Another interesting term has come up in my editing work: the Adena culture, “a Pre-Columbian Native American culture that existed from 1000 to 200 BC, in a time known as the Early Woodland period.” My questions were two: how is the word Adena pronounced, and what is its origin? The Wikipedia article I linked to says “The Adena Culture was named for the large mound on Thomas Worthington’s early 19th-century estate located near Chillicothe, Ohio, which he named ‘Adena’,” which is helpful but doesn’t go far enough. Some scavenging in Google Books turned up E. S. Blackwell’s Stories Told In Whispers (, 2014), where a footnote says “Adena: Word meaning ‘a place remarkable for the delightfulness of its situation’, according to Sept. 18, 1811 diary entry by Thomas Worthington,” and further Googling found Wonderful West Virginia (Volume 35, Issue 11, p. 9):

Oddly, the name given to an important Indian culture existing in West Virginia from about 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1 is Adena, a Hebrew word meaning a place remarkable for the delightfulness of its situation.

I’m guessing the Hebrew root is עדן, from which Eden is derived, but I’d be curious to know more. And I’m morally certain Worthington would have pronounced Adena with “long e” (/əˈdiːnə/, ə-DEE-nə), and that is how I’m mentally saying it, but I would not be even a little bit surprised if it has been retro-“corrected” to /əˈdeɪnə/, ə-DAY-nə. (I would also not be surprised if people assumed it was of Native American origin.) Anybody know how anthropologists, historians, and others who study Adena culture say it?


  1. No anthropologists in the house, then?

  2. John Cowan says

    One dictionary-user here. Both the AHD and M-W s.v. Adena agree that the stress is penultimate and the vowel is FLEECE.

    Wikt says that Israeli Hebrew has a doublet here, native eden vs Arabic aden, though presumably written the same way in ordinary non-dictionary contexts. The other aden, the city of Aden in Yemen, turns out to be an Akkadian loan into Arabic meaning ‘lowland, plain’; it does not have the ayin of the first word (now a glottal stop or silent in most Hebrew).

  3. Damn, it didn’t even occur to me to look in the dictionary — I guess I assumed it was too specialized/recondite to be there. Thanks!

  4. My first thought was to check youtube to see how people pronounce it, but most of the results were of the ancient-astronauts/lizard-people/flat-earth variety, so I got depressed and closed the tab.

  5. Perhaps primed by the name of the sister culture, the very Anglo Hopewell, I had always read Adena as if it were an outdated Anglo woman’s name. Which wouldn’t have withstood even a moment’s conscious thought. But a Hebrew etymology would never have occurred to me.

    I’m intrigued by what you’re editing. You seem reticent, which may be appropriate to work on something not yet published. But when it comes out, I hope you let us know.

  6. Oh, it’s just a new edition of a textbook on the early history of mankind, from hominins to the development of complex civilization. Nothing exciting.

  7. All the eden-words are originally from Sumerian > Akkadian > other Semitic languages. The Sumerian name may have denoted the part of southern Mesopotamia that was subject to occasions of severe flooding.


  1. […] Hat looks at the mysterious choice in names for the pre-Columbian Adena culture of North America. Why […]

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