Older Use: Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptuous term used to refer to a North American Indian woman, especially a wife.
Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
  1. a contemptuous term used to refer to a wife.
  2. a contemptuous term used to refer to any woman or girl.

Origin of squaw

1625–35, Americanism; < Massachusett (E spelling) squa, ussqua woman, younger woman < Proto-Algonquian *eθkwe·wa

Usage note

Origjnally a neutral term, squaw began to be perceived as offensive by the early 20th century and has since declined in use. Part of the reason may be that the word is sometimes mistakenly thought to refer literally to the female genitals.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for squaw

Contemporary Examples of squaw

Historical Examples of squaw

  • No such forebodings disturb the Squaw Sachem and Wappacowet.

    Main Street

    Nathaniel Hawthorne

  • I returned to the Squaw River and spent the half of another year up there.

    Murder Point

    Coningsby Dawson

  • For an hour he rode and came to the junction of Mill Creek and the Squaw.

    Rim o' the World

    B. M. Bower

  • Bunny and Sue had, indeed, landed on an island in Squaw River.

  • I said I would go with her until we could see Squaw Creek, and then turn and run home.

    My Antonia

    Willa Cather

British Dictionary definitions for squaw



offensive a North American Indian woman
slang, usually facetious a woman or wife

Word Origin for squaw

C17: of Algonquian origin; compare Natick squa female creature
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for squaw

"American Indian woman," 1630s, from Massachuset (Algonquian) squa "woman" (cf. also Narraganset squaws "woman"). "Over the years it has come to have a derogatory sense and is now considered offensive by many Native Americans" [Bright]. Widespread in U.S. place names, sometimes involving a translation of local American Indian words for "woman."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper