List of Bergen, New Netherland placename etymologies

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Bergen was part of the 17th century colony of New Netherland centered on Fort Amsterdam in what is now northeastern New Jersey. Placenames in most cases had their roots in Algonquian language Lenape and Dutch.[1]

At the time of European settlement, it was the territory of the Acquackanonk Raritan, Tappan, and Hackensack Indians. The Munsee lived in its northwestern reaches (Highlands), while the Wappinger lived to the northeast (Hudson Valley) and the Canarsee and Reckgawawanc lived to the east. The definition of these groups as they are known today is often from the perception of the colonizing population, who tended to call the existing people by the name of a location within their territory, thus creating an exonym. Both the Lenape and Dutch often gave names inspired by the geography or geology of the natural environment and described a shape, location, feature, quality, or phenomenon.

The Lenape were without a written language. The Swannikens, or Salt Water People (as the Europeans were called),[2] used the Latin alphabet to write down the words they heard from the Wilden (as the Lenape were called).[2] These approximations were no doubt greatly influenced by Dutch, which was the lingua franca of the multilingual province.[3] Some names still exist in their altered form, their current spelling (and presumably pronunciation) having evolved over the last four centuries into American English.

In some cases it cannot be confirmed, or there is contention, as to whether the roots are in the Dutch or the Lenape, as sources do not always concur. In others, the meaning of the Lenape can have several interpretations. Locative suffixes vary depending on the dialect (usually Munsee or Unami) of the Lenape that prevailed. Jersey Dutch was spoken in the region until the 20th century.

Many rivers in the region bear names based in their Lenape appellation.
Map c.1635, Early names for Bergen were Oesters Eylandt (Oyster Island) and Achter Kol. The three structures likely represented Communipaw, Paulus Hook, and Harsimus.


Name of an Unami group who lived along and between the banks of the Passaic Neck [4] and the name of one of state's first townships, established in 1683. Meaning a place in a rapid stream where fishing is done with a net,[5] Alternatively, at the lamprey stream from contemporary axkwaakahnung. Spellings include Achquakanonk, Acquackanonk,[6]Auchaquackanock,[7] Ackquekenon [8]

Achter Col[edit]

Called Meghgectecock by the Lenape this described the area around Newark Bay and the rivers that flowed into it. Neither are longer in use. Achter, meaning behind, and kol, meaning neck, can be translated as the back (of the) peninsula,[9] in this case Bergen Neck. Variations include Achter Kol, Achter Kull, Archer Col, Achter Kull [10]


A tidal island, site of first ferry landing for the patroonship Pavonia, which became Paulus Hook. Spellings include,[11] and Arressechhonk'[12] and Aresick meaning burial ground [13]

Arthur Kill[edit]

Tidal strait separating Staten Island from the mainland. From kille meaning water channel such as riverbed, rivulet, or stream . Likely to have evolved from Achter Col,[14] the name given by the New Netherlanders for area surrounding Newark Bay and waters that flowed into it, as English language speakers immigrated to the region radiating from the Elizabethtown Tract and Perth Amboy.[15]

Bedloe's Island[edit]

Now known as Liberty Island, under Dutch sovereignty the island became the property of Isaack Bedloo, merchant and "select burgher" of New Amsterdam, and one of 94 signers of the "Remonstrance of the People of New Netherlands to the Director-General and Council".[16]


There are various opinions as to the naming of Bergen. Some say that it so called for Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands or the city in Norway[17] Others believe it comes from the word bergen, which in the Germanic languages of northern Europe means hills,[18] and could describe a most distinct geological feature of the region, The Palisades.[19] Yet another interpretation is that it comes from the Dutch verb bergen, meaning to save or to recover, or noun place of safety inspired by the settlers return after they had fled attacks by the native population[20] after the Peach Tree War.

Caven Point[edit]

The Caven Point settlement at Minkakwa on the west shore of the Upper New York Bay between Pamrapo and Communipaw was part of Pavonia, and now part of Liberty State Park. The name Caven is an anglicisation of the Dutch word Kewan,[21] which in turn was a "Batavianized" [22] derivative of an Algonquian word meaning peninsula.[23]


Site of summer encampament and counsel fire of the Hackensack, its complete meaning has been lost. Spellings include Gamoenapa,[2]Gemonepan,[24] Gemoenepaen,[24] Gamenepaw, Comounepaw, Comounepan [12] Communipau,[25] Goneuipan[26]

From gamunk, on the other side of the river, and pe-auke, water-land, meaning big landing-place from the other side of the river.[27]

Contemporary: gamuck meaning other side of the water or otherside of the river[28] or landing place at the side of a river [29]

Site of first "bouwerie" built at Pavonia and called Jan de Lacher's Hoeck[30] some have suggested that it comes from Community of Pauw, which likely is more a coincidence that a fact.[31][32][33][34]

Constable Hook[edit]

A land grant to Jacob Jacobsen Roy who was a chief gunner or constable in Fort Amsterdam in New Amsterdam in 1646, by the Dutch West India Company, under the leadership of Director-General William Kieft. Konstapel's Hoeck in Dutch, takes its name from Roy's title.[35] A hoek or hoeck in Dutch meaning a spit of land or small peninsula. Though not used, could be translated to English as Gunner's Point.


Likely from kromme kille meaning crooked creek, border between Secaucus and North Bergen. Similar to evolution of Gramercy, which is a corruption of the krom mesje, or little crooked knife, the name of a small brook that flowed along what is now 21st Street in Manhattan.[36]

Kill Van Kull connects Newark Bay with Upper New York Bay


From the watercress that grew in its streams, or kills [37]

Deep Voll[edit]

Diepte Voll, which literally translates to Deep Fall, to describe the brook's numerous waterfalls and steep slopes. Known as Muksukemuk to the Lenape[38]

Dwars Kill[edit]

Alternatively Dwarskill or Dwarskill Creek, a tributary of the Oradell Reservoir meaning cross creek[39]


Small section of suburban Paramus reputed to be the former site of a "slave community." According to local histories and an historic marker at the site, Dunkerhook was once home to a population of African Americans, many or all of whom were slaves, as well as a "slave school" and "slave church." However, primary historic documentation establishes that Dunkerhook was populated not by slaves, but rather primarily by free African Americans.[40]

English Neighborhood[edit]

The former Ridgefield Township in southeastern Bergen County was likely so called the English Township because of the settlers who came to reside there who were not New Netherlander, namely many English language speakers from the West Indies and New England


The meadowlands, river and city, the Lenape group and their territory, take their name from site of semi-permanent encampment on the neck between the river and Overpeck Creek, near the Teaneck Ridge. Variously translated as place of stony ground[41] or place of sharp ground.[6] Spellings include Ahkingeesahkuy, Achsinnigeu-haki,[41] Achinigeu-hach, Ack-kinkas-hacky, Achkinhenhcky, Ackingsah-sack, Ackinckeshacky,[6] Hackinsack[2]

Alternatively, suggested as the place where two rivers come together on low ground or stream which discharges itself into another on the level ground,[29] which would speak to the confluence of the Hackensack and Overpeck Creek or Passaic River.


Meaning is not clear, possibly Crow's Marsh. Site of a seasonal Hackensack encampment and one of the first "bouweries" built by Dutch settlers at Pavonia. Spellings include: Aharsimus,[42]Ahasimus,[4][43]Hasymes,[44] Haassemus, Hahassemes, Hasimus, Horseemes, Hasseme,[26] Horsimus [7] Contemporary: ahas meaning crow [45]


One of the first locales to appear on maps of North America, listed as Haverstroo, which means oat straw.


Tobacco pipe, from hoopookum or hupoken [6] Most likely to refer to the soapstone collected there to carve tobacco pipes, in a phrase that became Hopoghan Hackingh [46] or place of stone for the tobacco pipe Contemporary: Hopoakan meaning pipe for smoking

Alternatively from Hoebuck, old Dutch for high bluff and likely referring to Castle Point[47] Variations used during the colonial era included Hobock,[48]Hobocan, Hoboocken,[49] and Hobuck,.[47] Although the spelling Hoboken was used by the English as early as 1668,[12] it doesn't appear that until Col. John Steven purchased the land on which the city is situated that it became common.

Some would believe the city to be named after European town of the same name. The Flemish Hoboken, annexed in 1983 to Antwerp, Belgium,[50] is derived from Middle Dutch Hooghe Buechen or Hoge Beuken, meaning High Beeches or Tall Beeches.[51] Established in 1135, the New Netherlanders were likely aware of its existence (and may have pronounced the Lenape to conform a more familiar sound), but it is doubtful that the city on the Hudson is named for it.[52]


The mountain's name is from the Dutch Hooge Kop, meaning High Head.

Kill van Kull[edit]

Separating Bayonne and Staten Island. From the Middle Dutch word kille, meaning riverbed or water channel. Likely evolved from Achter Col, as in kille van kol, or channel from the neck, its spellings including Kill von Cull, Kille van Cole, Kill van Koll


This distinctly Dutch-sounding name which describes the area along middle reaches of Hackensack River, is said to come from the Lenape and mean place of ceremonial dance and worship [53]

Losen Slote[edit]

A tributary of the Hackensack River,[54] from losen and sloot, or a dumping trench, essentially an open sewer.


Mawewi meaning meeting place or place where paths meet[7][8] or assembly[6] Contemporary: mawemin[55]


From Manna-hata, as written in the 1609 logbook of Robert Juet, an officer on Henry Hudson's yacht Halve Maen (Half Moon).[56] A 1610 map depicts the name Manahata twice, on both the west and east sides of the Mauritius River (later named the Hudson River). The word "Manhattan" has been translated as island of many hills .[57] The Encyclopedia of New York City offers other derivations, including from the Munsee dialect of Lenape: manahachtanienk ("place of general inebriation"), manahatouh ("place where timber is procured for bows and arrows"), or menatay ("island").[58]


Meadowlands Lyndhurst.jpg

This is perhaps an approximation of masgichteu-cunk meaning where May-apples grow, from a moist-woodland perennial that bears edible yellow berries [19] and used to describe the lobe of land between and the confluence of the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers at Newark Bay.[12] It was part of Achter Col for the New Netherlanders and New Barbadoes Neck to the British. Contemporary: masgichteu meaning may apple [6]


On Bergen Neck between Pamrapo and Communipaw at Caven Point,.[26] first settled by New Netherlanders in 1647. Spellings include Minelque and Minkacque meaning a place of good crossing probably because it was the most convenient pass between the two bays on either side of the neck, (or could mean place where the coves meet; in this case where they are closest to each other and, hence advantageous for portage.)


Ground hog, badger, or place of dug up earth [6]

Contemporary:monachgeu for groundhog, and munhacke for badger and munhageen meaning to dig a hole [59]

North River is still used in the maritime to describe the lower Hudson

Noort Rivier[edit]

Called Muhheakantuck or the river that flowed two ways in Unami. The Noort Rivier was one of the three main rivers in New Netherland,[60] the others being the Versche Rivier or Fresh River (likely because of its sweet water) and the Zuid Rivier or South River. In maritme usage, it still defines that part of the Hudson between Hudson County and Manhattan.[61] Another story of its origin has it that the rivers connected to New York Harbor are named the "North" River and "East" River based on what direction of travel they permit.[62]


Possibly uiterwaarden meaning a flood plain, of which there were many, this one at the foot of Paterson Plank Road. More likely from a landowner in the area.[63] Or [64]


Oever meaning a sloping bank and perk meaning border or boundary, hence at the water's edge,[65] actually a riparian zone. Used in English as early as 1665. By the Lenape called Tantaqua, it was the site of semi-permanent village of the Hackensack.


From Paquettahhnuake meaning cleared land ready or being readied for cultivation.[66] Packanack is also contemporary variation of this place and the people Pacquanacs


On Bergen Neck between Constable Hook and Communipaw. Spellings include Pimbrepow, Pembrepock, Pemmerepoch,[44] Pimlipo, Pemrepau,[26] Pemrapaugh, and Pamrapough [7]


From Parampseapus or Peremessing meaning , perhaps, where there is worthwhile (or fertile) land or place of wild turkeys.[67] Seapus or sipus is said to mean water, so the name may mean turkey river. Saddle River was also called Peramseapus. Spellings include Pyramus.[68][69]


wet grass or place where grass is wet


The county, river and city are taken from pahsayèk,[70] pahsaayeek[6] and pasayak, meaning valley or water that flows through the valley. Spellings include: Pawsaick, Pissawack Contemporary: Pachsa'jeek[6]

Pavonia, the first settlement by the Europeans took its name from a burgermeester of Amsterdam. Also an investor in Dutch West India Company (WIC), Michael Reyniersz Pauw, purchased land along the banks of the Hudson in 1630 in order to establish a patroonship. Pavonia is a Latinized version of his surname, based on the word for peacock. The bouweries, plantages, and port that made up the settlement grew into the gemeente of Bergen.


From Dutch pole and vlaie, translated as "top of the meadow/atop the swamp"; the name by which the area of Hasbrouck Heights was known.[71] Polifly Road is a major thoroughfare connecting Hackensack and Hasbrouck Heights.


Has been cited by some sources to mean a place where they catch soft fish'.[72]

Paulus Hook[edit]

A tidal island, called Arresick by the Lenape the site where, in 1630, Michael Pauw staked a claim for his attempted patroonship, Pavonia. Named after his agent who built a hut and ferry landing there, hoek or hoeck meaning a spit or point. Variations include Paulus Hoeck, Powles Hoek, Powles Hook


From the munsi, quail woods.[73] Alternatively, thought to mean young buck, depending on interpretation of the original word.[74][75]


Name for the mountains and river and towns, meaning underneath the rock, spellings: Ramapough, Ramopock


The people, river, bay, and towns take their name from a derivation of Naraticong meaning river beyond the island (which, considering location, could be Staten Island). Some would believe that is comes from Roaton or Raritanghe, a tribe which had come from across the Hudson River and displaced the existing population of Sanhicans.[19][76]

Alternatively, Raritan is a Dutch pronunciation of wawitan or rarachons meaning forked river or stream overflows.[77]

Sand Hoek[edit]

Sand Hoek

Sometimes called Sand Punt the peninsula around which most settlers to Fort Amsterdam, Fort Orange, Staten Eylandt, and Lange Eylandt, and Bergen sailed before entering The Narrows.


Built on a barren ridge, literally Barren Hills[78] Two churches still bear the name: South Schraalenburgh Church and Schraalenburgh North Church


Sukit meaning black and achgook meaning snake,[79] hence black snakes.[29] Spellings include Sekakes,[33] Sikakes, Sickakus. Contemporary: seke meaning black and xkuk or achgook[28] meaning snake.[80] Locally, pronounced "SEE-kaw-cus", with the accent on the first syllable, not the second as often used by non-natives.[81] Snake Hill, in Secaucus, is a geolologic intrusion in the midst of the Meadowlands.


Said to mean resting place for the departed or happy hunting ground since this area of Wyckoff, according to tradition, was the burial place of many Native Americans, possibly including Oratam, sagamore of the Hackensack Indians [82] Contemporary schikamik meaning hole or grave or machtschikamikunk meaning a burial place [83]

Staaten Eylandt[edit]

To the Lenape, the island was known as Aquehonga, Manacknong and Eghquaons (Jackson, 1995). Named by colonlists for the governing body of the 17th century United Provinces of the Netherlands, The States-General.


Overpeck Creek, site of Hackensack semi-permanent village, for one of the chiefs of the resident Lenape [12]


The region radiating from Palisades Interstate Park and its inhabitants as named by New Netherlanders, who spelled it as Tappaen.[84][85] Site of the "bouwerie" Vriessendael.

Possibly from Tuphanne meaning cold water [86]

Likely more related to contemporary petapan meaning dawn or petapaniui meaning at the break of dawn,[83] and relates to their kin across the river, the Wappinger,, whose name is derived from the Algonquian people of the east or easterners. (Contemporary: Wapaneu meaning easterly and Wapanke meaning to-morrow.)


Origin and meaning are uncertain, though possibly may mean the woods [87][88] An alternative is from the Dutch "Tiene Neck" meaning "neck where there are willows" (from the Dutch "tene" meaning willow).


From Dutch ten and vlaie, hence Tiene Vly or Ten Swamps given by settlers in 1688.[89]


The place of mountains from watchtsu,[90] which describes the three ridges west of the Meadowlands.

The Palisades


Variously interpreted as or rocks that look like rows of trees or at the end of (the Palisades or stream that flowed from them.) and place of gulls.[91]

Spelling have included: Awiehawken, Wiehacken, Weehauk, Weehawk, Weehock, Wiceaken,Wihaken, Wyhaken, and Wiehachan

Curiously, Peter Minuit, first governor of New Netherland, sailed to the new world upon a ship called the "Seagull", or in Dutch, Het "Meeuwken" (which bears a strking resemblance)


head of the cove.[92]


A small bowery, or homestead established in 1640 at today's Edgewater, meaning Vries' Valley, after its founder David Pietersen de Vries.

Pre-American Revolution Reformed Congregations in the Dutch Belt[edit]

After the final transfer of power to the English (with the Treaty of Westminster) that settlers to New Netherland and their descendents spread across the region and established many of the towns and cities which exist today.[93] The Dutch Reformed Church played an important role this expansion [94] Following the course of the Hudson River in the north via New York Harbor to the Raritan River in the south, settlement and population grew along what George Washington called the "Dutch Belt".[95] The American classis secured a charter in 1766 for Queens College (now Rutgers University), where the appointment in 1784 of John Henry Livingston as professor of theology marked the beginning of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

Year Congregation
1660 Bergen at Bergen Square, now Jersey City
1693 Acquackanonk [96] in Passaic
1694 Tappan [97]
1696 Hackensack [98]
1699 Brick in Marlboro [99]
1700 Second River [100] in Belleville
1703 Six Mile Run [101]
1710 Ponds [102] in Oakland
1717 New Brunswick [103]
1717 Schaghticoke [104]
1720 Fairfield
1724 Schraalenburgh now Dumont
1725 Paramus [105]
1727 Harlingen [106]
1736 Pompton Plains [107]
1740 Ramapo in Mahwah
1755 Totowa [96][108] in Paterson
1756 Montivlle [109]
1770 Ridgefield [110] in the English Neighborhood[111]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ a b c d Ruttenber, E.M.,Indian Tribes of Hudson's River, ISBN 0-910746-98-2 (Hope Farm Press, 3rd ed, 2001)
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  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-24. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
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  11. ^ Arresick
  12. ^ a b c d e New Jersey Colonial Records, East Jersey Records: Part 1-Volume 21, Calendar of Records 1664-1702
  13. ^ On July 12th, 1630, Mr. Michael Pauw, Burgomaster of Amsterdam and Lord of Achtienhover, near Utrecht, obtained through the Directors and Councillors of New Netherlands, a deed from the Indians to the land called Hopoghan Hackingh, this being the first deed recorded in New Netherlands. On November 22nd, of the same year, the same parties procured from the Indians a deed to Mr. Pauw of Ahasimus and Aresick (burying-ground), the peninsula later called Paulus Hook.
  14. ^ Clayton, W.W.; William Nelson (1882). History of Bergen and Passaic counties, New Jersey, with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men. Philadelphia: Everts and Peck. p. 18. 
  15. ^ Grabas, Joseph A. "Land Speculation and Proprietary Beginnings of New Jersey" (PDF). The Advocate. New Jersey Land Title Association. XVI (4): 3, 20, 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 20, 2008. Retrieved April 15, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Early History of Bedloe's Island". Statue of Liberty Historical Handbook. National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
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  18. ^ "Walking Tour of the Bergen Square". Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
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  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ Winfield, Charles (1874). HISTORY OF THE COUNTY OF HUDSON, NEW JERSEY: From its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. New York: Kennaud & Hay Stationary M'fg and Printing Company. p. 51. 
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  27. ^ "Full text of "Four chapters of Paterson history: I. The war for independence. II. The early white settlers. III. Struggle for industrial supremacy. IV. Municipal administration"". Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
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  36. ^ Gramercy Park profile, New York (magazine). Accessed September 30, 2007. "Originally called Crommessie (from Krom Mesje, Dutch for "crooked little knife")
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  56. ^ Full Text of Robert Juet's Journal: From the collections of the New York Historical Society, Second Series, 1841 log book, Newsday. Accessed 2007-05-16.
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  58. ^ "More on the names behind the roads we ride" Archived 2007-08-07 at the Wayback Machine., The Record (Bergen County), April 21, 2002. Accessed 2007-10-26. "The origin of Manhattan probably is from the language of the Munsee, according to the Encyclopedia of New York City. It could have come from manahachtanienk, meaning place of general inebriation, or manahatouh, meaning place where timber is procured for bows and arrows, or menatay, meaning island.
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  67. ^ Reply, 27 July 2011 at 4:37 pm Hieronymo Wild Turkeys! This makes me like Paramus more… (21 July 2011). "paramus, or land of the wild turkey". Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
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  76. ^ 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 [28 km] 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.
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    Map c.1635, Tappaens used to describe population and region
  86. ^ Old Tappan Tappan is the name given to the region and its inhabitants by New Netherlanders from the 1687 patent: "…a Cartaine trackt of Landt named ould tappan as ye same is bounded by trees marked by ye indians.” Tappan, from the Lenni Lenape word Tuphanne (reputed to mean cold water)
  87. ^ A Piece Of Land Becomes A Town, text of article from The Teaneck Shopper, October 21, 1970. "ACCORDING to a Lenape-English dictionary compiled by Moravian missionaries to further their work among the Indians, "Tekene" meant woods, or uninhabited place. "Nek" was the plural of "Ne", thus the word could have been "Tekenek" or simply "The Woods". The Dutch, who Hollandized so many Indian place names, would quite naturally have spelled it "Tiene Neck" or tiny neck."
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  89. ^ O'Connor, Ian. "If You're Thinking of Living in: Tenafly". The New York Times. April 24, 1988.
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  91. ^ Weehawken, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, accessed June 13, 2007. "A township in Hudson County, N.J., seven miles northeast of Jersy [sic] City. The name was originally an Algonquin Indian term and later changed by folk-usage to a pseudo-Dutch form. Its exact meaning is unclear, but variously translated as place of gulls, rocks that look like trees, maize land, at the end (of the Palisades) and field lying along the Hudson."
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