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Lake Chaubunagungamaug

Coordinates: 42°02′30″N 71°50′30″W / 42.04167°N 71.84167°W / 42.04167; -71.84167
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Lake Chaubunagungamaug
Webster Lake
Name of the lake on a bridge
Location of Lake Chaubunagungamaug in Massachusetts, USA.
Location of Lake Chaubunagungamaug in Massachusetts, USA.
Lake Chaubunagungamaug
Location of Lake Chaubunagungamaug in Massachusetts, USA.
Location of Lake Chaubunagungamaug in Massachusetts, USA.
Lake Chaubunagungamaug
LocationWebster, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°02′30″N 71°50′30″W / 42.04167°N 71.84167°W / 42.04167; -71.84167
Basin countriesUnited States
Max. length3.25 mi (5.23 km)
Max. width1.125 mi (1.811 km)
Surface area1,442 acres (584 ha)
Average depth13 ft (4.0 m)
Max. depth49 ft (15 m)
Shore length117 mi (27 km)
Surface elevation477 ft (145 m)
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Lake Chaubunagungamaug, also known as Webster Lake, is a lake in the town of Webster, Massachusetts. It is located near the Connecticut border and has a surface area of 1,442 acres. Since 1921, the lake has also been known by a much longer name having 45 letters comprising fourteen syllables: Lake Char­gogg­a­gogg­man­chaugg­a­gogg­chau­bun­a­gung­a­maugg. The lake has become famous beyond Central Massachusetts for having the longest name of any geographic feature in all of the United States.


The lake's name comes from the Algonquian language of the Nipmuc, and is often said to mean, "Fishing Place at the Boundaries—Neutral Meeting Grounds".[1] A more fitting translation is "lake divided by islands", according to anthropologist Ives Goddard.[2]

Today, "Webster Lake" may be the name most used, but some (including many residents of Webster) take pride in reeling off the longer versions. This lake has several alternative names. Lake Chaubunagungamaug is the name of the lake as recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior,[3] and is the name appearing in the earliest local records.[2]

Algonquian-speaking people had several different names for the lake as recorded on old maps and historical records. However, all of these were similar in part and had almost the same translation. Among other early names were "Chabanaguncamogue" and "Chaubanagogum".[4] Early town records show the name as "Chabunagungamaug Pond", which was also the name of the local Nipmuc town (recorded in 1668 and 1674 with somewhat different spellings). This has been translated as "boundary fishing place",[5] but something close to "fishing place at the boundary" or "that which is a divided island lake" may be more accurate.[6]

A 1795 map of Massachusetts indicated the name, using the long-form's first eight syllables, as "Chargoggagoggmanchoggagogg".[7] A survey of the lake done in 1830 lists the name as "Chaubunagungamaugg", the six-syllable older name. The following year, both Dudley and Oxford, which then adjoined the lake, filed maps listing the lake by its eight-syllable form, as "Chargoggagoggmanchoggagogg".[4] Anthropologist Ives Goddard considers that 1831 name to be a cartographer's creation that corrupted the actual name while confusing this lake with nearby Manchaug Pond.[2]

Long name[edit]

The exaggerated name "Lake Char­gogg­a­gogg­man­chaugg­a­gogg­chau­bun­a­gung­a­maugg" (/ˌleɪk tʃɚˈɡɒɡəɡɒɡ ˌmænˈtʃɔːɡəɡɒɡ tʃəˌbʌnəˈɡʌŋɡəmɔːɡ/)[8][9] is a 45-letter alternative name for this body of fresh water, often cited as the longest place name in the United States[10] and one of the longest in the world. Many area residents, as well as the official website of the town of Webster, consider the longer version correct.[11]

Patch using longer name of lake

The humorous translation is: "You fish on your side, I'll fish on my side, and no one shall fish in the middle". Its humorous translation was perhaps invented by Laurence J. Daly, editor of The Webster Times.[1][12] According to Ives Goddard, Curator of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, Daly created this "monstrosity" around 1921, though this is probably not correct, as the name was in use as early as c. 1910 on postcards.[2]

The lakeside

Spellings of the long name vary; in 2009, following six years of press reports, the local Chamber of Commerce agreed to have the spelling changed on its signs, but a 45-letter version of the name arrayed in a semicircle is still used.[13] Webster public schools use one long form of the name in various capacities.[4][14]


Oblique view of Lake Chaubunagungamaug in 1974

Webster Lake is a 1,442-acre (5.84 km2)[15] lake with a 17-mile (27 km) shoreline in southern Massachusetts, near the Connecticut border. It is the fourth largest fresh body of water in Massachusetts, after slightly larger Long Pond, The Wachusett Reservoir in Clinton, and the much larger Quabbin Reservoir. The average depth is 13 feet (4.0 m) and the maximum depth is 49 feet (15 m).[16]

Although the lake is natural in origin, its outlet has a dam that raises the water level by roughly 2 feet (0.61 m).[17] The dam initially provided water for a mill, and subsequently the water rights to the lake were owned by Cranston Print Works; currently, the dam is owned by Webster Lake Preservation LLC.[17]

