Two Sioux names: Winona and Chaska

No doubt you’re familiar with the name Winona, which means “first-born daughter” in Sioux. But are you pronouncing it correctly?

In pronunciation, Winona is accented on the middle syllable, and the first and last syllables have the short vowel sounds. The first, however, is often incorrectly given the long sound, as in wine; it should be short, as in win, or may be quite rightly given the sound of long e, as we.

Winona is a diminutive of the Sioux word wino (pronounced weeno), meaning “woman.”

Even more interesting? There’s a male equivalent: Chaska.

Chaska means “first-born son” and was also used as a first name by the Sioux. But this one is even trickier to pronounce properly:

The word is pronounced by the Sioux…with the English sound of ch (as in charm), and with the long vowel sound in the last syllable, as if spelled kay; but common usage of the white people has given erroneously the French pronunciation (ch as in charade) with the last syllable short, like Alaska.

So: chas-kay, not shas-ka.

What do you think of the name Chaska?

Source: Upham, Warren. Minnesota Geographic Names: Their Origin and Historic Significance. Saint Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1920.

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