." 
B. J on son, Sad Shepherd, 

" In dingles deep and mountains hoar." 

Drayton, Muse^s Elysium, 

" I know each lane, and every alley green, 
Dingle, or bushy dell, of this wild wood, 
And every bosky bourn from side to side, 
My daily walks and ancient neighbourhood." 

Milton, Comus, 

" Yet live there still who can remember well 
How, when a mountain chief his bugle blew, 
Both field and forest, dingle, cliff, and dell, 
And solitary heath the signal knew." 

Scoit, Lady of the Lake. 

Gill (spelled also " ghyll ") is a word limited 
in use to the North of England. It is a word 
of Scandinavian origin (Ice. gil, a deep, nar- 
row glen, with a stream at the bottom ; geil, 
a ravine). In Northern Yorkshire " dale " 


and "gill" seem to be synonymous. In the 
Lake District a " gill " is a narrow ravine with a 
rapid stream running through it : as, Dungeon 
Gill, Langdale ; Stock Gill, Ambleside ; etc. 

Glen is a word of Celtic origin (Cor. glyn, 
Gael. glean?t), and is defined as meaning 
"valley," "vale," or "dale." It is a word 
much in vogue with the poets, and especially 
with Scott, on almost every page of whose 
poems it may be found. Here follow some 
examples of its use : — 

" Rough glens and sudden waterfalls." 

T. Warton. 

"Can silent glens have charms for thee? " 

Bishop Percy. 

" The summery vapor floats athwart the glen." 

" The buried river rose once more, 
And foamed along the gravelly glen." 

T. W. Parsons. 

In this country the word "glen" is not 
much used except by the poets. A locality 
near Greenfield, Mass., which before it had 
been spoiled by the hand of man was a charm- 
ing little ravine, through which ran a stream 
forming various little cascades, was formerly — 
and perhaps still is — known as " Leyden 
Glen." " Watkins Glen " at the head of Sen- 
eca Lake, N. Y., is another well-known local- 


ity, somewhat similar to Leyden Glen, but on 
a larger scale, and more attractive, 

" With its long chain of headlong cataracts, 
And pools and windings ! " 

A. B. Street. 

The " Glen " of the White Mountains is a 
broad valley, in no respect resembling either 
Leyden or Watkins Glen, extending along 
the lower slope of the Carter Range, and 
having on its western side, in close proximity, 
the group of five peaks of which Mount 
Washington is the centre. 

A natural transition leads us from such 
words as "valley," "dale," and "glen," in 
which — as these terms are chiefly used — 
softness of outUne, beauty, and repose are 
the characteristic features, to other designa- 
tions which are associated with scenery having 
a character of roughness and grandeur. The 
words " ravine," " gorge," and " defile " are 
those best known and in most common use 
among English-speaking people, as names of 
narrow valleys with precipitous sides. 

Defile is derived from the Latin filunty a 
thread or hne — as in " file of men," " single 
file," etc. A " defile " is a narrow passage 
through which one " threads " his way. This 
name is most properly given to passes which 


are of considerable length, and enclosed be- 
tween high precipitous walls. Such defiles 
sometimes form the approach to what is prop- 
erly the " mountain pass," or depression in 
the crest of the range. There are grand 
" defiles " in the Afghanistan passes. 

Ravine and gorge are terms very closely 
resembling each other in meaning. Both are 
from the Latin, and both are used by the 
French very much as we use them. " Ravine " 
is from the Latin rapio^ ruhia (Ital. rovina, 
Eng. rapine, ruin, ravine) ; and it means ori- 
ginally "rapidity," then "rapidity of a tor- 
rent," then "damage or ruin thus caused," 
and now, more commonly, "the depression 
scooped out by the ruinous (ravenous, de- 
vouring) element." As used at the present 
time, a " ravine " is something less precipitous 
and important as a topographical feature than 
a " defile," and not so grand as a " gorge." 

Gorge is the French gorge, throat (Lat. 
gtirges, an abyss, gulf, or whirlpool, and also 
stream, or water in general, or even the sea). 
In English the word is not in common use 
with the meaning of " throat," although not 
infrequently employed as a verb, " to be 
gorged," said especially of animals who have 
swallowed an inordinate amount of food, and 


also used in combination, as in the word " dis- 
gorge." Shakspeare has : — 

" How abhorred in my imagination it is ! my gorge rises 
at it." Hamlet, v. i. 

" How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides." 

Winter'' s Tale, ii. 4. 

As most generally used in English, the word 
"gorge" means a narrow passage, with preci- 
pitous, rocky sides, enclosed among the moun- 
tains. A " ravine " need not be enclosed by 
rocks ; a "gorge " usually is so enclosed ; and 
this word would hardly be applied to a mere 
depression in the soil, as " ravine " might be. 
The poets use the term " gorge " somewhat 
less freely than they do " dale," " glen," 
" vale," and " valley." Talfourd has : -— 

"... to which a gorge 
Sinking within the valley's deepening green 
Invites to grassy path." 

And Tennyson : — 

"... dark tall pines, that plumed the craggy ledge 
High over the blue gorge." 

The writer cannot recall a single well-known 
locality, either in England or in the United 
States, specially designated as " a gorge," either 
with or without an addition in the way of a 
geographical or qualifying epithet. The deep 


ravine hollowed out by the Niagara River be- 
low the falls is sometimes called the '' gorge." 
Lyell, in describing the falls, speaks of it as a 
"chasm," "ravine," and "gorge," using all 
three words within the space of nine lines.* 

The Spanish equivalents of " ravine," 
" gorge," and " caiion " — as the latter word 
is used in this country — are " barranco," 
" quebrada," and " garganta." There is more 
or less uncertainty in the use of these Spanish 
words by various authors, as has been shown 
to be the case with the corresponding terms 
adopted by English-speaking people. This 
is the case, to a certain extent, in Spain itself; 
but the want of agreement in regard to these, 
as well as other topographical designations of 
a similar kind, between authors writing in 
Spanish in the various Central and South 
American States, is quite remarkable. 

Barranco (written also " barranca ") seems 
to be the most generally adopted word in Spain 
itself for " ravine " or " gorge." j It is a word 
of Basque origin {barruaiijo, to touch bottom, 
or fall to the bottom) . A barrancal is a re- 

* Principles of Geology, nth ed., London, 1872, vol. i. 


t Barcia defines this word as " la quiebra profunda que 
hacen en la tierra las corrientes de agua." 


gion of " barrancos," an area deeply furrowed 
by gorges, a very " broken " country. 

Quebrada (Sp. quebrar^ to break) seems to 
be the exact equivalent of " barranco." It 
literally means a " break ; " and the adjective 
form " quebrado " corresponds to our word 
"broken" as applied topographically, except 
that it seems to convey the idea of a still 
rougher country than that simple word would 
generally be intended to indicate. We should 
describe a " quebrado " region as one " cut-up " 
by deep ravines or canons. " Quiebra " is 
simply a variant of " quebrada." Raimondi 
uses the last-named word almost exclusively 
to designate every possible form of ravine or 
gorge occurring in the Peruvian Andes. 

Garganta (the throat, the gorge) seems, as 
a topographical designation, to be the exact 
equivalent of "quebrada" and of the French 
and English "gorge." Pissis employs it con- 
stantly in the topographical description of 
Chili, intended as an explanation of his great 
map of that country. While "garganta" oc- 
curs on almost every page of that description, 
the words " barranco " and " quebrada " are 
rarely, if ever, found in it. 

C^cova is another Spanish name for 
"gorge," and is apparently nearly the equiva- 


lent of " barranco " or " garganta." It is de- 
rived from the Latin coticavus. " Carcovo " 
and " carcabucho " are other forms in which 
this word appears in various works on the 
geology of Spain ; the latter is a form pecu- 
liar to a certain district in the Province of 

Cajon, as already mentioned, means " de- 
file," "gorge," or "canon" (as the Americans 
use this latter word), and especially a defile 
leading up to a mountain pass; hence also 
the pass itself. It is the augmentative of caja, 
box. Rivers are sometimes said to be " enca- 
jonados," or " boxed in," as we might say in 
English, when they occupy a narrow valley 
enclosed between high, precipitous walls ; or, 
as is frequently said in the Cordilleran Region, 
when they " canon." The idea of " boxing 
in " a stream is one not unfamiliar to people 
living along the eastern base of the Rocky 
Mountains, since we there occasionally hear of 
" box canons " — some narrow defiles with pre- 
cipitous walls, between which a stream mean- 
ders, being thus denominated. There is also a 

* " Batres con sus carcabuchos (que asi llama en quella 
comarca i. los cdrcavos 6 barrancos de que se halla ro- 
deado)." (De Prado, Descripcion ffsica y geoldgica de la 
Provincia de Madiid.) 


well-known pass in Southern California called 
the " Cajon/' or " Cajon Pass." 

Gully is a word in general use in England 
and in the United States, with essentially the 
same meaning in both countries. A "gully" 
is a very small ravine. A hollow or channel 
worn in soft earth, gravel, or sand by a heavy 
rain-fall would be called a "gully;" but a 
similar one on a larger scale, worn by a per- 
manent stream, would not — as this word is 
now used — be thus designated. "Gully" 
appears to be the same word as " gullet " 
(Lat. gula, Fr. goiilct), meaning throat, neck 
of a bottle or of any other long-necked arti- 
cle of a similar kind, and hence water-course, 
which was also formerly its meaning in Eng- 
hsh. At present " gullet " is used exclusively 
to designate the throat, and " gully " as a 
topographical word, with the meaning given 
above. In the first published attempt at 
a description of the White Mountains, what 
we now call "ravines" are spoken of as 

The word gulch is one in common use in 
the Cordilleran Region, with almost exactly 
the same meaning as " gully " in the Eastern 
States. The smaller ravines worn by water 

* Josselyn, New England's Rarities, London, 1672, p. 3. 


running down the steep slopes of the river 
canons, and dry during most of the year, are 
familiarly known to the mmers as "gulches," 
and a large proportion of the gold obtained 
in the early days of California was won by 
washing the material scraped out of the bot- 
toms of these " gulches " with the aid of the 
knife or some other equally simple tool. 
" Gulch " is a good English word, meaning, 
according to Wedgwood, " a gully or swallow 
in a river," and closely aUied to "gulp," to 
swallow in a hurry, especially a liquid, and 
nearly the same as "bolt," a word only used, 
however, with reference to solid food. 

Chasm has come down to us from the 
Greek, little altered in sound or meaning. 
It is the Greek xao-/^a (from x'^^^^y to gape, 
yawn, or open widely), a yawning fissure, or 
deep precipitous cavity in the rocks or in the 
earth in general, and used with this meaning 
by various classic authors, or just as we use 
it in English. So rare is its occurrence in 
French that it is only found in the supple- 
ment to Littre, where it is called a "neolo- 
gisme," and the first use of it in that lan- 
guage credited to Chateaubriand, who in his 
" M^moires d'Outretombe " calls the gorge 
below the Falls of Niagara a " chasme." The 


word is not found in Grimm's Dictionary in 
any form. It is occasionally used in England, 
especially in poetry. Thus Wordsworth, in 
writing of the " Devil's Bridge," North Wales, 
says : — 

" There I seem to stand 
As in life's mom ; permitted to behold, 
From the dread chasm, woods above woods, 
In pomp that fades not ; everlasting snows ; 
And skies that ne'er relinquish their repose." 

The word " chasm " has obtained a firm 
hold as the name of the deep gorge of the 
Au Sable River, near Keeseville, N. Y., which 
is now almost exclusively known as the " Au 
Sable Chasm." Some of the more prominent 
fissures or ravines worn by the waves in the 
rocky cliffs of the New England coast are 
called "chasms;" others are designated as 
"purgatories" (see that word, farther on). 
" Rafe's Chasm " near Gloucester, Mass., is 
a much visited locality, not differing essentially 
from the Newport "Purgatory." 

Gulf is a word which is variously applied 
in topography, and comes from the Greek 
Kokiro^i^ Kok^o%, the exact equivalent of the 
Latin sinus, meaning the bosom, or a bosom- 
like fold in a garment, any bosom-like hollow 
or indentation in the sea-coast, and also (but 
more rarely) a depression or hollow in the 


land, a valley or vale. The Latin word sinus 
is also used widi all these meanings, excepting 
perhaps the last. KoAttos has taken two forms 
in French — " golfe," and "gouffre." The 
former is almost exclusively used as in English 
to designate a deep indentation in the sea- 
coast. "Gouffre " is more like our "abyss " 
(Gr. alSva-a-os, bottomless, unfathomable), and, 
like that, a favorite with poets, orators, and 
others who delight in the use of resounding 
words of rather vague meaning. Any locality 
in regard to which little or nothing is known, 
but which is believed to be a place of horror, 
filled with fire or water, deep, dark, and 
awful, may be called in French a "gouffre," 
or in English an "abyss," or "abysm," as 
Shakspeare has it ; thus, from various French 
authors, " gouffres eternels," "gouffre infini 
du neant," " gouffres du trepas," etc. — local- 
ities the precise situation or topographical 
character of which it would be hard to define. 
Quite similar to this is the use, in English, of 
the words "gulf" and "abyss;" thus, "gulf 
of torments," "abysm of time," "abysm of 
hell," etc. As a topographical designation, 
on land, the word "gulf" is occasionally used 
in this country. The long, narrow, but deep 
excavations worn by the streams in Northern 


New York, west of the Adirondacks, are lo- 
cally known as " gulfs ; " thus, the " Gulf of 
Loram," the " Gulf of Rodman," etc. In the 
White Mountains this word is also in use, 
to a limited extent, as the equivalent of a 
deep, precipitous ravine ; for example, Oakes's 
Gulf, on the east side of Mount Monroe. The 
" purgatory " at Great Barrington, Mass., is 
now sometimes called the " ice-gulf." A 
similar topographical use of this word, as 
designating a feature of the land, is seen in 
the following quotation from James Beattie : 

" Fancy a thousand wondrous forms descries. 
More wildly great than ever pencil drew — 
Rocks, torrents, gulfs, and shapes of giant size, 
And glittering cliffs on cliffs, and fiery ramparts rise." 

