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Glossary of Peruvian Words in Eastern North America

Glossary of Peruvian Words in Eastern North America


In reading Peruvian anthropological literature, it is apparent that most Peruvian archaeologists don’t know the meaning of these words below.   Apparently,  few Peruvian academicians learn the “old” languages of Peru.  The excuse is that only .9% of the population speak a language other than Spanish, Quechua or Aymara . . . the latter two being indigenous tongues.  This explanation is dubious because the vast majority of peoples speaking other indigenous languages live east of the Andes . . . where few white Peruvians in the large cities of the Coastal Plain and Andes ever  visit.  

Unfortunately, it was the peoples PUSHED OUT of Peru and Ecuador by the Quechua and Aymara speakers, who are the ones that imparted a profound cultural influence on southeastern North America.  This influence is especially seen in the Creek and Cherokee languages.  Panoan appears to be the language spoken by the earliest civilizations in western and central Peru.

It seems that the early cultures of Peru are going to be far more important to our future research than imagined, even a year ago.   Below is a glossary that will help all this make more sense.  Also, if you are invited to a chic cocktail party for Nobel Prize laureates, you will be able to impress the other esteemed guests with your broad anthropological knowledge!


Note: I strongly suspect that there are many more Cherokee words of Southern Arawak origin.  However, Cherokee dictionaries spell their words as syllables, so is impossible for me to use my linguistic search engine to match whole Panoan words in a Spanish-Panoan dictionary with the syllables in a Cherokee-English dictionary.

European interpretation of indigenous words

The primary cause of confusion concerning the pronunciation and spelling of indigenous American words is that Spanish, French and English explorers adapted what they thought they heard into the phonetics of their own languages.  At the time, there were at least 15 languages in the Iberian Peninsula, so 16th century Spanish spellings can be quite confusing.  Semi-literate settlers on the frontiers of British colonies further modified the spellings so today we have such situations as the Creek word, Kaushe, becoming the modern place name, Coosa. 

Here are some key syllables that vary between Spanish, French and English spelling. The initial syllable is the English phonetic spelling.

Aw – This sound is written as a V in the Muskogean languages.  French speakers wrote it as either au or ou.  Spanish speakers wrote it as a U or O.  Thus, the Itsate Creek ethnic name, Okvte became Ocute in the De Soto Chronicles.

B and P – Europeans were never sure if Natives in eastern Peru and Southeastern North America were saying B or P, so the Panoan word Satibo (Living Place of the Colonists) became Satipo . . . both in Peru and Georgia.

C – Panoan and Muskogean speakers pronounce this letter like in Italian – “ch.”    However, when Panoan is written by Spanish speakers, a K sound is written as a C.

R and L – Both the Creeks of North America and the Panoans of South America roll their R’s heavily.  Spanish and Broad Scots speakers also roll their R’s. So a Muskogean R was correctly written as a Spanish R  by Spaniards or as an English R by explorers from Scotland.  However, English speakers stopped rolling their R’s after the Norman invasion, so typically wrote an indigenous R as an L.  The French also wrote an indigenous R as an L.   So the province, which the Spanish named Chicora was named Chicola by the French and Palachicola by the British.

Notice the end of the music video, which is at the bottom of this article.   The Indigenous Peruvian DJ says the Choctaw word, okay, but pronounces it, “ō :chã.”   He then pronounces Peru as “Pä : lou” . . .  that’s Panoan.

Si – Muskogee and Cherokee speakers pronounce this syllable as “tshē.”   Itsate (Hichiti) Creek and Maya speakers pronounce it as “zjhē,” “shē” or “tsē,” depending on the word.   European explorers wrote the sound in their languages as either “tchē,”  “chē” or “sē”


Glossary of Peruvian words in North America

A- (from) –  Panoan prefix that denoted origins.

Aho (sweet potato) – This is the same word in Southern Arawak, northern Panoan languages and all Creek languages.  It was written as the village name Ajo in the chronicles of the Juan Pardo Expedition.

Alek (medicine) – This is a Tupi word, which became the Creek word for a medical doctor.  Aleck Mountain in Habersham County, GA gets its name from this word.

Alek – koa (medicine people) –  These are the same people as the Alekmani.  By the 1700s, they were a branch of the Creek Confederacy and called either Alechua or Alachua.

