The state of Wisconsin has a strong Native American heritage, but have you ever wondered why so many cities and towns specifically have "wau" in their name?

Wisconsin Cities With 'Wau" In the Name

Let's test your Wisconsin geography knowledge by playing a little game...

How many Wisconsin towns and cities with "Wau" in the name can you come up with in 30 seconds? I'll give it a go first...

  • Milwaukee
  • Wausau
  • Waukesha
  • Pewaukee

That's all I could remember in 30 seconds, pretty sad, huh?

Significance of "Wau" In So Many Wisconsin City and Town Names

If you're thinking "Wau" has one single definition, that's not true at all. According to Travel Wisconsin;

“Wau” doesn’t have a single meaning, but instead has different meanings based off different context and syllables used with it. The result of so many Wisconsin towns having “wau” in their names is a result of earlier European settlers who did not know how to translate the subtleties of Algonquin oral languages.

Definitions of Wisconsin's Most Popular "Wau" Cities

Here's what some of Wisconsin's most popular towns and cities that have "wau" in their name actually mean according to Travel Wisconsin;

  • Milwaukee - In the Potawatomi language "Milwaukee" translates to "rich and beautiful land" and was once pronounced "Man-a-waukee".
  • Wausau - "Waasaa" was the Ojibwe word for "far away" or "noise like thunder".
  • Waukesha - Many people believe that "Waukesha" actually means "fox", but that's not true. This Wisconsin city bares the name of a former Potawatomi leader.
  • Kewaunee - In the Ho-Chunk language "Kewaunee" translates to "greater prairie chicken" and a lot of poultry used to be raised in that area.
  • Waunakee - This suburb of Madison was actually called Leicester until about 1870 when the name was changed to Waunakee which means "fair and pleasant valley".

To learn more definitions of Native American cities in Wisconsin, check out Travel Wisconsin's full article or read the interesting facts featured in this post...

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