Flume, a word which was once in use in 
England as the equivalent of " river " (Lat. 
fiume?i, Jlitere^ to flow), dropped out of the 
language, as spoken in that country, and is 
not to be found in any edition of Johnson. 
It is, however, a well-known word in the 
United States, where it means, as ordinarily 
used, an artificial channel of boards in which 
water is carried for any purpose, but especially 
for turning a water-wheel; in English, a 
" mill-race." A " flume " in California, and 
on the Pacific Coast generally, is a structure 


of boards by the aid of which the water of 
any stream is diverted from its channel for the 
purpose of washing the sand and gravel in 
the bed thus left dry.* The wooden aque- 
ducts in which the water of the "ditches" 
(small canals built to convey water from the 
mountains for mining purposes) is conveyed 
across valleys or ravines, are called " flumes.'* 
They were found very useful in the " early 
days " of California for hanging up criminals 
convicted in Judge Lynch's court. Hence 
the phrase " gone up the flume," a euphuism 
extended so as to designate one who has 
come to grief in any way — hanging included. 
" Flume " with a topographical meaning is 
also a familiar word in this country. It is 
chiefly used in the White Mountain region, 
where it is the name of several deep, narrow 
ravines or gorges, with nearly perpendicular 
walls, through which runs a stream of water 
forming a series of cascades. By far the best- 
known locality bearing this name is that situ- 
ated on a branch of the Pemigewasset River, 
in the Franconia Notch, in which a huge 
bowlder formerly hung suspended high above 
the stream ; but which was swept away by the 
rush of water through the gorge resulting from 
* This operation is called "fluming" the river. 


a "cloud-burst" which took place on the 
mountains above, June 20, 1883. The " New- 
Flume," near Franconia, is another locality 
of very similar character. 

A word which has been curiously diverted 
from its original theological meaning into a 
topographical one is purgatory. Along the 
coast of New England, and in the interior, 
narrow ravines with nearly perpendicular walls 
are called '' purgatories." The origin of the 
name is easily understood. Purgatory (Lat. 
puf'gare, purgatio) is supposed to be a place 
not easily gotten through, and not traversed 
with comfort by those who do succeed in 
doing this. The topographical " purgatories " 
are more or less blocked up by huge angular 
rocks which have fallen from above, and hence 
a passage through them is no easy matter. 
The best-known localities bearing the name 
of " purgatories " are those at Sutton and 
Great Barrington, Mass., and there is one on 
the sea-shore at Newport, R. I. The Sutton 
Purgatory is three or four hundred feet 
long, about fifty feet wide, and from fifty to 
seventy high, with nearly vertical walls of 
gneiss, the bottom being without running 
water, and covered with large, angular masses 
of rock. The Great Barrington Purgatory is 


almost a fac-simile of that at Sutton, except 
that there are more trees and undergrowth in 
the latter than in the former. There is also 
a " purgatory " in the Rocky Mountains, this 
name being given to a gorge, defile, or canon, 
traversed by one of the branches of the Ar- 
kansas (Purgatory River). This "purgatory" 
is on a grand scale, it being more than fifty 
miles long, and its walls from eight hundred to 
a thousand feet high.* There are also at least 

* Colonel Dodge thinks that this river was called 
Purgatory River because it had been previously named 
" Rio de las Animas Perdidas " by the Spaniards, " purga- 
tory" being, as he thinks, the translation of "animas per- 
didas " (lost souls). This name is said to have been given 
in consequence of the loss (in what manner is not stated) 
of an entire Spanish regiment in the caiion. Evidence of 
the truth of this supposed calamity the present writer has 
not been able to find. WT^en we consider how completely 
this locality agrees (topographically) with those which have 
been thus designated in various other parts of the country — 
except that it is on a grander scale than the others — the 
explanation of the origin of the name given by Colonel 
Dodge seems hardly admissible. Emory and Abert, U. S. 
officers, the earliest scientific explorers of this region, call 
this river and caiion "Purgatory River " and " Rio Purga- 
torio." Colonel Emory adds that the river is also called 
"the Picatoire, a corruption of Purgatoire." Mr. W. A. 
Bell, who also explored this region m connection with one 
of the Pacific Railroad sur\''eys, says, after describing the 
wonderful effects of color in the cafion of the Purgatory : 
"There cannot be a doubt that, coming unexpectedly upon 
this marvellous spectacle, Purgatory was the constant and 


two localities on the Scottish coast which are 
designated as "purgatories" — one on the 
Orkneys, and one on the Shetland Islands.* 
Of the topographical character of these 
localities nothing is known to the present 

Close to the Orkney purgatory is a place 
called " Hell ; " and this naturally leads to the 
mention of the fact that " hell " and " devil " 
play "quite a conspicuous part in the topograph- 
ical nomenclature of this country. There is 
on the State Geological map of Kentucky 
a locality called "■ Hell for Certain," which 
closely corresponds with a Californian name 
" Hell Itself," near which latter place is one 
designated as "Nearly Hell." The two latter 
names are not on the map, and the present 
writer supposes them to have been given for 
moral reasons ; the Kentucky name was proba- 
bly connected with the undesirable physical 
character of the locality, as is certainly the 
case with various other places called " hells " 

unvarying idea impressed upon the imagination of the 
French explorers from Louisiana who first visited this 
spot; for it seemed only just out of some mighty furnace," 
etc. (New Tracks in North America, London, 1870, 
p. 88.) 

* J. R. Tudor, The Orkneys and Shetland : their Past 
and Present State, London, 1883, pp. 361, 473. 


in the Cordilleran Region. The " devil " is 
also largely mixed up with topography all over 
the United States, as well as in Europe. There 
is hardly any kind of topographical feature 
which has not somewhere the devil's name 
attached to it. But his Satanic Majesty is 
especially well provided with " pulpits " and 
" slides : " to the former his name is given 
apparently on theological principles ; to the 
latter as a practical illustration of the familiar 
phrase " Facilis descensus Averni." 

There are several words used to designate 
a certain peculiar topographical feature seen 
in various mountain regions. The most easily 
defined of these is cove (Lat. cavus, hollow). 
This word is applied topographically both 
to the sea-coast and to the mountains. A 
"cove," as a marine term, is a recess, small 
bay, or hole in the coast-line, as the " Cove 
of Cork." Small indentations in the coasts of 
lakes are frequently designated as " coves : " 
there are many such, especially on our Great 
Lakes. A " cove " is also a recess, hollow, or 
nook among the mountains. This use of the 
word is common among the foot-hills of the 
Blue Ridge, in Virginia : it is not at all infre- 
quent in the Lake District of England ; 
for example. Red Cove, Keppel Cove, etc. 


" Cove " is occasionally used by the poets, as 
in Wordsworth's " Excursion " — 

" The coves, and mountain steeps and summits." 

Another word of Celtic origin, familiar in 
England, but rarely, if at all, employed in 
this country, is coom, a term spelled in a 
variety of ways. The original Welsh is 
" cwm " (pronounced " coom "), and it is thus 
frequently written by the English. Other 
spellings are " coomb," " combe," and 
"comb."* A "coom" is thus defined by 
Mackintosh, in writing of the escarpments of 
the North and South Downs : " In most 
places they [the escarpments] are indented 
by bays and coves. The latter, in many, if 
not in most instances, are not valleys, but 
curvilinear recesses, bounded all round by 
steep slopes — the innermost part of the 
slope being often the steepest. The coves 
are sometimes so geometrically curvilinear as 
to suggest the idea of having been literally 
whirled out by the eddy of a powerful current. 
. . . The coves or cwms (as I shall hence- 

* "Coom" is preferred by the present writer as the 
spelling of this word, because it seems best to spell as prO' 
nounced when there is no special reason to the contrary. 
"Cwm "is an unpronounceable combination of letters to 
those not acquainted with Welsh. 


forth call them) are not confined to the es- 
carpments." * These cooms form one of the 
most characteristic features of the scenery of 
a great part of North Wales, and are more or 
less common in other parts of Great Britain. 
In Northern England " coom " has very much 
the same meaning that it has farther south. 
Black's " Picturesque Guide to the English 
Lakes " defines this word as '' a hollow in the 
side of a hill." As an example, Gillercoom, 
Borrowdale, may be mentioned. As the 
terms are used in the Lake District, there 
seems to be Httle, if any, difference between 
a " coom " and a " cove." 

Corry is another Celtic word, equivalent in 
meaning to " coom." It is the Gaelic coire^ 
meaning a "caldron" or "large kettle," a 
name applied, as Ramsay says, "to those 
great cliffy semicircular hollows or cirques in 
the mountains in which tarns so often He." f 
Kinahan says : "In connection with the hills 
are the cooms or corries, which are more or 
less rounded, bowl-shaped hollows or valleys 
enclosed, on all sides but one, by steep and 

* Mackintosh, Scenery of England and Wales, London, 
1869, p. 98. 

t Physical Geography and Geology of Great Britain, 3d 
ed,, London, 1872, p. 285. 


in some cases perpendicuLir cliffs. In SW. 
Kerry tlie cooms are very numerous, and of 
great dimensions, some of their bounding 
cliffs being over i,ooo and 2,000 feet high."* 
In Wales there is a lake on Cader Idris called 
Llyn C}Ti ^^ronounced cur?-}), a name unin- 
telligible to the Welsh, but a remnant of the 
Gaelic (Ramsay). Sir Walter Scott has it : — 

" Fleet foot on the correi, 
Sage counsel in cumber, 
Reel hand hi the foray, 
How sound is thy slumber ! " t 

Lady of the Lake. 

Wordsworth thus describes a '' corry " in 
the Cumbrian Chain : — 

" A little lowly vale, 
A lowly vale, and yet uplifted high, 
Among the mountains ; 
Urn-like it was in shape, deep as an urn, 
With rocks encompassed, save that to tlie south 
Was one small opening, where a heath-clad ridge 
Supplied a boundary less abrupt and close.'" 

The Excursion. 

" The word " coom," in the form of 
" combe " and " come," is widely spread 
over France and Switzerland. In Burgundy 
and some parts of the IMorvan, "combe" 

* Kinahan, Manual of the Geology of Ireland, Lon- 
don, 187S, p. 309. 

t In the note to the above it is added : " or corri, the 
hollow side of the hill, where game usually lies."' 


means a "valley," "gorge," "depression," or 
" cove " in the mountains ; hence, " level 
land," especially such as is used for pastur- 
age. We find in the environs of Autun the 
name " Comberland " as the designation of 
a small estate of pasture-land, the origin 
being evidently analogous to that of the Eng- 
lish " Cumberland." In the Nivemais and 
in Burgundy a large number of places bear 
the name of " come " in various forms ; for 
example, Comeau, Comaille, Comagne.* 

In the Jura the longitudinal valleys are 
called "combes." They are depressions 
which have been formed, sometimes by ac- 
tual longitudinal disruption of the rocks, but 
more generally by denudation, which has 
acted unequally on rocks of different geolog- 
ical character. Many of the great valleys 
of the Alps are of this t)^e ; they occur 
usually along the line of junction of a hard, 
crj'stalline rock with one which is soft and 

The early appearance of the word "combe" 
in Latin (as early as the seventh century) and 
its wide-spread distribution over Europe have 
led to considerable discussion as to its etymo- 
logical relations. Du Cange thinks that it is 

* Chambure, Glossaire du Morvan. 


from cymba (boat), in allusion to the boat- 
shape of some valleys ; Diez inclines to de- 
rive it from Lat. concava ; Littr^ prefers a 
Celtic origin for the word. Skeat says : " The 
original sense was probably * hollow ; ' cf. 
Gr. Kua/o, a cavity." The Aryan root sug- 
gested is ku, to contain, to be hollow. 

While the longitudinal depressions in the 
Jura are known as " combes," the deep, 
transverse gorges are called cluses. These 
often cut the ranges vertically, and are con- 
sidered to have resulted from the occurrence 
of great fissures or " faults " (as geologists 
call them) by which the rocks have been 
actually " rent in twain." Hence the word 
" cluse " has been rendered into English as 
"valley of disruption."* "Cluse," as a to- 
pographical designation, is not in use in Eng- 
land, although we have many words derived 
from the Latin claudo, cludo^ from which 
come daiistim and clusum, an enclosed 
space. The Germans have this word in the 
form of " Clause," defined in Grimm as 
"fauces montium," jaws of the mountains, 
and most commonly used to designate a 
mountain pass capable of being defended 
against military attack. 

* See Ball's Alpine Guide. 


"Cleugh," "dough," and "clove " are all 
variants of the same word, which is also spelled 
in various other ways, — for example, "clew," 
and " cleuch," in some older works. It is re- 
lated to the very frequently used word " cliff." 
Skeat says of "clough" : "An English form 
with a final guttural, corresponding to Icel. 
klojt, a rift in a hill-side, derived from Icel. 
kliufa^ to cleave. Similarly clough is connected 
with A. S. deofan, to cleave ; and is a doublet 
of Cleft." The word " cleugh " is frequently 
heard in Southwestern Yorkshire, where the 
rugged glens are called " cleughs." Professor 
Phillips says : " These branches [of the Cal- 
der] frequently descend through rude and 
craggy fissures, to which the name of * clough,' 
replacing Male,' is appHed." * Geikie defines 
a " cleugh " as " a still narrower [than a " dale " 
or " glen "] and steeper-sided valley, chiefly to 
be found in the higher parts of the uplands." 
He further adds : " A ' hope ' is the upper 
end of such a narrow valley, encircled with 
smooth green slopes." f This word hope, 
nearly the equivalent of "coom" and "corry," 

* The Rivers, Mountains, and Sea-Coast of Yorkshire, 
London, 1855, p. 96. 

t The Scenery of Scotland, 2d ed., London, 18S7, p. 


seems limited in use to the Southern (Scot- 
tish) Uplands. Clove is the Dutch word 
"kloof" (cleft), and is frequently heard in the 
Catskills, where the deep and wild gorges are 
called by that name, one of several relics of 
the topographical nomenclature of the early 
Dutch settlers of that region. 

The " combes " of the Jura sometimes ter- 
minate in amphitheatral forms, like the Welsh 
*' cooms," but on a still grander scale. One 
of the finest of these is the famous " Creux 
du Vent/' or Hollow of the Winds, " creux " 
(cavity) being one of the names given by 
French-speaking people to these peculiar 
topographical forms. 

I'he Pyrenees exhibit tHis remarkable scenic 
feature on a grand scale, the so-called "Cirque 
de Gavarnie " being probably the most strik- 
ing of these "cirques," or " amphitheatres " 
as they are also called in French. This is an 
" amphitheatre " of which the steps are of 
gigantic size, snow-covered, and overshadowed 
by stupendous mountain summits. Another 
local name for an amphitheatre of this kind 
is " oule," from the Spanish " olla," a pot or 

For the same reason that these " cirques " 
are sometimes called " oules," the Geological 


Survey of California, while exploring the South- 
ern High Sierra, gave the name of " Kettle " 
to one of these grand amphitheatral depres- 
sions, which so strikingly resembled a ketUe 
in form that it was impossible to refrain from 
applying that name to it. A gigantic kettle it 
is, however, for its edges are from 1,100 to 
1,600 feet above its bottom, which latter is 
smooth and rounded in the most perfect kettle 

The so-called " creux " of the Channel 
Islands are quite different in character and 
origin from those of the Jura Mountains. They 
are related to caverns, blow-holes, and pur- 
gatories. For instance, the so-called Creux 
Mahie, the largest cavern in Guernsey, is en- 
tered from the sea-shore, near Corbiere, by a 
narrow opening, nearly closed by blocks of 
rock ; but when once the visitor is fairly inside 
he finds himself in a cave 200 feet long, from 
forty to fifty feet wide and about the same in 
height. These *^ creux " are due to the com- 
bined action of the ocean and of atmospheric 
agencies. The soft and easily decomposed ma- 
terial, forming veins by which the rock is tra- 
versed, is worn away above, at the general level 
of the region, by the action of the rain, and 
lower down by that of the waves. Hence there 


results a great variety of more or less opened 
fissures, clefts, and caverns. When the fis- 
sure is entirely open from the general level of 
the surface to the edge of the sea, we have a 
"purgatory" — although not so called in the 
Channel Islands ; when there is communica- 
tion through from top to bottom, but cov- 
ered for a portion of the distance, the result 
is a " blow-hole ; " if there is an extensive 
widening of the fissure, as is the case in the 
Creux Mahie, a cave is the result ; but these 
various forms are all locally designated as 
" creux." 

" Blow-hole " is the name given to these 
partly covered fissures on the west coast of 
Ireland and Scotland, as well as on the north 
side of Cornwall. Sometimes, in heavy gales 
of wind, the sea is driven into these holes and 
forced out at the top in grand masses of foam 
and spray. Hence these "blow-holes" are 
also called "puffing-holes," and " bullers " or 


The nomenclature of mountains and parts 
of mountains depends — as will have been 
seen from what has been already stated — 
chiefly on for77i. As soon as we begin to 
consider the level, or approximately level, 
portions of the earth, and to study the vari- 
ous names by which these are known, we per- 
ceive that the character of the vegetation plays 
an important part in the nomenclature. A 
few words in regard to this may therefore 
appropriately precede the more detailed 
enumeration and explanation of the names 
belonging to this division of our general 

The surface of the earth is very unequally 
covered with vegetation, and this vegetation 
is of a very different character in different 
climates, latitudes, and elevations. In gen- 
eral, warmth and moisture are favorable to 
vegetable growth, and for this reason the 


tropical regions are those where we expect 
to find the greatest luxuriance of plant life. 
The extreme northern and southern land 
areas are, on the other hand, almost or quite 
destitute of vegetation, because, although 
moisture may abound, the mean temperature 
is too low. For the same reason we find 
that as we ascend high mountains the forests 
disappear; then the grasses and herbaceous 
plants; and finally, if the elevation be suffi- 
cient, we come to rock, either bare or sparsely 
covered with the lowest forms of vegetable 
life, while still higher these give place to 
eternal snow and ice. The portions of the 
earth's surface which are nearly or quite des- 
titute of vegetation form but a very small part 
of the entire land area, and are of little im- 
portance from the present point of view. It 
is the presence or absence of forests, and 
their peculiar distribution, which is the most 
important element in the nomenclature of the 
level portions of the earth ; but where trees 
are wanting, then the character of the shrubby 
or grassy vegetation may be more or less 
clearly indicated in the name applied to the 
region in question. Thus nomenclature be- 
comes, when we have to do with the more 
level portions of the earth's surface, largely a 


matter of botanical geography and climatic 
peculiarities, rather than of form. 

An examination of various regions, either 
by personal inspection or by the study of 
botanico-geographical maps, shows us that a 
very considerable portion of the land is des- 
titute of forests, and that this is often the case 
where there is no lack of warmth, and also — 
although to a much more limited extent — 
where the conditions of both temperature and 
moisture appear to be favorable to the growth 
of an arboreal vegetation. Further examina- 
tion shows us that these non-forested regions 
are, in very large part, the more level areas — 
the plains, prairies, steppes, llanos, pampas, 
campos ; in every one of these words the 
idea of the absence or scarcity of trees is 
connected with that of a level or slightly un- 
dulating surface. 

Without going into minute detail as to why 
this is so, a few hints may be given throwing 
light on the question, and which will be of 
service in a further examination of the mean- 
ing of the words which have just been men- 
tioned, as well as of others of somewhat 
similar character. 

Absence of sufficient moisture is by far the 
most important agent in checking the devel- 


opment of forests. A comparison of maps 
showing the position of the isohyetal curves 
throughout the world, with those indicating 
the character and distribution of the arboreal 
vegetation, furnishes the most convincing evi- 
dence of this. In the United States, for in- 
stance, we find the region of the " Plains " to 
be that where the annual precipitation falls 
below twenty or twenty-five inches. Hence 
the interiors of the great land masses are most 
likely to be treeless regions, because the bor- 
ders of the continents, as a general rule, re- 
ceive more rain than their interiors. When 
these borders are mountainous, and especially 
when the mountains lie athwart the direction 
of the prevailing winds, they cut off the pre- 
cipitation almost entirely, so that, in going but 
a very short distance, we may pass from a 
region of excessive rain-fall to one of extreme 

But there are other causes besides cold and 
dryness which are unfavorable to the develop- 
ment of forests. The physical character of 
the soil is one of the most important of these 
causes ; and the present \vriter has elsewhere 
shown the truth of this statement, and furnished 
abundant evidence that extreme fineness of 
the soil is the chief cause why extensive 


regions, otherwise favorably situated for the 
growth of trees, are destitute of them.* With 
these facts in view, it is easy to see why plains 
are more likely than mountain slopes to be 
treeless. It is toward the plains that the finer 
material abraded from the higher regions is 
constantly being carried. The farther from 
the mountains — that is, the broader and more 
extensive the plain — the finer will be the 
material deposited upon it ; and this is true 
whether the detritus thus conveyed be laid 
down as a subaerial or submarine deposit. In 
a mountain and plateau region, like much of 
that between the Rocky Mountains and the 
Sierra Nevada, we find the more level portions 
almost entirely destitute of forests, while the 
mountain ranges which extend across that part 
of the country are to a certain extent timbered, 
partly because they are high enough to con- 
dense some of that moisture which does not 
fall on the lower regions, and partly because 
the finer material, inimical to the growth of 
trees, has been swept down the steep slopes 
into and over the broad valleys which lie at 
the bases of the mountain ranges. 

* See Geology of Iowa (1858), vol. i. p. 23; The 
American Naturalist for October and November, 1S76; 
Science for All, vol. v. p. 124; Encyclopaedia Britannica, 
9th ed., vol. xxiii., art. "United States." 



These preliminary remarks will enable the 
reader to understand why, in the nomenclature 
we have here to investigate, we find so gener- 
ally that the topographical designations in- 
clude with the idea of flatness and absence of 
mountains that of a corresponding absence of 
forest vegetation. We shall also see how it is 
that a number of foreign words have become 
very familiar to us as appellations of regions 
in other parts of the world exhibiting certain 
peculiarities of surface and of vegetation, and 
why these same words are so frequently used 
by travellers and writers on physical geography 
in their descriptions of our soil, cHmate, and 
scenic features. 

The most general and commonly used word 
in English for a level area is plain (Lat. planus; 
It. piaTio, pia?iura ; Fr. plaine). A " plain " 
may be either large or small, forested or bare 
of trees, or covered with a shrubby vegetation ; 
it may also be low or elevated. It is the anti- 
thesis of " mountain." The land surface of the 
earth consists of mountains and plains. Be- 
sides this use of the word "plain " in a general 
way as the opposite of" mountain," we find that 
there are interesting specializations of it both in 
England and in the United States. The most 
important is in this country j the vast, nearly 


level area extending west from a little way be- 
yond the Mississippi to the base of the Rocky 
Mountains being now generally known as the 
"Plains." "The Plains of the Great West" 
is the title of Colonel Dodge's work giving 
his experience in that region. " Life on the 
Plains " is to us a familiar phrase. No Ameri- 
can would have any difficulty in understanding 
what is meant by "the Plains." The term 
has come gradually into use since the days of 
Lewis and Clarke, who at the beginning of 
their journey hesitated whether to call the 
treeless portions of the region over which they 
were travelling " prairies " or " plains," but 
who soon dropped the former term. Since 
their day the " Prairies " and the " Plains " 
have been distinctly separated from each other, 
and among travellers in the West there is no 
confusion of the two terms. The plains of 
England are on a small scale as compared 
with those in this country. The broad, undu- 
lating, treeless areas underlain by the chalk, 
and forming a sort of table-land to the west 
and north of the London Basin, are generally 
called "downs" (see farther on) ; but there is 
one well-known locaHty designated as a "plain " 
— Salisbury Plain — a name familiar to many 
as the home of the " Shepherd of Salisbury 


Plain/' a pious tract once (and perhaps still) 
extensively circulated in this country. 

Plateau and table-land are nearly synony- 
mous terms — the one French, but now thor- 
oughly Anglicized, the other English. These 
words carry with them the idea of elevation 
and extent. They are scientific geographical 
designations rather than such as are used 
in every-day life. The elevated compara- 
tively level regions on which great chains of 
mountains, like the Himalaya and Cordil- 
leras, are built up, are called " plateaux." By 
" Plateau Region," in this country, we mean 
the vast area extending from the Rocky 
Mountains west to the Sierra Nevada and 
Cascade Range — a region having an eleva- 
tion of from 3,000 to 6,000 feet above the 
sea-level, and on which are built up numerous 
ranges of mountains, some of which lack little 
or nothing of being as grand as the Pyrenees. 
The great uplifted flat areas of land, sepa- 
rated by the canons of the Colorado and its 
branches, are called " plateaux," as the type 
of which the Kaibab may be taken, 7,500 to 
9,300 feet high, quite fiat on the top, and 
isolated almost entirely by gorges thousands 
of feet deep. The word ''plateau" is of 
rather recent introduction into the English 


language ; it is not found in the earlier edi- 
tions of Johnson's Dictionary, down to and 
including that of Todd (1827). In Latham's 
edition (1876) it is defined simply as "table- 
land." Central Asia is pecuHarly a region 
of plateaux. The stupendous mountains of 
that portion of the Continent rise from equally 
stupendous plateaux. The Pyrenees, Alps, 
and the Caucasus, on the other hand, are 
mountain regions almost wanting in these 
broad elevated plains or plateaux. 

The flat summits of mountains are some- 
times called "tables," and especially in Cal- 
ifornia, where there are several " Table 
Mountains," all fragments of great lava-flows, 
capped usually with horizontal or table-hke 
masses of basalt. The "Table Mountain " of 
South Africa is, however, the best known of 
the eminences thus designated, and is the only 
one furnished with a table-doth.^ There are 
two tabular hills forming conspicuous land- 
marks on the northwest side of Skye (one of 
the Outer Hebrides) which are known as 
"Macleod's Tables." Like the Californian 
" Table Mountains," they are capped with 
horizontal beds of lava. 

* The cloud of vapor borne in from the sea and 
condensed on the summit of Table Mountain. 


Highland and table-land are by no means 
sjoionymous terms. Flat regions are, as a 
general rule, not called *' highlands." Certain 
mountainous districts have almost a monop- 
oly of that name, as the " Scottish Highlands," 
and the "Highlands of New York," which 
latter is the designation of the precipitous 
ranges through which the Hudson River finds 
its way in the vicinity of West Point, and 
which is thought to be one of the most pic- 
turesque spots in the Atlantic States. The 
whole Cordilleran Region has sometimes been 
called the *' Western Highlands;" but this 
name has not been received with favor. 