Alekmani (medicine cultivators) – Tupi name of a tribe at the mouth of the Altamaha River in Georgia, who grew cinchona (quinine) trees and traded the bark throughout the Southeast.

Ama (water) – This word has the same meaning in Southern Arawak and Cherokee.

Amana (Sun Goddess) – This is the Panoan, Proto-Creek and Bronze Age European name for Sun Goddess.  This was also the name of the mother province of the Apalache Creeks in Middle Georgia. Both in Bronze Age Europe and among the ancestors of the Creek Indians, her symbol was a spiral.

Ani (principal, strong or elite) – This is a Southern Arawak word, which is the prefix of the name of the Florida Apalachee People’s capital.  It may be the origin of one of the Cherokee names for themselves, Ani-Yunwiya, which means “Principal People.”

Anihaica (Place of the Elite) – Southern Arawak word for the capital of the Florida Apalachee.  It is now Tallahassee, FL.

Apalache (“From Ocean,” “From River” or “From Amazonia” – descendants of) – This ethnic name is written in Creek as Aparasi.

Apalatcy (“From Ocean,” “From River” or “From Amazonia” – descendants of) – This ethnic name is written in Creek as Aparasi. (See the map above.)

Apalachen (plural of Apalache)

Apalou (From Peru) – This was a large town on the Chattahoochee River in the present day Atlanta Metro Area, which was visited by French explorer,  La Roche Ferrière, in 1564-1565.  It was probably the large town at Peachtree Creek, but this is not certain. (See map above ~ bottom center.)

Asi or Ase (Yaupon Holly Tree and the Sacred Black Drink) – This is the same word in Panoan languages and all Creek languages.  The Panoans grow a medicinal holly, very similar in appearance to the Yaupon Holly.  The Yaupon Holly only grows naturally in the Southeastern Coastal Plain and around the Maya city of Palenque in Chiapas State, Mexico.

Asebo (Place of the Yaupon Holly) – This is the original and Creek name for Osabaw Island, Georgia.

Atoya (Creator god) – This was the original Creator god of the Andes and western Peru, which was considered an old “mountain god” by the Quechua People.  It was the name of the Sun god or Creator God for the indigenous peoples living in the Cusabo region of Coastal South Carolina.

Bo or Po (Living Place) – Same suffix in Panoan languages and 16th century indigenous provinces on the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.  South Carolina academicians have incorrectly translated this suffix as meaning “river.”

Canos – The name of a powerful Panoan city and province, prior to its capture by Quechua peoples.  It was also the name of a powerful Proto-Creek province in North Georgia and western North Carolina, which was visited by Captain Juan Pardo in 1567. Kanosaw is the Muskogee-Creek name for the people, who lived in Canos.  This word became Kennesaw, so evidently the people of Canos also lived in the Northwest Metro Atlanta Area.

Canoste or Connestee (Canos People) –  This is the Itsate-Creek word for the Canos People.

Causi, Caushi or Cauchi – (strong or elite) – Word has same meaning in Panoan and Creek languages.  Today, it is written in English as either Cusa or Coosa.

Caushibo (Living Place of the Strong) – This is a Panoan tribe in Peru and the actual pronunciation of Cusabo, an alliance of tribes on the coast of South Carolina.

Chisca, Chiska or Chisqua (bird) – This is the Panoan word for bird, which was also the name of powerful warlike tribes in Eastern Peru and northeastern Tennessee, who knew how to smelt copper.  Their remnants in Tennessee became the Bird Clan of the Cherokees.

Coa, gua or koa – (people, tribe or nation) – This is a Southern Arawak word which became a Cherokee suffix meaning the same, but typically spelled, “qua.”

Cora, cola or cola (people, tribe or nation) – This is a Panoan word that was only used by the Apalache Creeks only.  The Choctaw and Chickasaw words for “people or tribe” were created by joining the Arawak prefix for “principal” with the Panoan word for “people or tribe.”  

Haica or hica (living place of) –  This is a Southern Arawak word, which was used as a suffix in many ethnic names in northern Florida and the southeastern corner of Georgia.

Huana, Juana or Wana (high priest) – This word was used both by the Panoans, plus 17th and early 18th century Creek Indians.

Kennesaw (See Canos.)

Nantahala (rapids, white water river) –  Origin of the name given the Nantahala River in North Carolina.

O- (principal) – This is a Southern Arawak prefix or suffix, which denoted “principal” as in a principal town.  It was frequently seen on early Cherokee place names.

Orata or olata (village chief) – This is a Panoan word, whose meaning has been broadened in the Creek languages to mean any middle level, appointed official.  The word, orata, is seen frequently in the chronicles of the Juan Pardo Expedition.

Palache (same as Apalache) – This is the name used by 18th century British colonists for the Highland Apalache to distinguish them from the Florida Apalache.  In Creek, this would be written Parasi.

Palachicola (Apalache People) – This is the name used by 18th century British colonists for both the western and eastern capitals of the Palache.

Para [1]  (ocean) – Word for ocean among indigenous peoples in western Peru.

Para [2]  (river) – Word for river among indigenous peoples in eastern Peru.

Parà [3]  (Amazonia) – Indigenous name for Pre-Columbian civilization that spanned the region from the eastern foothills of the Andes and the western half of the Amazon Basin.  It is now the name of a large state in Brazil, which includes much of the Amazon Basin.

Paru, Baru or Palou (Ocean Province) – Ancient name for the province of Peru, which composed the Pacific Coastal Plain.

Paracas [1] (Ocean Elite) – This is a Spanish version of the Panaon word, Parakaushe, which means “Strong or elite people from the ocean.”  It is the name given by anthropologists to the people, who created the Nazca effigy figures, but not the later people, who created the Nazca Lines.

Paracus [2] (Ocean Elite) – This is a Spanish version of the Panaon word, Parakaushe, which means “Strong or elite people from the ocean.”   This name is given to the Paracus National Forest and National Park, which includes many of the Nazca effigies and lines.

Paracusi or paracousi (Ocean Elite) – This is the name recorded by Fort Caroline’s commander, Captain René de Laudonnière for the elite living along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. It is derived from Parakaushe

Paracusite or paracousity (Ocean Elite People) – This is the hybrid name for the elite of the Highland Apalache in North Georgia as recorded by 17th century French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort.  The “te” suffix is the Itza Maya word for “people or tribe.”  It is derived from Parakaushe-te.

Petun (tobacco) – This is the Tupi word for tobacco, which was also the actual name of the Tobacco Indians of the Northern Shenandoah Valley of present day Virginia and West Virginia.   The Shenandoah Petun were an advanced culture of mound builders, who grew a “sweet” tropical tobacco, which was exported all over eastern North America.  

Pira or pila (canoe) – This word has the same meaning in the Panoan and Creek languages.

Sati and Santee (colonists) – This word has the same meaning in the Panoan and Southern Arawak languages.  It survives in the Southeast as the names of rivers in Georgia and South Carolina, plus the roots of several place names.

Shipibo-sipi (Shipibo River) – This is the name given for the Holston River in Northeast Tennessee during the 1600s.  The Shipibo People are the largest Panoan-speaking ethnic group in Peru.  Their name means “Place of the Monkeys.”

Talako (bean) – This word has the same meaning in the Panoan and Creek languages.

Tolose (chicken) – This word has the same meaning in the Panoan and Creek languages.

Uriwa (High King) –  This is a Panoan political title, which was only used in the Native provinces of Southeast Georgia, such as the Sati-urawa, who lived on the Satilla River near Brunswick, GA .

Wara, Huara or Joara – The name of a powerful Panoan city and province, prior to its capture by Quechua peoples.  It was also the name of a powerful Proto-Creek province in South Carolina and western North Carolina, which was visited by Captain Juan Pardo in 1567.


Panoan Dancers

You will immediately notice that the Shipibo ladies in this dance have the same physical features as Eastern Creek lassies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  Two of them are almost identical to cousins of mine in Plant City, FL. Another of the young ladies is a “photo image”  of a young Creek lady from Middle Georgia, who I dated in college.  There is obviously a genetic connection.  French artist Jacques Le Moyne painted young Native women dancing with small bowls on the Georgia coast.  There were also some traditional social dances for unmarried Creek women, which also involved the carrying of small bowls.


Here is another Panoan song, performed by the same Shipibo village.  Note that the men are wearing “Creek Long Shirts.”   Below you see grass skirts, which were also worn by the Florida Apalachee.  



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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

1 Comment


    This is a beautiful dance Richard. Even though it is very energetic they are so light on their feet. Thanks so much for sharing the video.


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