In reading up on the history of my new home town, I’ve discovered it used to be called Norwottuck. Or something like that. From the History Of Hadley: Including The Early History Of Hatfield, South Hadley, Amherst And Granby, Massachusetts by Sylvester Judd, revised by Lucius M. Boltwood (1863) (Google Books):

In Eliot’s Indian Bible, the word for “the midst” of any thing, is usually noeu or noau, (sometimes nashaue,) and tuk at the end of a word generally signifies a river or brook. In our English version, the words, “the city that is in the midst of the river,” are found in Joshua 13, verses 9 and 16; and in Eliot, in both verses, “the midst of the river” is rendered by noautuk. This is the Indian name of our valley. The peninsulas and projecting points of land at Hadley, Hockanum, Northampton and Hatfield, were “in the midst of the river.” This Indian word was varied in different dialects, and in the records of the English. Some tribes did not pronounce l and r, and these letters are not in Eliot’s Bible. The Nipmucks pronounced l, and some Indians on Connecticut River, below Massachusetts, had the sound of r. The following variations of the name of this valley, are taken from the records of Connecticut, Massachusetts, the United Colonies and Hampshire towns.
Nawattocke, 1637, Nowottok and Nawottock, 1646, Nauwotak, 1648, Noatucke, 1654, Nanotuck, 1653, Nonotucke, 1653, 1655, 1658, Norwotake, 1657, Norwootuck and Norwuttuck, 1657, Northwottock, 1656, 1661, Norwottock, 1659, 1660, Norwoottucke, 1659, Norwotuck, 1661. John Pynchon has in his accounts Nalwotogg, Nolwotogg and Norwotog, and in his deeds Nolwotogg. The latter spelling was probably according to the pronunciation of the Nipmucks, who lived here. Nonotuck was used when there was no town but Northampton. The Hadley settlers introduced from Hartford, Norwottuck, and that name was more used by the English than the others.

Whew. Any Algonkianists able to disentangle this and suggest how I should pronounce the name? (A local has told me NORR-o-tuck is current usage; this page says “nor-WAH-tuck” but hey, it’s a Wiki, anyone can put anything they want there.)


  1. Native American Place Names of Massachusetts:
    Nonotuck, Northampton, Hampshire. “In the middle of the river.” Vide Norwottock.
    Nonotuck Mountain, Northampton, Hampshire. This word occurs in many forms.
    Nonotucke, same asd Nonotuck, Norwottock, Noatucke etc.
    Norwootuck, Hadley, Hampshire. Mass. Bay Col. Rec. Vol. 3, 415, 430.
    Norwottock, Hadley, Hampshire Co. “Far away land,” H. A. Wright, or “In the middle of the river.” Judd.
    Norwottock Mountain, Hampden Co.
    Judd is the work you’re reading. Wright is here and isn’t happy with Judd’s version.

  2. I have always heard the rail trail pronounced as “Nor-WAW-tik,” for whatever that’s worth.

  3. Welcome to the Pioneer Valley! (I’m a resident myself.)
    You might also find Nancy Pick’s article “The Meaning of Massachusetts…and Other Indian Place Names” interesting. It’s in the Summer 2007 issue of New England Watershed magazine, published in Hatfield.

  4. This (former) local pronounces it “nor-WAH-tuck” too. It is the name of the distinctively sloped mountain on one side of the Notch (rte. 116) in the Holyoke Range. I didn’t know that it was also a name for the whole valley. Welcome to Norwottuck, aka. the Happy Valley, Languagehat! ‘Tis a wonderful place, and I miss it.

  5. Incidentally, that John Pynchon is an ancest0r of author Thomas. Here and there in his oevre there are references to his illustrious Pioneer Valley forebears, for example, William Pynchon, the founder of Springfield, Mass., becomes William Slothrop in Gravity’s Rainbow. Do you suppose this has anything to do with Pynchon’s guest appearance on the Simpsons of Springfield, USA?

  6. BTW, Jeremy over at PhiloBiblos has been trying to persuade Applewood Books, who did that nice little dictionary, to reprint Eliot’s Indian Bible. They have reprints of his Indian Grammar Begun and Roger Williams’ Key into the Language of America. I wish someone would.

  7. There appears to be a 2011 facsimile reprint.

  8. Eliot’s Massachusett Bible is also on the Internet Archive, and so are his grammar and Roger Williams’s.

  9. Right, but sometimes one wants a nice physical book to hold and mark up.

Speak Your Mind