The Spanish use the word mesa (table), 
and its diminutive meseta, not exactly as 
we do its English equivalent, but rather to 
designate broad terraces, as we call them — 
a river being said to be " terraced " when we 
rise from it on either side, not by a gradually 
ascending slope, but by a succession of steps 
or steep inclines, between which are com- 
paratively level areas. This is a topograph- 
ical condition of very common occurrence 
throughout the world, and it is one of the 
many existing evidences of the much greater 
volume of the rivers in former times. Each 
steep rise, with its corresponding level area 


above, is called a " terrace," or, in Spanish, a 
" mesa." In the Colorado Region these ter- 
races occur on a grand scale ; and that part 
of the Southwest is frequently called the Mesa 
Country, or Region, many Spanish names 
being still current there. While "mesa," as 
often used, is nearly the equivalent of " ter- 
race," " meseta " has more frequently the 
meaning of " plain " or " table." A flat area 
of moderate dimensions, occurring in a moun- 
tainous region, and not forming a part of a 
river bottom, would, by many writers, be 
called a " meseta." 

While the use of the word "plain" does 
not necessarily imply that the region thus 
designated is destitute of trees, yet it would 
generally be understood that this was the 
case, unless the contrary were especially stated. 
There are words, however, which while con- 
veying the idea of flatness of surface, also 
distinctly include that of entire absence or 
decided scarcity of forests. The word of 
most importance in this connection, because 
most widely and extensively used by writers 
in English, is savanna, spelled frequently, 
especially in older books, " savannah." This 
word has come to us from the Spanish, and 
yet with its present signification it is decidedly 


American. It is the Spanish sabana (sheet), 
which originally had the accent on the first 
syllable, and is believed to be derived from the 
Greek a-d/Savov, which again is thought to be 
connected with the Arabic sabaniya, fi-om 
Saban, a place near Bagdad, where linen is, 
or was formerly, made. The Latin form of 
this word was originally sabamuii, and later 
sabana^ in which form it appears as early as 
781 (Littr6). Its first use in Spain as a 
topographical designation seems to have been 
exclusively with reference to snow or ice, just 
as we say in English "a sheet of ice." It ap- 
pears with this definition in the first edition 
of the Dictionary of the Spanish Academy, 
(1739), and with the accent on the first syl- 
lable.* It then disappears from subsequent 
editions, down to as late, at least, as that of 
1822, but is found in all the later Spanish 
dictionaries, including those of Caballero 
(1865), Salva (1865), Dominguez (1882), 
Barcia (1882), with the accent always on the 
second syllable, and is defined as meaning 
"an extensive, treeless plain {llaiiura)^'' and 
generally with the additional remark, either 
that this is a word much used in America, or 

* " Por semejanza se llama el piano grande nevado que 
esta mui bianco e i.Efual." 


that the plains called " sabanas " lie west of 
the Mississippi.* With this topographical 
meaning the word in question seems to 
have been first used by Oviedo, who in his 
"Historia de las Indias " (1535) speaks of 
a certain region in the West Indies as being 
a " tierra de muy grandes savanas ^ arroyos 

This word also appears at an early date in 
French (savane)^ in works describing the 
geography of portions of the American conti- 
nent where this language was spoken. It is 
defined as being the equivalent of "prairie " 
(meadow) in Pelleprat's dictionary (1655). 
Curiously enough, the same word {savane) 
appears also early in the history of this coun- 
try as meaning, in Canada, not a dry, treeless 
plain, but a low swampy region covered with 
a tangled and dwarfed forest growth. This is 

* Barcia (1882) says: " Sabana — P^amo, llanura sin 
arboles, extensa y arenosa. Es voz de mucho uso en 
America." In quite recent official works on the geology 
of Spain, written and published in that country, the word 
"sabana " is occasionally used just as it has so long been in 
America. Thus the great central, treeless plain of Spain 
is called the '* gran sabana central " (not sdbana), and other 
treeless areas are designated as " sabanas." The same 
word is also, although rarely, applied to the water, it being 
used exactly as we do the word " sheet " when we speak 
of a " sheet of water." 


the definition of savane given by Charlevoix ; * 
and the same still holds good in that part of 
the country, for the writer, while surveying 
the Lake Superior region, always heard his 
French voyageurs\ call what we designated 
as " cedar-swamps " — horrible, tangled, 
swampy thickets of arbor-vitae — by the name 
savane. Charlevoix adds that the dwellers in 
the savanes are known as savanois. 

The word " savanna " (or " savannah") oc- 
curs in English books of an early date. Wafer 
(1699) uses it repeatedly in describing the 
Isthmus of Panama, and in such a way as to 
leave no doubt that he meant to indicate by 
it a region destitute of forests. J Shelvocke 
(1726) has no other term for a treeless region 
than " savanna." In later years this word 
has become less prominent, although still not 
unfrequently used by geographers especially 
in describing American localities. Humboldt 
does not use it in his " Ansichten der Natur," 
in his famous chapter " Ueber die Steppen und 
Wiisten," although it occurs in the notes 

* Histoire de la Nouvelle France (1744), vol. iii. p. iSi. 

t Boatmen and packers, old servants of the Hudson's 
Bay Company. 

X " An open savannah." " Savannah on the Westside ; 
though the Eastside is woodland." (Wafer, Voyages, 
etc., pp. 190, 72.) 


thereto, with the definition ^' Grasfluren " 
(grassy plains or meadows) appended. Hum- 
boldt was not acquainted with the distinction 
made in this country between " plains " and 
'•prairies," and it is not surprising that the 
English translator (Mrs. Sabine) should have 
rendered " Grasfluren " by the word " prai- 
ries," when the author himself would have 
put " plains " had he been as familiar with 
the physical geography of North America as 
he was with that of the southern division of 
this continent. At the present time the word 
''savanna" is — so far as the writer has 
noticed, in many years of travel — never used 
in familiar conversation as designating any 
portion of the treeless area of the Western or 
Cordilleran Region. It seems, however, to be 
to a certain extent current in the extreme 
South, especially in Florida, where the rich 
alluvial flats along the streams are known as 
"savannas." Thus Mr. Barbour says, in 
speaking of the land adjacent to the St. John's 
River, above Lake Monroe, " it is a flat, level 
region of savannas, much resembling the 
vast prairies of Illinois. . . . These savannas 
are everywhere covered with luxuriant growths 
of marshy grasses and maiden cane, with 
occasional clumps of timber, consisting some- 


times of but three or four trees, and some- 
times being several acres in extent." * 

An interesting and important word, espe- 
cially throughout the Mississippi Valley, is 
prairie (Lat. pratiim^ L. Lat. prataria, Ital. 
prater ia, Fr. prairie, and formerly praerie and 
prerie, meadow, pasture-land). This French 
word is one perfectly familiar to us, and yet 
not to be found in English dictionaries pub- 
lished in England, t It came into use in the 
Mississippi Valley through the French mis- 
sionaries and the employes of the Hudson's 
Bay Company. Father Hennepin (1697) 
describes the prairies of Illinois so minutely 
and correctly that a better description could 
hardly be made at the present time. Lewis 
and Clarke use the word frequently in the 
earlier portions of their adventurous journey ; 
farther on, however, they are more inclined 
to speak of the treeless regions through which 
they passed as " plains." The distinction be- 
tween '' prairie " and " plain " is one which 
has come gradually into existence as the routes 
of explorers and settlers have extended them- 
selves farther and farther west. Every one 

* Florida for Tourists, Invalids, and Settlers, p. 31. 
t It is not in Todd's Johnson (1827), nor in Latham's 
edition of the same (1876). 


knows that the " Prairie States " are those 
lying contiguous to the Mississippi, and every 
one understands what '^ the Plains " are, and 
no Western man would ever think of con- 
founding the two designations. Those who 
have studied the prairies and the plains know 
very well that the causes which have brought 
about the treeless condition of portions of 
the region of large precipitation in the States 
bordering on the Mississippi cannot be the 
same as those to which is due the scarcity of 
forests in the arid belt lying still farther west. 
Besides the words "prairie" and "plain" 
there are two others in use in the Cordilleran 
Region, with meanings quite Hmited to certain 
districts. Very early in the history of the 
exploration of the Rocky Mountains certain 
comparatively level, grassy areas were desig- 
nated as holes. Pierre's Hole, " a valley 
about thirty miles in length and fifteen in 
width, bounded to the east and south by low 
and broken ridges, and overlooked to the east 
by three lofty mountains, called the Three Te- 
tons, which domineer as landmarks over a 
vast extent of country," * was a noted rendez- 

* W. Irving, The Rocky Mountains, vol. i. p. 76. The 
name given to the "eventful valley of Pierre's Hole" — as 
Irving calls it — was that of a brave chieftain who there fell 
by the hands of the Blackfeet. 


vous for the fur-hunters and trappers in the 
early days of western exploration. Some of 
these " holes " still retain that designation ; 
others are now known as *^ prairies " or " val- 
leys," the name "hole " having been adjudged 
not sufficiently elegant. Most of the small 
grassy areas shut in by the mountains in that 
portion of the range which is embraced within 
the Territories of Idaho and Montana are 
known as " prairies." Farther south, in Col- 
orado and Wyoming, the high plateau-like 
valleys, which resemble the " holes " and 
" prairies " of the more northern region, ex- 
cept that they are on a much larger scale, are 
known as parks, and were thus designated 
many years ago. 

The word "park" properly means an en- 
closure, as does also "paddock" (A. S.pear- 
7'uc, pearroc, a small enclosure) — a word very 
little used in this country. Skeat says : " It 
is tolerably certain ihaX paddock is a corruption 
of parrock, another form of parky * By 

* Littre says, of the French word " pare," " mot 
d'origine obscure," and adds that it is not certain that it 
comes from the Celtic. It is a word which, in some form, 
is widely distributed through the languages of Europe. Diez 
thinks that it is from the Latin farcere, to spare or reserve, 
with the idea that a " park " is a *' reservation." This latter 
word is chiefly used in this country to designate a tract of 


"park," in this country, is generally under- 
stood an enclosure, laid out as a pleasure- 
ground, planted with a variety of ornamental 
trees, distributed in picturesque grouping, and 
rendered accessible by roads and paths. Such 
a park may be private propert)^ forming a part 
of a gentleman's estate, but more often a pub- 
lic pleasure-ground, in or near a town or city. 
When the " parks " of the Rocky Mountains 
are spoken of, it is usually the more conspicu- 
ous ones — the North, Middle, and South 
Parks — which are intended to be designated. 
Of these, the North Park is in Wyoming, the 
others in Colorado. They are areas of various 
dimensions, walled in by mountains, and lying 
at a high altitude. The North and Middle 
Parks are comparatively small, and include 
but little level land. The South Park is about 
forty miles long by fifteen or twenty broad, and 
is more like a plateau or plain than the others. 
Its northern end lies at an elevation of about 
10,000 feet, and it declines toward the south 
to about 8,000. The San Luis Valley (or Park, 
as it is sometimes called) lies still farther south, 
is much larger than the others, and less '-park- 
land set apart by the Government for some special purpose, 
as for occupation by the Indian tribes, or for a light-house, 
or for military defence. 


like," being, in fact, in large part a sandy des- 
ert where nothing of value can be grown with- 
out irrigation. For the other "parks," that 
name is not entirely fanciful, since they are en- 
closed by mountains, and in places, especially 
along the edges of the mountains, ornamented 
by clumps of trees, which are sometimes very 
gracefully and picturesquely grouped. 

There are several words nearly equivalent 
in meaning to *' plain" and "prairie " which 
are more or less in use among those writing 
in English on the physical geography of this 
and other countries, although they cannot be 
said to have been adopted into the language, 
so as to have become " household words," as 
is the case with " prairie." Steppe, llano, 
and pampa are sufficiently familiar, even to 
school-children, who are early taught that the 
grassy, treeless plains of Northern Asia and 
of South America, north and south of the 
Amazon, are respectively thus designated. 
Following the example of Humboldt, writers 
on the physical geography of North or South 
America not unfrequently speak of the 
" steppes " of the New World. " Ansichten 
der Natur" (Aspects, or Views, of Nature) is 
the title of the well-known and extensively 
circulated book which has made us so familiar 


with the word " steppe." In the section of 
this work entitled "Ueber die Steppen und 
Wiisten," Humboldt frequently calls the tree- 
less plains of both North and South America 
'' Steppen," the German plural of " Steppe," 
which is the form the word has in the singular in 
English, French, and German. It is the Russian 
cxenB, a word frequently used in that country in 
the singular, but by those writing in other lan- 
guages more commonly put in the plural — the 
" steppes " (Ger. Steppen). The word is defined 
by Dal as a " treeless, and frequently waterless, 
uncultivated region of large extent ; a desert." * 
Some additional remarks in regard to the 
limits and character of the " steppes " will be 
found farther on, under the word heath. 

