The Indigenous Roots Of Matawan, New Jersey

Matawan, NJ Has Etymological Roots In The Lenape Language, But There Are Conflicting Translations

Historic New Jersey Borough Matawan was colonized by a group of Dutch settlers that used the Dutch version of the name, “Matovancons.” As the Lenape language has been suppressed and transformed over the centuries, the possible translations are plenty. Learn more here.

Lost In Translation

The original Native American inhabitants of this territory called it “Mechananienk.” This translates into, “Where two rivers come together.” The Dutch somehow turned this word into “Matavancons” which can seem like a stretch. Historians have researched the possible reasons for this large leap in pronunciation and have proposed that the name might derive from one of two dialects within the Lenape Native American language. Learn more about The Highest Point On The East Coast Shoreline Is In Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey.

A Diverse Culture With Many Names

The Lenape People speak two dialects of the language. There is the more popular Southern Unami and the almost extinct Northern Unami. As these tribes were nomadic and only semi-affiliated, they would often apply different names to shared territories. The closest word to “Matawan” is the Southern Unami word, “matawonge,” which means “bad riverbank” and might refer to the collapsing shores of Raritan Bay before constructing a seawall in the 1970s. It could also derive from the Northern Unami version of the word that means, “bad fog,” possibly describing the fog that rolls in from Raritan Bay as well.

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