Bibekananda Choudhury

The story behind words


THE name ‘Québec’, which comes from the Algonquin word ‘kébec’ meaning “where the river narrows”, originally referred to the area around Quebec City where the Saint Lawrence River narrows to a cliff-lined gap. Early variations in the spelling of the name included Québecq (Levasseur, 1601) and Kébec (Lescarbot, 1609). Quebec has had several names throughout its history: Canada, New France, Lower Canada and Canada East.



Ontario acquired its name from the Iroquois word “kanadario”, which translates into “sparkling water”. The earliest recording of the name Ontario was in 1641 where it was used to describe a mass of land on the north shore of the easternmost part of the Great Lakes. The British settlers had originally called the land that covered Quebec, Ontario, and part of the US as Quebec. It wasn’t until the British enacted the Constitutional Act in 1791 that Ontario would be known as the land upstream from the St Lawrence River, or Upper Canada, and Quebec, considered the land downstream from the St Lawrence River, known as Lower Canada. In 1867, Ontario and Quebec officially became separate provinces.