Llano has the same origin and meaning as 
our '^ plain," and is used by the Spanish just 
as we use that word. " Llano " as a noun, 
and its derivative "llanura" (a llano region), 
are commonly employed wherever this lan- 

* Th2 word here translated " desert " (nycTbiHa) means 
literally an ^;«/j'j region — that is, uninhabited, or thinly 
inhabited. It is the exact equivalent of the Hungarian 
fuszta, which means an empty or uninhabited region. The 
Hungarian " pusztas " occupy a large portion of the cen- 
tral part of that country, and are given over to cattle- 
raising, In the " puszta region " there are fertile areas, 
like oases, where are large estates on which ordinary farm- 
ing is carried on. 



guage is spoken; but the "llanos" proper 
are the vast treeless plains extending " from 
the Caracas coast chain to the forest of 
Guiana, and from the snowy mountains of 
Merida to the great delta formed by the Ori- 
noco at its mouth" (Humboldt). ''This 
steppe," the author goes on to say, " occupies 
an area of over a quarter of a million square 

The treeless region to the south of the 
Amazon forest-belt is known as the pampa — 
a name as familiar to us as is that of "llano." 
" Pampa " is certainly an aboriginal Peruvian 
(Quichuan) word, although some have sought 
for its etym.ological relations in the Latin 
^ampinus, from which comes the French 
pamj>re (the leafy branch or shoot of the 
grape-vine). But, aside from the fact that 
there seems to be no connection between a 
leafy vine and a treeless area, it appears that 
the word " pampa " — also written " bamba " 
— is one of frequent occurrence in Peru, 
where it forms a part of many aboriginal 
proper names, with the meaning of " level 
spot," or " field." * The word " pampa " is 

* " La falta de llanuras en esta provincia [Pomabamba] 
es lo que ha dado lugar i. que se aplicase la terminacion 
de bamba i. todos los lugares donde se encuentra la mas 
pequena meseta." (Raimondi, El Peru, vol. i. p. 312.) 


not — nor has it ever been — in use in Spain, 
except as imported (if this expression may be 
allowed) from South America. 

Pdramo is another Spanish word much in 
use in the Andes, but with which we are 
less familiar than we are with " llano " and 
"pampa." By " paramo " is generally under- 
stood, according to Barcia, "a desert plain, 
bare of trees, at a high elevation, open to 
the winds, uncultivated and uninhabited." 
Humboldt says that the term " paramo " in- 
cludes all those mountainous regions in the 
Andes which are from 11,500 to 14,000 feet 
above the sea-level, and which have disagree- 
ably raw and foggy climate. The vegetation 
of the Andean paramos is decidedly Alpine, 
and shrubby or grassy; but this word, as 
used by some later Spanish writers — Barcia 
to the contrary, notwithstanding — includes 
high level tracts covered by dense forests.* 

Puna, a word current in the Peruvian An- 
des, and perhaps in other parts of the chain, 
seems to be nearly the equivalent of "pa- 
ramo." Tschudi says that by the name of 
*' puna " is designated the high table-land in 

* See Memorias de la Comision del Mapa Geologico 
de Espana, Provincia de Ciienca, p. 16, where the author 
speaks of " altos paramos en donde se desarolla una potente 
vegetacion forestal," etc. 


Peru and Bolivia lying between the two great 
ranges of the Cordillera, beginning at an ele- 
vation of about 10,500 feet above the sea- 
level, and extending to the region of eternal 
snow. The highest, wildest, and most deso- 
late portion of the "puna" is called the 
"puna brava " (wild puna).* Squier, in de- 
scribing the main chain of the Andes in Peru, 
says : "Its summit often spreads out in broad 
undulating plains, or punas^ varying from 
fourteen to eighteen thousand feet above the 
sea, frigid, barren, desolate, and where life is 
only represented by the hardy vicuna and the 
condor. This inhospitable region is the great 
Despoplado, or unpeopled region of Peru." f 
In the Chilian Andes, on the other hand, ac- 
cording to Darwin, it is " the short breathing 
from the rarefied atmosphere which is called 
* puna.' " The same author says, further, 
that the " puna " is considered a kind of 
disease, and that he was shown crosses 
erected over the graves of some who had 
died " punado." % 

* Tschudi, Reisen durch SUd-Amerika, Leipsig, 1869, 
vol. V. p. 197. 

t Squier, Peni, Incidents of Travel and Exploration 
in the Land of the Incas, New York, 1877, p. 9. 

% Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of the " Adven- 
ture " and " Beagle," London, 1839, vol. iii. p. 393. 


In some parts of the Chilian Andes the 
elevated pasture-lands, on which is a scanty 
growth of grass, but no trees, are designated 
by the name "talaje." * 

The word campo (Lat. campus, field) is in 
use, both in Spain and in Brazil, to designate 
certain tracts resembling our prairies in origin 
and character. Thus the "Tierra de Cam- 
pos," near Valladolid, is an old lake-bottom, 
with an extremely fertile soil, but entirely 
destitute of forests. The " campos " of Bra- 
zil are level or gently undulating tracts in the 
midst of the dense forest, but themselves 
nearly or quite treeless. Mr. Bates says of 
the country around Santarem that it is a 
"campo region," which he defines as a 
" slightly elevated and undulating tract of 
land, wooded only in patches, or with single 
scattered trees." f Mr. H. H. Smith describes 
a "campo region" as one having "trees scat- 
tered over the surface, not close enough for 
shade, nor thickly leaved enough to be called 
luxuriant." \ 

* A. Plagemann, in Peterniann's Mittheilungen, Band 
xxxiii. (1877), p. 74. 

t H. W. Bates, The Naturalist on the Amazons, 3d ed., 
London, p. 176. 

J H. H. Smith, Brazils, the Amazons, and the Coast, 
New York, p. 137. 


Mr. Bigg- Wither has studied the "campos" 
more in detail than either of the authors 
named. He says, among other things : " These 
httle bare patches or campos seem altogether 
out of harmony with the surroundings, not 
only in their comparative sterility, but also in 
the configuration of the ground. For where- 
as, in the forest land surrounding them, it 
would be difficult to find a level spot of five 
square yards together, here you may have 
many square miles of an almost perfect plain ; 
and so flat is it, indeed, in these campos that a 
large proportion of their extent is permanently 
covered by swamps." * Although Mr. Bigg- 
Wither does not say so, it would seem almost 
certain that these level treeless areas are the 
beds of more or less completely desiccated 
lakes, and that they are destitute of trees for 
the same reason that the "campos" of Spain, 
and many similar tracts in the midst of the 
dense forests of North America, are ; namely, 
because the material with which these old 
lake-beds have become filled up is of ex- 
ceeding fineness — as it must be in conse- 
quence of the surrounding conditions — and 
hence unfitted for the growth of an arboreal 

* Pioneering in South Brazil, London, 1878, vol. ii. p. 320. 


The word barren, as an adjective, is in 
general use wherever English is spoken, as the 
antithesis of " fertile." A " barren region," 
a "barren soil," are familiar phrases. The 
" Barren Grounds " form a well-known feature 
in the geography of North America, and 
under this designation are included all the 
lands in high nortliern latitudes from the 
north end of Labrador west to near the base 
of the Rocky Mountains. As Sir John Rich- 
ardson remarks : " It is the absence of trees 
which has given name and character to the 
* barren grounds ' of North America. The 
region is low, nearly level and full of lakes, 
its surface being varied by occasional rocky 
hills of moderate altitude." * 

These " barren grounds " are the exact coun- 
terpart of the tundras of Northern Europe 
and Asia, and this term is one well known to 
students of physical geography. The "tun- 
dras" begin in Northern Lapland, although 
there not designated by this name,t and stretch 
through Siberia to the base of the chains 
of mountains bordering the Asiatic continent 
on the eastern side. Seebohm describes the 
" tundras " as " naked tracts of slightly un- 

* The Polar Regions, Edinburgh, 1861, p. 263. 
t Linnaeus calls them " terrse damnatae." 


dulating land, rolling prairie or moor, swamp, 
and bog, full of lakes, and abounding with 
reindeer moss, on which the reindeer feed." * 

The word " barren " is used in various por- 
tions of the United States as a substantive, 
and generally in the plural, and with some- 
what different meanings in different regions, 
but always as including the idea of absence 
or sparseness of forests. The extensive belt 
of country running parallel with, but at some 
distance from, the Atlantic coast, through the 
Southern States, and covered with a sparse 
growth of the long-leaved pine {Piniis palus- 
iris), is known as the " pine-barrens." In 
some parts of the Mississippi Valley, tracts 
of country thinly clad with a growth of small 
or shrubby oaks are sometimes called " oak- 
barrens," or simply "barrens." This is es- 
pecially the case in Kentucky. In Wisconsin 
and some of the other Mississippi Valley States 
such tracts are known as " oak-openings." 

The soil of the Kentucky " barrens " is fer- 
tile. Dr. Owen says of this region : " In the 
early settlement of Kentucky the belt of coun- 
try over which it [the Subcarboniferous lime- 
stone] extended was shunned, and stamped 
with the appellation of ' Barrens ; ' this arose, 

* Siberia in Europe, London, 1880, p. 55. 


in part, from the numerous cherty masses 
which locally encumbered the ground, in part 
from the absence of timber from large tracts, 
and in consequence of the few trees which 
have here and there sprung up, being alto- 
gether a stunted growth of black-jack oak, 
qicercus ferruginea, red oak, querciis rubra, and 
white oak, qiiercus albaP As soon as we pass 
from the limestone on to the conglomerate, a 
rock furnishing by its disaggregation a coarser 
material than that which is left by the decom- 
position of the limestone, we come upon a 
densely forested region.* 

The " barrens " of Newfoundland are de- 
scribed by Jukes as being *^ those districts 
which occupy the summits of the hills and 
ridges and other elevated and exposed tracts. 
They are covered with a thin and scrubby 
vegetation, consisting of berry-bearing plants 
and dwarf bushes of various species, and are 
somewhat similar in appearance to the moor- 
lands of the North of England, differing only 
in the kind of vegetation, and in there being 
less of it." t I^^ other portions of Northeastern 

* See Kentucky Geological Survey Reports, New Series, 
vol. i. p. 32, where this fact is admitted, but its theoretical 
importance overlooked, and elsewhere in the Report denied. 

t J. B. Jukes, Report of the Geological Survey of New- 
foundland, London, 1843, P- 22. 


Canada treeless areas, from whatever cause 
originating, are called " barrens." Some of 
these, as described by various observers, are 
unquestionably the result of the desiccation 
and gradual filling up of lakes, and treeless 
areas of this kind are found all through the 
region of the Great Lakes, surrounded by the 
densest forests ; but the use of the word " bar- 
ren " as designating them is — so far as the 
present writer has observed — limited to the 
extreme northeastern portion of the great 
Atlantic forest-belt. 

In the densely wooded portion of the 
United States, the first thing the settler has 
to do is to cut down the trees over an area of 
sufficient size for cultivation and for the nec- 
essary buildings. The piece of ground thus 
prepared is called a clearing, a household 
word in the newly settled forested regions.* 
An opening, on the other hand, is a natu- 
ral deficiency of the forests over a certain 
area, the trees not being entirely wanting, 
but thinly scattered over the surface as com- 

* The word " clearing " is universally used by the Ger- 
man immigrants, instead of " Lichtung," to designate the 
locality thus prepared for a "settlement," The present 
writer has often heard the occupied land on the frontier 
spoken of by Germans as being already " gecleared and 


pared with their abundance in the adjacent 

A glade is also an " opening " or "clearing " 
in the forest, and this word may be applied 
either to a space naturally destitute of trees, 
or to one where they have been removed by 
the hand of man.* "Glade," however, is a 
word not much in use in this country, although 
there are regions — as, for instance, in Ken- 
tucky — where it is current. In that State 
the phrase " glady ground " is sometimes 
heard, and by it is meant a district where the 
surface is diversified by alternate forests and 
openings. In parts of Virginia and the adja- 
cent States, localities in the "timber" which 
are too wet for a forest growth, but which 
are more or less overgrown by bushes, are 
designated as slashes. This word is said to 
be applied also in the Northern States to the 
tracts covered with fallen timber left by the 
passage of a tornado through the forests, and 
also to land " on which the underbrush has 
been cut and left lying." f " Slash," as a 

* "Glade" is defined by Skeat as *'an open space in a 
wood." Wedgwood says : "a light passage made through a 
wood, also a beam or breaking in of the light." It is a word 
of Scandinavian origin ; the original sense being an opening 
for light, a bright track, hence an open track in a wood. 

t Bartlett, Dictionary of Americanisms. 


topographical designation, seems to be de- 
cidedly an Americanism. " To slash," " to 
cut with a violent sweep, to cut at random " 
(Skeat), is a word in common use both in 
England and in America. 

" Glade " is a favorite word with the poets, 
especially with Scott, who seems to delight 
in its use. In the works of American authors 
it is much less frequently found. There is a 
certain vagueness of meaning in the word 
"glade " which makes it very convenient for 
poetical use, as may be seen in the following 
examples : — 

" A forest glade, which varying still, 
Here gave a view of dale and hill, 
There narrower closed, till overhead 
A vaulted screen the branches made." 

Scott, Marmion. 

" Here rise no cliffs the vale to shade; 
But skirting every sunny glade. 
In fair variety of green 
The woodland lends its sylvan screen." 


" Lovely between the moonbeams fell, 
On lawn and hillock, glade and dell." 

Lord of the Isles. 

" Thy bounteous forehead was not fann'd 
With breezes from our oaken glades." 

Tennyson, Eleanore, 


" The mossy bank, dim glade, and dizzy height." 

W. S. Landor. 

" Here, say old men, the Indian magi made 
Their spells by moonlight ; or beneath the shade 
That shrouds sequestered rock, or darkening glade, 
Or tangled dell." 

y. G. C. Brainard. 

The grassy summits of various high moun- 
tains in the extreme southern extension of the 
Appalachians are known as balds. Mr. J. W. 
Chickering thus describes one of them : " The 
top [of Roan Mountain], instead of being, as 
in the higher of our New England peaks, a 
mass of barren rock, or weather-worn boulders 
for the upper 1,000 feet, is a smooth grassy 
slope of 1,000 acres, called a 'bald' (the soil 
a foot or more deep and as rich and black as a 
western prairie) , with rocky precipices at either 
end, rising 80 to 100 feet higher, but plenti- 
fully covered with [forest?] vegetation." * 

The words " fell," " wold," " moor," 
"down," and " heath " are familiar to all who 
read about the geography and history of the 
British Islands ; but, as actual designations of 
the features of the landscape, they are almost 
entirely unknown in the United States. It is 
not easy to draw a sharp line of distinction 
between these words, and no one of them is 

* Appalachia, vol. ii. p. 277. 


