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If You Think You Know the Meaning of the Word ‘Kalamazoo’ – You’re Probably Wrong

kalamazoo city limit
Google Maps Street View – modified via Pixlr

Kalamazoo is a fun and silly word to say. It rolls off the tongue and it’s almost physically impossible to not smile when saying it. But where exactly did the word come from and what does it mean? If you think you know, you’re probably wrong.

Most stories about the origin of the word Kalamazoo say the word comes from a Native America language – but that’s where the agreement ends.

A Wikipedia article on the etymology (a fancy word for the study of the history and origin of words) of Kalamazoo reveals there are 9 possible meanings of the word.

And it should be noted that the name Kalamazoo refers to the river. The city, county and township of Kalamazoo all take their name from the river.

The Possible Meanings of the Word Kalamazoo

  1. Negikanamazo which means ‘otter tail’ in Potawatomi.
  2. Kikalamezo, another Potawatomi word which means ‘boiling water.’
  3. Kikalamezo may also mean ‘reflecting water’ rather than boiling water.
  4. Giikanaamozoog an Ottawa for ‘smoked.’
  5. Kalamazoo may also mean a ‘place to ford the river’
  6. Or it could mean ‘a place where animals crawl to die’
  7. Kikikamagad is an Ojibwe word that means ‘it goes fast’
  8. Kalimink which is also the name of a small creek near Lansing
  9. Killomick or ‘deep still water’

So there’s lots of water meanings and contradictory ones too – deep water and shallow water, clear water and cloudy water, plus boiling water.

What is a Kalamazooian to believe? Who knows. Your guess is as good as anyone else’s.

I did my best to mangle some of the words above from which Kalamazoo may have been derived:

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More: Urban Dictionary Defines Your Town- Kalamazoo

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