The name Sinagua was given to this culture by archaeologist Harold Colton, founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona. Sinagua is derived from the Spanish words sin meaning "without" and agua meaning "water", referring to the name originally given by Spanish explorers to the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona, the "Sierra Sin Agua". The name reflects the surprise the Spaniards felt that such large mountains did not have perennial rivers flowing from them as is common in Spain.
The last known record of Sinagua occupation for any sites are for Montezuma Castle National Monument around 1425 AD. The reasons for abandonment of their habitation sites are not yet known, but warfare, drought, and clashes with the newly arrived Yavapai people have been suggested. Several Hopi clans trace their roots to immigrants from the Sinagua culture. The Hopis believe their ancestors left the Verde Valley for religious reasons.