Strictly limited to any particular part of Great 
Britain, although there are certain regions 
where each is, in a measure, localized. Thus, 
fell is a topographical designation but little 
known outside of the Lake District and its 
immediate vicinity. It is the Sw. fj'dll, Ice. 
fj all, fell, ^^ox.fjeld, M. E./^/, and essentially 
the same (etymologically) as the Eng. Jield. 
In Norway the word " fjeld " (pi. fjelden) is 
one in general use to designate the high, 
table-topped mountains which are so con- 
spicuous a feature in the physical geography 
of that country. Professor Forbes calls them 
" those wonderful expansions of mountains, 
often so level, that upon what might almost be 
called their summits a coach and four might 
be driven along or across them for many miles, 
did roads exist, and across which the eye 
wanders for immense distances, overlooking 
entirely the valleys, which are concealed by 
their narrowness, or by small mountains 
which rise here and there with comparati\^ely 
little picturesque effect above the general 
level." * 

In the Lake District the word "fell" is 
used with essentially the same meaning as 

* J. D. Forbes, Norway and its Glaciers, London, 1853, 
p. T91. 


that given above, except, of course, that the 
mountains of that region are not so grand and 
high, and not so distinctly " table-topped," as 
they are in Norway. Black's Guide to the 
Lakes gives the word "fell" as meaning "bare, 
elevated land, and answering in some respects 
to the wolds, moors, and downs of other parts 
of the island." It is a term in common use 
in every part of the Lake District, where, how- 
ever, this designation is by no means exclu- 
sively limited to high table-lands or flat-topped 
hills, but is occasionally used for any rocky 
eminence. Skeat, indeed, defines the word 
" fell " simply as " hill." Black's Guide gives 
the following quotation from an old manu- 
script : — 

" Moyses went up on that felle, 
Fourty dayes there you dwell." 

The word " fell " seems never to have ob- 
tained a foothold in this country. An attempt 
has been made to localize it here, however, 
by giving the name of " Middlesex Fells " to 
a rough, rocky district a few miles north of 
Boston, in which lies a pretty lake known as 
" Spot Pond." It is not easy to see any par- 
ticular appropriateness in the name " fell " as 
applied to this locaUty, which does not differ 


essentially from the ordinary type of New 
England landscape. 

The word moor (Ice., Dan., A. S. mor ; 
M. E. more; Ger. Moor) is less easy to define 
than " fell," as it is used with a variety of sig- 
nifications in different parts of Great Britain. 
It is curious to see how the dictionaries differ 
in attempting to indicate its meaning. It is 
decidedly most familiar to us as designating 
those tracts in Scotland on which game is 
preserved, and to which fashionable people 
resort in the autumnal season to while away 
the time and enjoy the high privilege of kill- 
ing something. The Scotch " moors " are 
the elevated, undulating, treeless, flat or gen- 
tly sloping tracts, from which rise the ranges 
of precipitous hills and mountains which char- 
acterize the grand but at the same time 
rather gloomy and monotonous scenery of the 
Scottish Highlands. They are "fells," but 
fells crowned with still higher and more pre- 
cipitous summits, which themselves are some- 
times fell-like in character. Thus, Geikie 
describes the mountains at the head of Glen 
Esk and Glen Isla as sweeping upward into 
a broad " moor " some 3,000 feet above the 
sea; in regard to which he remarks that it 
would hardly be an exaggeration to say that 


there is more level ground on the tops of 
these mountains than in areas of correspond- 
ing size in the valleys below.* 

In the more southern portions of Great 
Britain " moor " seems to be used nearly as 
the equivalent of morass, which latter word is 
said by Skeat to be plainly an adjectival form 
of " moor," and is defined by him as " swamp, 
bog;" while Latham defines "moor" as 
" marsh, fen, bog, tract of low and watery 

The famous " moor " — " the great central 
waste of Devon" — named from the river 
Dart (Dartmoor), is, however, far from being 
a "morass." Mr. A. N. Worth thus indicates 
its peculiar topographical and geological feat- 
ures : "In the main it is a great granitic 
plateau, broken by numerous valleys, and 
dotted with the rocky peaks of the ' tors.' 
The granite is jointed, often with considerable 
regularity, and weathers into masses and piles 
irresistibly suggestive of Cyclopean masonry ; 
while the hillsides are bestrewn for miles with 
huge boulders and blocks." f All Devon, ac- 
cording to Mr. Worth, was formerly charac- 

* A. Geikie, The Scenery of Scotland, 2d ed., London, 
1887, p. 195. 

t A History of Devonshire, London, 1886, p. 330. 


terized by woods and heaths, broken only in 
their gloomy monotony by strips of water- 
made meadow skirting the wider river-courses, 
and the scanty population was scattered in- 
differently through its wilds. " Dartmoor is 
simply the last refuge of the traces of these 
ancient days — a prehistoric island, girdled 
and wasted by the encroaching waves of an 
aggressive civilization." * 

The present writer never heard the word 
" moor " used in this country as designating 
any feature of our landscape ; but " morass " 
is occasionally used, although this latter term 
is rather the elegant designation of what is 
popularly known as a swamp — a word cur- 
rent all over the United States with the mean- 
ing of low, marshy ground, whether thickly 
or thinly forested, entirely bare of trees, or 
covered with a shrubby vegetation. Thus a 
low, flat piece of ground, on which the water 
stands during a portion of the year, and over 
which is a sparsely scattered growth of tama- 
rack or hackmatack {Larix Americana)^ is 
famiUarly known as a "tamarack swamp." 
To the "cedar swamps," so characteristic of 
the Upper Lake Region, allusion has already 
been made.t A peculiar swampy region 

* A History of Devonshire, London, i8S6, p. 326. 
t See ante^ p. 186. 


extends along the Atlantic coast, from Virginia 
through North and South Carolma, of which 
the " Great Dismal Swamp " on the borders 
of Virginia and North Carolina may be taken 
as the type. These swamps have certain pe- 
culiar features, the most important of these 
being that they are considerably elevated above 
the adjacent streams, and their forest vege- 
tation is abundant and varied, the most char- 
acteristic tree being the cypress {Taxodhwt 
distichu7}i). These swamps are locally known 
as "dismals " and also as "pocosins," the lat- 
ter being apparently an aboriginal name, and, 
if so, one of the very few instances (if not the 
only one) in which a word of this kind has 
become — to a hmited extent, it is true — 
generalized as a topographical designation. 

Skeat defines the word " swamp " as " wet, 
spongy land, boggy ground," and adds "not 
found in old books."* He considers it as 
being of Scandinavian origin (Dan. and Sw. 
svamp, a sponge, fungus ; Ger. Schwanun, 
a sponge), and remarks that " swamp," 
" sponge," and " fungus " are all related 
words, and all from the root of "swim." 
" Swamp " seems pecuharly an American 

* Wafer uses the words " swamp " and " swampy " 
frequently in his " New Voyage and Description of the 
Isthmus of America," London, 1699. 


word ; and the so-called " swamp lands " form- 
ing a portion of the national domain have been 
freely bestowed on the various States in which 
they occur, and have been the source of end- 
less fraud and deceit, since large areas of the 
most valuable agricultural land in the country 
have been claimed and held as " swamp land." 
Swale is a word not to be found with a 
topographical meaning in English dictionaries, 
but frequently heard in the United States, 
especially in the Prairie States, where it is 
used to designate the depressions, or lower, 
moister areas, in the " rolling prairie." The 
definition of " swale " given in Webster — " an 
interval or vale ; a tract of low land " — does 
not agree with the present writer's experience 
of the use of the words " swale " and ^* inter- 
val." A '• swale " is always a lower area of 
moderate dimensions, in the midst of higher 
ground, and it would never be used as the 
equivalent of " interval " or " intervale." * 
*' Swale" is a word current in East Anglia, 
meaning there, according to Nail, just what it 
does in this country, " a low place, a hollow." 
It comes from the Scandinavian (Dan. svczlg, 
a hollow, an abyss). 

* See pp. 228, 229, for definition of " interval " and 
" intervale." 


The word " dun " (Gael, dun, Welsh, dht, 
A. S. dtin, a hill) appears in England and 
elsewhere in several rather peculiar and in- 
teresting forms. In the Lake District dun 
means an inconspicuous hill; and with this 
signification it forms a. part of certain proper 
names, — for example, Dunmallet, Dunfell, etc. 
Farther south, this word has the form of 
down, and is used to designate various ele- 
vated, flat or gently undulating, treeless areas, 
underlain by the chalk, and mostly given over 
to sheep-raising. The " Downs " are a peculiar 
feature of English scenery, and " South Down 
mutton " is a term which needs no explana- 
tion. The Downs proper are in Kent and 
Sussex, those in the first-named county being 
called the North, and the other the South 
Downs. They lie on each side of the curi- 
ous depression known as the " Valley of the 
Weald," or "Wealden," or simply as "the 
Weald." Other areas of similar geological 
and topographical character are also called 
" downs." The word is a favorite with the 
poets, and especially with Tennyson, who by 
no means limits it to England, but, on the 
contrary, puts downs and palms together, as 
may be seen in the following extract from the 
" Lotos Eaters : " — 


" And the yellow down 
Border' d with palm, and many a winding vale." 

The use of the word " down," as a topo- 
graphical designation, is ahnost, if not quite, 
unknown in the United States. The present 
writer has been able to find but one poem by 
an American writer, on American scenery, 
where it is introduced : — 

" With music that rises and falls and swells, 
Over the village and past the down, 
Past Katama and Roaring-Brook, 
Out by Gay Head, where, at set of sun, 
The light-house gleams over hill and nook." 

E. N. Gioutison, The Bells of Edgartown. 

That part of the English coast adjacent to 
the region where the North Downs meet the 
sea is also known as " the Downs." 

The word *' down " has found its way to 
Australia, where " the Darling Downs " is the 
name of a district lying west of Brisbane, in 
Queensland, and the seat of the most im- 
portant agricultural interests of that colony. 
As described by Australian authors, this re- 
gion is " mainly a huge plain, where the sur- 
face, which sometimes rises into rolling downs 
and sometimes spreads out in apparently lim- 
itless flats, is only broken by a few ranges 
of low hills." * 

* C. A. Feilberg, in "Australian Pictures," p. 117. 


There is still another form of the word 
" dun," by which certain hills are desig- 
nated, but only those of a peculiar origin and 
character. Hills of loose sand, heaped up 
and blown about by the wind, especially along 
the sea-coast, are called dunes, a word which 
has the same form and meaning in French, 
and nearly the same in German {Dune). 
Dunes occur chiefly along the sea-shore, but 
are also seen on the borders of large lakes, 
for instance Lake Superior, along portions of 
whose southern shore they rise to the very 
respectable height of fifty feet or more. Mov- 
ing sands in the interior, as in various desert 
regions, are also sometimes designated as 
''dunes" — more frequently, however, as 
" sand-hills." On the East Anglian coast the 
sand-dunes are called meals, a relic of the 
Norsemen (Ice. 7?tdl, strand sands) (Nail). 

Wold is another word quite peculiar to 
England, and of some obscurity, both as 
to meaning and origin. As used in parts 
of Yorkshire, it seems to be the exact equiv- 
alent of the " downs " of Southern Eng- 
land. The "Wolds " of that county form a 
crescentic range of elevations, sloping from a 
curved summit, whose extremities touch the 
sea at Flamborough Head and the Huraber 


at Ferriby, and this crescent is cut through 
by one continuous hollow — the Great Wold 
Valley — from Settrington to Bridglington. 
As is the case with the " downs," so here the 
underlying formation is the chalk. The same 
word appears in the form of " weald," a term 
especially familiar to geologists, as having 
given the name to the " Wealden formation," 
which occupies the basin-like depression be- 
tween the chalk escarpments of the North 
and South Downs, and to which reference 
has already been made. 

The term "wold" would seem from its 
general application in England to be intended 
to designate an open, unforested region. It 
is, in fact, defined by Latham as a " plain, 
open country ; " and by Skeat as a " down, 
open country." It is a favorite word with 
the English poets, who sometimes, use it 
rather vaguely, but more generally with the 
meaning given above, as the following quota- 
tions seem to indicate : — 

" Long fields of barley and of rye, 
That clothe the wold, and meet the sky." 

Tennyson^ The Lady of Shalott. 

" Arise and let us wander forth, 
To yon old mill across the wolds." 

Te7t7iyson, The Miller'' s Daitghter. 


The following is the only instance (so far 
as known to the present writer) in which 
" wold " has been used by an American 
poet : — 

" Never errant knight of old, 
Lost in woodland or on wold, 
Such a winding path pursued 
Through the sylvan solitude." 

Longfellow, The Songo River. 

