Historical Names - Southwestern Bayous

Map of the southwestern Bayou region from West, Atlas of LA Surnames, figure 4, p. 6.

Translations (see Father Daigle's Dictionary of the Cajun Language or any French-speaking Cajun; for Indian names, see Kniffen et al., Indian Tribes of LA):

Abbeville is a city in France; the name means town of the priest or abbot
anse
, also spelled ance or l'anse, means cove, which in the prairie regions of South Louisiana means an open area shaped by woods or streams into a more or less semicircle
Atchafalaya
, pronounced CHAFF-uh-lie-uh, as though the "a" is missing, is an Indian word that means great river
Atakapas
comes from the Indian tribe that at one time occupied coastal Louisiana from the Sabine River to the Atchafalaya Basin; the standard spelling of this tribe's name is Atakapas and means man-eater, but it is often spelled Attakapas and is pronounced uh-TACK-uh-paw; early French accounts claim that the Atakapas ate the bodies of enemies they killed in battle but that French missionaries convinced them to stop the practice in the early 1700s; this is probably the stuff of legend
au large
means in the open sea or prairie, obviously the latter here
Avoyelles comes from an Indian tribe, the Avoyel, who lived in the area now bearing their name; they were kin to the Natchez; their name means people of the rocks or flint people
Baton Rouge means red stick or pole
bayou, from the Choctaw word meaning slow-ass stream, is a small river bordered by wetlands and is sometimes spelled baillou in old records
Bayou Goula is from a Muskogean Indian tribe, the Bayougoula, who lived on the site of the town of that name and whose name in Choctaw means bayou people
Beaubassin, on the upper Vermilion east of Carencro, means beautiful basin and was a major Acadian settlement in the Chignecto area near present-day Amherst, Nova Scotia
Bellevue means pretty sight
boeuf means ox or beef
bourbeaux (the proper spelling in French is bourbeux) means muddy
brûlé means burnt
Butte la Rose means hill of the rose or pink hill
Carencro means buzzard or carrion crow and was first used by black slaves
chataignier means chestnut tree
cheniere is a ridge in the salt marshes with oak trees growing on it; chene means oak
chevreuil means deer
chicot means stump or stubble
choupic, properly spelled choupique, pronounced SHOE-pick by the locals, is a large, bony fish also called a mud fish, a bowfin, a grunnion, or a cypress trout, that fights like hell when caught and still provides pleasure for Cajun fishermen
cocodrie means alligator
côte means coast, also hill or mound; this term was used in Canada beginning in the 17th century to designate a series of dwellings along a river; the Acadians adopted it and took it with them to Louisiana
coteau
means hill or mound
Côte aux Puces, near New Iberia,  means flea hill or flea coast
Côte Gelée means frozen hill or frozen coast
Courtableau, pronounced core-TAHB-luh by the locals, is a family name
cypremort means dead cypress tree
des cannes means reeds or stalks
des écores means the banks of a stream
des glaises means a kind of loamy clay, silty loam, or silty marl, so it probably refers to the kind of soil that settlers found along the bayou
Faquetaique evidently is a family name
Fausse Pointe means false point
Fausse Riviére means false river and is an oxbow lake in Pointe Coupee Parish that once was the main channel of the Mississippi River
Grand Chevreuil means big deer; the prairie also was called Gros Chevreuil, which means the same thing
Grosse Tete means big head
Iberia is the peninsula in southwestern Europe on which Spain and Portugal are found
isle means island; it is often spelled île 
Jack is ... Jack
Mamou is the coral tree, which is a medicinal plant used for colds and bronchial ailments
Mermentau was the name of an Atakapas chief of the late 1700s; he was sometimes called Nementou or Nementau
Mississippi is an Indian word that means big damn river
Nezpique, pronounced NEP-uh-kee by the locals, means tattooed nose (I was born only a couple of miles west of this bayou)
Opelousas comes from an Indian tribe, the Opelousa, who lived on the prairies near the town that bears their name; the name means black leg or hot place, depending on the anthropological source you consult
peigner means to comb or to card, so peigneur may mean someone who combs or cards wool or cotton
Petite Anse means little cove; the bayou at Avery Island is the scene of the delightful 1949 movie, "Louisiana Story"
Plaisance is a French Creole family name
plaquemine means persimmon, so Plaquemine Brûlé means burnt persimmon
Pointe Coupée means cut point, that is, where the Mississippi River cut itself a new channel across a point of land
prairie to the Acadians/Cajuns also means meadow or grass land
Queue de Tortue means tail of the turtle or line of turtles; the bayou's name probably comes from the Atakapas chief Célestin la Tortue, who sold land along the bayou to early settlers of what is now Vermilion and Acadia parishes; Bayou Queue de Tortue flows southwestward through the prairie region and meets the Mermentau River just north of the town of Lake Arthur; it forms the boundary between Lafayette and Acadia parishes and Vermilion and Acadia parishes and should not be confused with Bayou Tortue, which is a much shorter stream that flows north past St. Martinville and into Vermilion Bayou east of Lafayette
rouge means red
salé means salty
Sorrel is a family name, but it also means a sour, fleshy-leafed plant used in salads, or a reddish-brown horse
tasse means coffee cup
Teche is an Atakapas Indian word that means snake
tortue means turtle
vermilion is a bright yellowish red color; the Vermilion is a bayou above Pinhook Bridge at Lafayette and a river below the bridge; it flows south into Vermilion Bay; Vermilion Parish was named after the river, not the color
Ville Platte means flat town; the actual French spelling for flat is plate

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