It is generally believed[weasel words][by whom?] that the name comes from one of the Lenape languages (among the languages in the Algonquian language group), though there are a variety of interpretations as to its meaning. It may be a derivation of Naraticong  meaning "river beyond the island", or Roaton or Raritanghe, names of a group which had come from across the Hudson and displaced the previous population known as Sanhican. (who moved to farther into the interior). Alternatively, Raritan is a Dutch pronunciation of wawitan or rarachons, meaning "forked river" or "stream overflows".
The Raritan had early contact with settlers in the colony of New Netherland. William Kieft, governor of New Netherland, planned an extermination campaign against them, on the pretext of pigs being stolen from a farm on present-day Staten Island. The attack against the American Indians, while not causing much damage, was a contributing event to the bands' allying in Kieft's War (1643-1645) against the settlements of New Netherland.
- "The Origin of New Jersey Place Names" (PDF). New Jersey State Library Commission. Federal Writers' Program. 1938. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2004-12-05. Retrieved 2009-01-06.
- http://www.bergencountyhistory.org/Pages/indians.html Indigenous Population:Between 1628 and 1640, the Sanhicans were driven away from the west shore of Raritan Bay by a band of Wisquaskecks, known as the Roaton or Raritanghe, who removed from their territory north of Manhattan across Staten Island and into the lower Raritan Valley. By July 1640, the Raritans were described as "a nation of savages who live where a little stream [the Raritan River] runs up about five leagues behind Staten Island." At a peace conference with the Dutch in 1649, Pennekeck, sachem of Achter Col (Newark Bay), "said the tribe called Raritanoos, formerly living at Wisquaskeck had no chief, therefore he spoke for them, who would also like to be our friends..." Their intrusion was apparently contested unsuccessfully by Sawanoos (Southern) Lenape and Sanhicans. Consequently, the Hackensacks were separated from other Sanhican communities.
- "Trenton Historical Society, New Jersey". trentonhistory.org.
- Troeger, Virginia, B. and McEwen, Rbert, James Woodbridge, Charlestown, SC: Acadia Publishing, 2002, p. 18
- Shorto, Russell (2004). The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America. Random House. ISBN 1-4000-7867-9.
- A Tale of Tienhoven