The word " wold " is considered by some 
etymologists as being the German Wald^ 
(M. E. also wald); which, however, as Skeat 
remarks, was more commonly used in the 
sense of "waste ground, wide open country," 
as in Norse, and this statement is substan- 
tiated by authorities cited by him. He adds 
as follows : " The connection in form with 
A. S. geweald, Ice. vaid, dominion, is so ob- 
vious that it is difficult to assign any other 
origin than Teut. wald^ to rule, possess, for 
which see wield. The original sense may 
have been Miunting-ground,' considered as 
the possession of a tribe." Some writers 
have argued that because certain regions are 
known as "wolds," they must originally have 
been forested ; but this seems decidedly im- 
probable, in view of the fact that the areas 
thus designated have precisely that geological 


character which is unfavorable to the growth 
of trees, as is the case both with the *' wolds" 
and the "downs," which — so far as historical 
evidence goes — have always been what they 
now are, namely, open treeless regions, and 
for which condition there is abundant rea- 
son to be found in the peculiar fineness of 
the soil, resulting from the decomposition 
and decay of the chalk, as well as of a large 
portion of the various strata, of which the 
Wealden group of the geologists is made 

Closely allied to '• down," " wold," and 
" moor," is the word heath, which is much 
used in England and Scodand, but quite un- 
familiar to us except through books. " Heath ' ' 
is defined by Skeat as " a wild, open country ; " 
by Latham, as "a place overgrown with heath," 
or " a place covered by shrubs of any kind." 
Absence of forests seems the essential feature 
of a heath ; nor is it easy to see, either from 
dictionaries or from other books or from its 
poetical use, in what a " heath " differs from a 
" moor." Indeed, Skeat defines a *' moor " as 

* The whole of the Wealden area is not treeless, but the 
larger portion of it is so ; and the soil of this portion has 
been described by competent authority as being, when dry, 
" an impalpable silicious dust." 


a " heath." It is etymologically the same as 
the German " Heide " (M. E. heth and hethe, 
Swed. hed.) Dan. hede^ Du. heide) . * The " Hei- 
den" of North Germany are an important 
topographical feature of that country, and 
they pass gradually into the *' steppes " of 
European and Asiatic Russia; for the great 
" steppe region " begins on the very borders 
of Holland, and extends in unbroken continu- 
ance, save where interrupted in part by the 
chain of the Ural, almost to the farthest east- 
ern limits of Siberia. The vegetation of the 
" heaths " is somewhat varied ; but by far 
the most characteristic heath plant is that 
called " heather " (heath-er, inhabitant of the 
heath), or also frequently simply *' heath." 
Humboldt, in the chapter of the Aspects of 
Nature entided " Physiognomy of Plants," 
says : " The Heath form belongs more es- 
pecially to the Old World, and particularly 
to the African continent and islands. ... In 
the countries adjoining the Baltic, and farther 
to the north, the aspect of this form of plants 
is unwelcome, as announcing sterility. Our 
heaths, Erica (Calluna) vulgaris, Erica tetralix, 
E. carnea, and E. cinerea, are social plants, 

* " All from an Ar>'an base Kaita, signifying a pasture, 
heath, and perhaps clear space." (Skeat.) 


and for centuries agricultural nations have 
combated their advance with little success. 
It is remarkable this extensive genus which 
is the leading representative of this form 
appears to be almost Hmited to one side of 
our planet. Of the 300 known species of 
Erica, only one has been discovered across 
the whole extent of the New Continent, from 
Pennsylvania and Labrador to Nootka and 
Alashka." * The common heather {Calluna 
vulgaris) has been found in various localities 
along the Atlantic coast, from Massachusetts 
to Newfoundland ; but the word " heath " as 
a topographical designation appears to be 
quite unknown in this country. Near Lon- 
don there are various tracts denominated 
" heaths," the names of which are very 
familiar to readers of English plays and 
novels. Most of these " heaths " are outliers 
of the Bagshot Sands ; and where these attain 

* Aspects of Nature (Mrs. Sabine's translation), vol. ii. 
pp. 23, 24, In a note to this the author adds : " In these 
physiognomic considerations we by no means comprise 
under the name of Heaths the whole of the natural family 
of Ericaceae, which, on account of the similarity and analogy 
of the floral parts, includes Rhododendron, Befaria, Gaul- 
theria, Escallonia, etc. We confine ourselves to the highly 
accordant and characteristic form of the species of Erica, 
including Calluna (Erica) Vulgaris, L., the common 


their full development — that is, where the 
formation retains its entire thickness of 300 
to 400 feet — the depth to the water-level 
becomes so great that the upper porous beds 
are left high and dry, and form uncultivated 
wastes, such as Bagshot Heath, Frimley Heath, 
and others. These are still for the most part 
bare " heaths," which, being sandy, dry, and 
healthy, have been frequently used for military 
camps and exercise-grounds. 

With the English, and still more with the 
Scottish poets, " heath," " heather," " heath- 
bells," are favorite words ; not much less so 
are "bracken," " gorse," and "broom" — 
other characteristic shrubs which help adorn 
the heaths. A few quotations may be added 
as illustrations of the poetical use of these 
words : — 

" But most, wiili mantles folded round, 
Were couch'd to rest upon the ground, 
Scarce to be known by curious eye, 
From the deep heather where they lie, 
So well was matched the tartan screen 
With heath-bell dark, and brackens green." 

Scott, Lady of the Lake. 

" The great fires are luntin' — how fragrant the smells, 
The bab 0' the heather, and bonnie bluebells, 
This twig o' green birk — oh, I canna weel tell 
Hoo the sicht and the scent gars my fu' bosom swell." 

Janet Hamilton. 


There is in France a region adjacent to the 
ocean, north of the Pyrenees, which in some 
respects resembles the " heaths " of Northern 
Germany. It was once the bed of the ocean, 
and is covered with sands of Pliocene age. 
The natural growth of these landes, as they are 
called, consists of heather, broom, and ferns, 
much resembling that of the more northern 
" heaths." Over some portion of these 
" landes " the introduction of a forest growth 
has been successfully attempted ; in other 
districts the presence near the surface of a 
soHdly compacted bed of sand has proved an 
insurmountable obstacle to tree-culture. 

Marsh is a word in common use in both 
England and the United States, with a mean- 
ing not essentially different from that of 
"swamp." Skeat defines it as "morass, 
swamp, fen," and says that it has the form in 
Middle English of " mersche," and in Anglo- 
Saxon of "mersc," which latter is a con- 
traction of "mer-isc," originally an adjective 
signifying "full of meres or pools." As used 
in the United States, the word " marsh," often 
pronounced "ma'sh," is heard much more 
frequently along the sea-coast in New England 
than it is in the interior and farther south. 
The low lands along the New England coast 


liable to overflow by the tide are always 
called " salt-marshes." The same word 
" marsh " is one commonly used in Northern 
Germany in almost exactly the same way in 
which it is used in this country. The " Marsch- 
lander" (called also simply the ^'Marsch") 
form an important topographical feature along 
the coasts of the Baltic and North Seas, and 
especially in the vicinity of the Elbe. They 
are uniformly level, the monotony of the sur- 
face being hardly broken by the dikes by 
which they are traversed at regular intervals, 
and the ditches which accompany them. On 
the dikes grow magnificent trees, the soil is 
very fertile, the cattle superb, and farming 
highly successful. The contrast between these 
marsh lands and the region of sand and gravel 

— the " heath " and " moorland " — which 
lies adjacent to them on the south is most 

Moss is a word very familiar to us as the 
name of an order of the class of Cryptogams 

— the Musci, or Mosses. In Northern Eng- 
land and Scotland it is also much used to 
designate various localities which are swampy 
or boggy in character, and especially those 

* See E. H. Wichmann in Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft 
fur Erdkunde zu Berlin, vol. xx. (1885) pp. 257-279. 


where peat is found in some quantity. In 
Southwestern Yorkshire the peaty mountains 
are called "mosses." In Scotland we hear 
of '*' moss-troopers " — a name formerly given 
to those horsemen who rode over the high, 
peaty moorlands. Thus, Scott says : — 

" A stark moss-trooping Scott was he, 
As e'er couched Border lance by knee ; 
Through Solway sands, through Tarras moss, 
Blindfold he knew the path to cross." 

Lay of the Last Minstrel, 

"He journey'd like errant knight th'e while, 
And sweetly the summer sun did smile 
On mountain, moss, and moor." 

The Bridal of Triermain . 

What are called in New England "peat- 
swamps " or " peat-bogs," are known in 
Northern England and Scotland as "peat- 
mosses." They may be, as in Yorkshire, at 
a high elevation. In Lancashire low, boggy 
places are called "mosses;" for instance, 
Carrington Moss, and Chat Moss ; the latter 
the locality famous for having presented such 
extraordinary engineering difficulties in the 
course of the construction of the first surface 
railroad. In this part of England, where the 
low, swampy grounds are called "mosses," 
the highlands are designated "fells" and 


'' moors." Bog, a word of Irish origin 
{bogach, a morass), is often heard in this 
country, and seems to be the exact equiva- 
lent of ^' morass." " Mire " (Dan. viyr, myre, 
Swed. myra, M. E. myre^ O. H. G. Mios, M. 
H. G. Mies, moss, morass, swamp), is etymo- 
logically related to "moss" and "morass," 
but is hardly to be considered a topographical 
word. Like " mud," it means the material 
which helps fill up miry, boggy, or muddy 
localities — not only those on a large scale, 
like morasses and swamps, but smaller ones, 
such as roads, ditches, and hollows generally. 
The word fen (A. S. fen, Du. veen, Goth, 
fani, Ger. Fehii) is defined in the EngHsh 
dictionaries as the equivalent of " morass " or 
" bog." It seems, however, as actually used, 
to mean ground wet enough to be more or 
less thickly overgrown with reeds and other 
aquatic vegetation. The " Fen District " of 
England is a wide stretch of level, monotonous 
marsh, traversed by a multitude of sluggish 
streams, situated within the counties of Lin- 
coln, Cambridge, Norfolk, Suffolk, Hunting- 
don, and Northampton, and extending about 
fifty miles from north to south, and thirty from 
east to west. It was in former times a swampy, 
unhealthy wilderness ; but it has been drained 


at immense cost of money and labor, and made 
one of the most fertile portions of the kingdom. 
A portion of this fenny district is known as the 
broads, a term peculiar to Norfolk ; and the 
relation of the " broads " to the " fens " is easily 
understood. Where the rivers broaden out and 
are more or less separated into distinct chan- 
nels by belts of reedy growth (reed-beds), there 
" we find as the result a region where water 
and land strive for the mastery and come 
to a delightful compromise." * The author 
from whom this is quoted adds further : 
" The character of the Fens has been so much 
changed since their drainage, that it is to 
Norfolk only that one can now look for the 
wildness and solitude of marsh and mere so 
dear to the naturalist and sportsman." 

" Fen " is a word little known in this coun- 
try except through books and in poetry. The 
low, swampy tracts of country in Florida known 
as " the Everglades " are something nearly 
akin to " fens." Mr. Barbour thus describes 
this region : " Perhaps the most remarkably 
geographical feature of the State [of Florida] 
is the immense tract of marsh or lake, called 
the Everglades (by the Indians "grass-water"). 

* G, Christopher Davies, Norfolk Broads and Rivers, 

Edinburgh, 1883, p. 2. 


It is about sixty miles long by sixty broad, 
covering most of the territory south of Lake 
Okechobee, and is impassable during the rainy 
season, from July to October. The islands 
with which its surface are studded vary from 
one-fourth of an acre to hundreds of acres in 
extent, and are usually entangled in dense 
thickets of shrubbery or vines. The water of 
the lake is from one to six feet deep, and the 
bottom is covered with a growth of rank 
grass which, rising above the surface, gives it 
the deceptive appearance of a boundless 
prairie." * 

Scrub and scrogg are closely aUied to each 
other, both in origin and meaning ; and both 
are botanico-topographical designations in vari- 
ous regions where English is spoken. They 
signify land covered with a stunted, scraggly, 
or shrubby undergrowth. " Shrub " is a word 
in common use with us, as in England, mean- 
ing something midway between a tree and an 
herbaceous plant. It is nearly the equiva- 
lent of " bush ; " and a " shrubbery " is a place 
covered or planted with shrubs, although the 
use of this word is pretty closely limited to an 
artificial plantation or garden of shrubs. The 
natural growth of a region covered with bushes 

* Florida for Tourists, Invalids, and Settlers, p. 20. 


would hardly be called — in this country, at 
least — " shrubbery," but rather " under- 
growth," "underbrush," or simply "brush," 
"brushwood," or (more rarely) "bush." 

Bush, as a topographical designation, is a 
word more used in the English colonies than 
with us. Thus, Mrs. Hoodie's pleasant nar- 
rative of her experience in Canada is entitled 
" Roughing it in the Bush." The lawless 
vagabonds who roamed over the uncultivated 
districts of Australia (the " scrub ") were, in 
former times, generally designated as " bush- 
rangers," while the natives of South Africa 
are known as "Bushmen."* 

" Shrub " and " scrub " are referred back 
to the Anglo-Saxon " scrob " (M. E. shrob, 
schriib^, and " scrog " is a provincial form of 
"scrub." The verb "to scrub," a word in 
familiar use, means " to clean or scour with a 
bunch of twigs or shrubs," just as we say " to 
brush," which originally meant " to clean with 
an implement made of brushwood (twigs or 

* The word *' bushman " is also used in Australia with 
the same meaning which " woodsman " has in the United 
States — namely, as designating a man familiar with the 
forest, and well able to take care of himself in a "wild 
country." A " backwoodsman," on the other hand, is rather 
one who has taken up his abode on the frontier, or far from 
the settlements. 


small branches). The use of " scrub " as a 
topographical designation is hardly more 
known in England than it is with us, but 
some names of localities — for example, 
Wormwood Scrubbs — show that this word 
is not altogether strange in that country. In 
Australia it seems to be a very familiar term, 
the forest undergrowth being generally de- 
nominated " the scrub," while in some parts 
of that country " scrub " and " bush " seem 
to be almost equivalent words, although the 
latter is more often used as meaning both forest 
and scrub, or any kind of uncultivated or un- 
cleared land, as distinguished from that which 
has been brought under cultivation.* 

The word scrogg seems to be limited in use 
to the North of England. Thus, Gawin 
Douglas, the Scotch poet (1474-^522), in 
describing a morning in June, says : — 

" And schortlie, everything that dois repare 
In firth or feyld, flude, forest, earth, or ayr, 
Or in the scroggis, or the buskis [bushes] ronk, 
Lakis, marrasis [morasses], or their pulis [pools] donk, 
Astabillit [enstabied] liggis still to slepe, and restis." 

