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Why are groundhogs called woodchucks?

Why are groundhogs also referred to as woodchucks? Where did woodchuck come from?

1 Answer

The name Woodchuck comes from a Cree Indian (Algonquian speaking) word, wuchak, used to identify several different animals of similar size and color, including other marmots; it denotes nothing about the Woodchuck’s habits or habitat. The etymology of the name woodchuck is unrelated to wood or chucking.

"The woodchuck is one of several North American animals whose name has Native American origins. Unfortunately, those exact origins are unknown. Early colonists in New England reported that "wuchak" was the name for the animal in a local Algonquian language, but this word was never recorded in a dictionary and the Algonquian languages of that region are no longer natively spoken, so the original form of the word has been lost to time. It may have actually been the word for a fisher (a member of the weasel family) instead, since the word for fisher sounds similar to wuchak in living Algonquian languages (such as the Cree word ocek, pronounced similar to oo-check.) Or it might have been an English corruption of a longer word like the Narragansett word ockqutchaun, which did refer to a woodchuck. In any case, English-speaking Americans later adapted the name "wuchak" into the modern form "woodchuck," which was easier for them to remember."

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