• synonyms


[ath-uh-bas-kuh n]
  1. a family of languages spoken by American Indians in most of inland northwest Canada and Alaska, in coastal Oregon and California, and in Arizona and the Rio Grande basin, and including especially Navajo, Apache, and Chipewyan.Compare family(def 14).
  2. a member of any of various American Indian peoples speaking Athabaskan.
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  1. belonging to or characteristic of the Athabaskans.
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Also Ath·a·bas·can, Athapaskan, Athapascan.

Origin of Athabaskan

1770–80; earlier Athapasca(s), introduced as a term for the Canadian Athabaskans (< Woods Cree ahδapaska·w Lake Athabaska, literally, there are reeds here and there < Proto-Algonquian *aʔlap(y)- net, reticulated + *-ašk- plant + derivational elements) + -an
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for athabascan

Historical Examples

  • It was not until 1903 that Goddard showed their Athabascan affinity (Goddard, 1903b).

    California Athabascan Groups

    Martin A. Baumhoff

  • If Athabascan, the stretch in question belonged to the Nongatl (Saia).

  • This section of the Athabascan boundary has been much disputed.

  • The Hupa are the best known of the California Athabascan groups.

  • And the Kolooch languages are equally Eskimo with the Athabascan.


    Robert Gordon Latham

Word Origin and History for athabascan


1846, Athapaskan, from the name of the North American Indian people, from Lake Athabaska in northern Alberta, Canada, from Woods Cree (Algonquian) Athapaskaw, said by Webster to mean literally "grass or reeds here and there," referring to the delta region west of the lake. Also in reference to their language group.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper