[ skwaw ]
/ skwɔ /


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

  • Then, suddenly bethinking himself of a word he'd once heard, he asked: "Isn't an Indian woman called a 'Squaw'?"

    The Little Indian Weaver|Madeline Brandeis
  • "Well, I'll remember and never use the word 'Squaw' again," promised Billy.

    The Little Indian Weaver|Madeline Brandeis

British Dictionary definitions for squaw


/ (skwɔː) /


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