January 22, 2012
- raccoon (noun)
- What does it mean?
- : a small North American mammal that is mostly gray with a black mask, has a bushy ringed tail, lives chiefly in trees and is active at night, and eats a varied diet including small animals, fruits, eggs, and insects; also : the pelt of a raccoon
- How do you use it?
- After a scavenging raccoon had scattered garbage everywhere, the people in the neighborhood made sure their trash cans were safely locked behind garage doors.
- Are you a word wiz?
What language do you think gave us the name "raccoon"?We hope you unmasked B as the right answer. The Algonquian-speaking people living in the low-lying coastal area of what is now Virginia gave us the popular story of Pocahontas saving the life of colonist John Smith. They also gave us some of the oldest and best-known loanwords from Native American languages. Among these are "hickory," "moccasin," "opossum," and "tomahawk." "Raccoon" is another familiar word from Virginia Algonquian. It was first recorded by John Smith as "aroughcun," "rarowcun," and "raugroughcun." Like the opossum, the raccoon was unknown to Europeans. In describing the animal to his readers, Smith remarked that "there is a beast they call 'Aroughcun,' much like a badger."