* Thus the author of "Australian Pictures "( Howard 
Willoughby) says : " There is something very solemn m 
the quietude of a scrub untouched by the axe of the lum- 
berer or settler. There is no undergrowth, properly speak- 
ing, though delicate little ferns and fairy-like mosses nestle 
close to the feet of the trees." 


In parts of North Germany the shrubby 
meadow-land is called a '' Briil " or " Briihl," 
a word defined in Grimm as "pratum pa- 
lustre," or "buschigte Wiese" (bushy mead- 
ow). " Breuil" and " broussailles " in French 
("brosse" in Old French), and "Brul" or 
"Briihl" in German, have the same original 
meaning as our " brush " (or " brushwood "), 
a word with which they are etymologically 
connected. " Egerde," or ^' Egert," is also 
a name given in various parts of Germany 
to barren, uncultivated fields, more or less 
covered with heath and shrubby vegetation. 
The proper meaning is said by Grimm to be 
" fallow " or " fallow-land " (Ger. Brachland), 
but the origin of the word is obscure.* 

Coppice, copse, and coppy are words 
frequently heard in England, and with which 
we are very familiar through English books. 
They can, however, hardly be said to form 
a part of our vocabulary. " Copse " and 
" coppy " (the latter not nearly as often met 
with in print as the former) are variants of 
" coppice," which is from the Low Latin 
copecia, undergrowth, and is allied to the 

* Grimm says "denkbar ware agartia, agertia, agerta, 
ungesaumtes, ungehegtes, der weide preis gegebenes acker- 


French couper, to cut. Any area covered 
with a shrubby undergrowth may be called a 
" coppice ; " but, as the word is generally 
used, it means a plot of ground where such 
an undergrowth is maintained and kept down 
by being frequently cut for fuel. The twigs 
thus obtained are made up into bundles 
called "faggots" — a word also very famil- 
iar to us through English books, but rarely, 
if ever, heard in actual use. 

" Interval " and " bottom," as topographical 
designations, appear to be peculiarly Ameri- 
can words. An interval (Lat. infervalhwi) is 
the space between a river and the hills or 
mountains by which the lower, level portion 
of the river-valley is bounded. Hence "in- 
terval " has nearly the same meaning as 
" meadow," and the two words are more or 
less interchangeable ; the level, cultivated, and 
frequently grassed areas bordering the Con- 
necticut River, for instance, being generally 
called " meadows " or collectively " the 
meadows." Intervale is a variant of " inter- 
val," less frequently used than the latter word. 
Some villages on or near tracts of interval 
land are called by the name " Intervale," as, 
for instance, the summer resort thus designated 
in the valley of the Saco River, near North 


Conway, in which region the word *^ inter- 
vale " seems to be much more frequently used 
than " interval.'"' Thus, Whittier says : — 

"From the heart of Waumbek Methna, from the lake that 
never fails, 
Falls the Saco in the green lap of Conway's intervales." 

And an anonymous author, describing the 
Kennebec, has as follows : — 

" You look upon a range of intervales 
Where the abundant harvest never fails." 

Bottom is a word frequently heard in the 
Mississippi Valley and farther west, and used 
to designate the alluvial tracts along the river- 
courses, which are sometimes called " bottom- 
lands" and sometimes simply "bottoms." 
Josselyn (1675) uses the word thus : " swamps, 
which are low grounds and bottoms infinitely 
thick set with Trees and Bushes of all sorts." 
Lewis and Clarke also frequently employ the 
word " bottom " in their report, and speak of 
the " American Bottom," an extensive tract of 
level and highly fertile land stretching along 
the Mississippi River southward from the 
Kaskaskia River for many miles. 

There are some words locally used in various 
parts of Great Britain, to designate the allu- 
vial lands, or meadows, bordering the rivers. 


Thus, at Bath on the Avon, there are the 
"Dolly Meadows," "dolly" being the Welsh 
dolaUj a meadow, this being one of those re- 
duplications in names which so frequently 
occur, and various instances of which have 
already come under our notice. In Scodand 
the meadows along the streams are called 
" haughs," a word allied to " haw " and 
"hedge," having the original meaning of 
" enclosure." The level tracts of alluvial 
lands bordering the estuaries along the coast 
of Scotland are known as " carses." They 
are marine terraces, or old beaches which 
have been raised to varying elevations above 
their former position. One of these " raised 
beaches " is thus described by Geikie : " The 
twenty-five feet beach must be more or less 
familiar to every one who has visited almost 
any part of the coast-hne of Scotland. It runs 
as a terrace along the margin of the Firth of 
Forth ; it forms the broad Carse of Gowrie ; 
it is visible in sheltered bays along the storm- 
swept coasts ot Forfar, Kincardine, and Aber- 
deen. In the less exposed parts of the Moray 
Firth it may be traced, and westwards around 
most of the northern firths it runs as a con- 
spicuous feature. On the Atlantic side of the 
island, its low green platform borders both 


sides of the Firth of Clyde, fringes the islands, 
runs up the river beyond Glasgow, and winds 
southwards along the coast of Ayrshire and 
Wigton into the Irish Channel." * 
* Scenery of Scotland, pp. 382, 3S3. 



Abysm, 157. 

Abyss, 157. 
Aiguille, 118. 
Amphitheatre, 170. 
Atravieso, 140. 

Balanced-rock, 127. 
Bald, 205. 
Ballon, 114. 
Band, 103. 
Barf, 104. 
Barrancal, 151. 
Barranco, 151. 
Barren, 199-201. 
Barren Grounds, 199. 
Bay, 81. 
Belchen, 114. 
Ben, 102. 
Blow-hole, 172. 
Bluff, 104. 
Bog, 225. 
Boiler, 172. 
Bolchen, 114. 
Boquete, 140. 

Bottom, 232. 

Box-canon, 153. 
Breche, 139. 
Broad, 226. 
Broussailles, 230. 
Briihl, 230. 
Briil, 230. 
Buller, 172. 
Bush, 228. 
Butte, 105. 

Cadena, S7. 
Caire, 102. 
Cajon, 132, 153. 
Camel's Hump, 120. 
Campo, 197, 198. 
Canada, 132, 133. 
Caiion, 132, 133. 
Carcabucho, 153. 
Circova, 152. 
Carcovo, 153. 
Carse, 233. 
Catena, 87. 
Cau, 102. 



Cerrito, 100. 

Cerro, 100. 

Chain, 85, 'i'j, 

Chaine, 87. 

Chasm, 155, 156. 

Cirque, 170. 

Clearing, 202. 

Cleugh, 169. 

Cliff, 121. 

Clough, 169. 

Clove, 169, 170. 

Cluse, 168. 

Cobble, 109. 

Col, 136. 

Colina, 100. 

Collado, 100, 140. 

Combe, 112, 164-168. 

Coom, 164, 165. 
Coppice, 230, 231. 
Coppy, 230. 
Copse, 230. 
Cordillera, 87-90, 99. 
Cordon, %-]^ 99. 
Corry, 165, 166. 
Coste, 102. 
Cove, 8t, 163. 
Crag, 122. 
Crest, 112. 
Crest-height, 134. 
Creux, 170, 171. 
Cwm, 164. 

Dale, 142. 
Dalle, 143, 144. 
Dean, 144. 
Debris-pile, 125. 
Defile, 148. 

Dell, 142, 143. 
Den, 144, 145. 
Dene, 144. 
Dent, 116. 
Devil, 163. 
Dingle, 145, 146. 
Dimble, 145, 146. 
Divide, 141. 
Dodd, 108. 
Dolde, 108. 
Dome, 114. 
Door, 137. 
Dore, 137. 
Down, 213, 214. 
Druid-stone, 128. 
Dun, 213. 
Dune, 215. 

Egerde, 230. 
Egert, 230. 
Escarpment, 124. 
Espigon, 97, 100. 
Esquerra, loi. 
Everglade, 226. 
Ezquerra, loi. 

Fell, 205-207. 
Fen, 225. 
Fjeld, 206. 
Flume, 158, 159. 

Gap, 135. 
Garganta, 152. 
Ghyll, 145, 146. 
Gill, 145, 146. 
Glade, 203, 204. 
Glen, 147, 148. 



Gorge, 149, 150. 
Gouffre, 157. 
Gray-wether, 128. 
Group, 85. 
Gulch, 154, 155. 
Gulf, 81, 156-158. 
Gully, 154. 

Harbor, 81. 
Hause, 137. 
Haws, 137. 
Hay-stack, 119. 
Head, iii. 
Heath, 218-221. 
Heche, 102. 
Hell, 162. 
Highland, 182. 
Hog-back, 119. 
Hole, 81, 189. 
Hollow, 135. 
Hope, 169. 
Horn, 115. 
Horse-back, 120. 

Ice-gulf, 158. 
Interval, 231. 
Intervale, 231. 

JoCH, 140. 

Kamm, 112. 

Kette, 87. 
Kettle, 171. 
Knob, 106. 
Knock, 107. 
Knoll, 107. 
Knot, 107. 

Kofel, no. 
Kogel, III. 
Kopf, no. 

Lande, 222. 
Llano, 192, 193. 
Logan, 127. 
Loma, loi. 
Lomeria, loi. 
Lomita, loi. 

Marsh, 222, 223. 
Meal, 215. 
Mesa, 182. 
Meseta, 182. 
Montana, 99. 
Montafiuelo, 99. 
Monte, 99. 
Monument, 126. 
Moor, 208-210. 
Morass, 209. 
Moss, 222, 223. 
Mound, 109. 
Mount, 91, 102. 
Mountain, 91. 

Neck, 136. 
Needle, 117. 
Notch, 135. 

Oak Barren, 200. 
Ocean, 80. 
011a, 170. 
Opening, 202. 

Pampa, 192, 194. 
Pap, 118. 



Piramo, 195. 
Park, 190, 191. 
Parks, The, 191. 
Paso, 136. 
Pass, 135. 
Passe, 136. 
Pass-height, 134. 
Peak, 93-95. 
Pech, 97. 
Pen, 102. 
Pena, 97, 98, 100. 
Penalara, 100. 
Penaranda, 100. 
Peiiasco, 98, 100. 
Pene, 102. 
Penol, 98, 100. 
Penoleria, 98, 100. 
Pefion, 98. 
Peu, 97. 
Piano, 178. 
Pic, 93, 94. 
Picacho, 100. 
Pico, 93, 94, 100. 
Pie, 97. 
Pike, 94, 95. 
Pine Barren, 200. 
Pique, 94, 102. 
Piquette, 94, 102. 
Piz, 96. 
Pizzo, 96. 
Plain, 178. 
Plaine, 178. 
Plains, 176, 179, 189 
Plateau, 180, i8t. 
Plateau Region, 180. 
Pocosin, 211. 
Poey, 102. 

Port, 136. 
Portezuelo, 141. 
Portillo, 136. 
Pouy, 97, 102. 
Poy, 97. 

Prairie, 188, 189, 190. 
Prairie States, 189. 
Precipice, 121. 
Puch, 97. 
Pueche, 97. 
Puffing-hole, 172. 
Puig, 97. 
Puna, 195, 196. 
Purgatory, 160-162. 
Puy, 97. 

QUAIRAT, 102. 

Quebrada, 152. 
Queyras, 102. 
Queyre, 102. 
Quiebra, 152. 

Range, Z^j^ 92. 
Ravine, 149. 
Reventazon, loi. 
Reventon, loi. 
Rocking-stone, 127. 
Roque, 102. 

Saddle-back, 117. 
Saracen's-stone, 128. 
Sarrat, 102. 
Sarsen, 128. 
Savane, 185, 186. 
Savanna, 183-188. 
Scar, 123. 
Scaur, 123. 



Scaw, 123. 
Scree, 124. 
Scrogg, 227, 229. 
Scrub, 227-229. 
Sea, 80, 81. 
Sea-shore, 80. 
Serra, 88. 
Serrania, 99. 
Serrano, 99. 
Serrata, 99. 
Serrated, 134. 
Serre, 102. 
Shrub, 227. 
Sierra, 88, 99. 
Slack, 139. 
Slashes, 203. 
Soum, 102. 
Spit, 96. 
Spitze, 96. 
Spitzli, 96. 
Spur, 113. 

Steppe, 192, 193, 219. 
Stickle, 95. 
Strait, 81. 
Sty, 137. 
Sugar-loaf, 117. 
Swale, 212. 
Swamp, 210, 211. 
Swirl, 138. 
Swirrel, 138. 

Swyre, 138. 
System, 92. 

Table, 181. 
Table-land, 180. 
Table-mountain, i{ 
Talus, 125. 
Terrace, 182, 183. 
Teton, 119. 
Todi, 108. 
Tooth, 116. 
Tor, 126, 127. 
Tower, 126. 
Tundra, 199. 
Tuque, 102. 
Tuquet, 102. 

Vale, 131. 
Valle, 133. 
Valley, 129-131. 
Vigne, 102. 

Wash, 125. 
Water-gap, 135. 
Water-shed, 141. 
Weald, 213. 
Wealden, 213. 
Wind-gap, 135. 
Wold, 216-218. 

Yoke, 140. 

University Press : John Wilson & Son, Cambridge. 

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