The lake is commonly divided into three smaller bodies of water: North Pond, Middle Pond, and South Pond. They are connected by narrow channels.[17]


Webster Lake has about 7–8 islands. Some have houses and are habitable; a few are extremely small and uninhabitable. They include:

  • Long Island: The largest island in Webster Lake. It has many homes and has electric power lines, underground/underwater municipal water and sewer service, and several fire hydrants. It is in the Middle Pond.
  • Goat Island: The second largest island. It has a few homes and boats. It is in the Middle Pond but isolated from the cluster of islands that include Long Island.
  • Well Island: A smaller island with one house west of Long Island in the Middle Pond.
  • Strip Island: Generally northeast of Long Island and north of Cobble Island with one house, also in the Middle Pond.
  • Cobble Island: East of Long Island, in the Middle Pond.
  • Little Island: In South Pond, right out of the no wake zone from the Middle Pond, one house.
  • Birch Island: Large island on west edge of Middle Pond with Pout Pond on west side and swamp surrounding entire island. It is located roughly between Treasure Island and The Narrows with access by a bridge on Birch Island Road near The Narrows. There are many homes on island and establishment once called Birch Island Pavilion, now called Waterfront Mary's.
  • Misery Island is a small island near east side of Narrows in Middle Pond. May be called either Misery Island or Skunk Island, depending on the map.


Webster Lake has two marinas:

  • Lakeview Marine: The only full-service marine store and service shop on Webster Lake.
  • Point Breeze: A restaurant with a small marina. Point Breeze Marina has the only dockside gas pump on the lake.

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1950s, a plan to shorten the official name of the lake inspired a poem of doggerel verse which concludes:

"Touch not a g!" No impious hand
Shall wrest one from that noble name
Fifteen in all their glory stand
And ever shall the same.
For never shall that number down,
Tho Gogg and Magogg shout and thunder;
Char­gogg­a­gogg­man­chaugg­a­gogg­chau­bun­a­gung­a­maugg's renown
Shall blaze, the beacon of the town,
While nations gaze and wonder.[18]

Three songs about the lake's name have been written. The first was a regional song from the 1930s. The second, "The Lake Song (Char­gogg­a­gogg­man­chaugg­a­gogg­chau­bun­a­gung­a­maugg)", was recorded by Ethel Merman and Ray Bolger and released in 1954 by Decca and incorporates the tale about the lake's name according to the name's inventor, Laurence J. Daly, editor of The Webster Times. The most recent was released in 2010 by Diane Taraz.

The lake is referenced in season 6, episode 6 of Gilmore Girls, "Welcome to the Dollhouse." The character Kirk says, "[It is] an old Nipmuc Indian name. It means you fish on your side of the lake, I'll fish on my side, no one fishes in the middle. Or maybe it means Buffalo."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Patenaude, Ed (June 28, 2001). "Fabrication leaves us gasping - Old twist to name of lake comes to light". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Archived from the original on July 23, 2003. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d "Opinion | Time to Retire an Indian Place-Name Hoax". The New York Times. September 29, 1990. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 30, 2024.
  3. ^ "Lake Chaubunagungamaug". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved April 14, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Old Webster History Archived May 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, from the Webster TIMES Centennial Anniversary Issue, 1859-1959.
  5. ^ Trumbull, James Hammond. 1881. Indian Names of Places etc., In and On the Borders of Connecticut: With interpretations of Some of Them. Reprinted in facsimile 1974 under title Indian Names in Connecticut by Archon Books, Hamden, Conn.
  6. ^ Goddard, Ives. 1974. Untitled review of Trumbull in International Journal of American Linguistics Vol. 43, No. 2 (Apr., 1977), pp. 157–159, University of Chicago Press.
  7. ^ Osgood, Carleton (1795). "An accurate map of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts..." Boston Public Library.
  8. ^ "AUDIO: Singing a Name That's Hard to Say", New York Times (November 19, 2004).
  9. ^ "OldeWebster Photo Archive" Archived December 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine (Accessed September 16, 2015).
  10. ^ Ash, Russell (November 10, 2011). Boring, Botty and Spong. RHCP. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-4090-9739-6.
  11. ^ Town of Webster, accessed January 15, 2007.
  12. ^ Knapton, Sarah (April 22, 2009). "Longest Place Name in US Spelt Wrongly". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  13. ^ Brian Lee (April 14, 2009). "Misspelling on Lake Signs to Get Overdue Correction". Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
  14. ^ Nipmuc Place Names of New England
  15. ^ "Webster Lake", Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Commonwealth of Massachusetts (February 1998), via Archive.org
  16. ^ "Webster Lake Cyanobacteria Investigation: Phase I" Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Prepared by Water Resource Services, Inc., for the Webster Lake Association (November 2014).
  17. ^ a b c "About Webster Lake" Archived May 21, 2019, at the Wayback Machine, Webster Lake Association. Accessed September 6, 2015.
  18. ^ Poem by Bertha A. Joslin Archived August 15, 2020, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]