Meanings Behind the Names of Places

Amicalola (Falls) – Cherokee word meaning “tumbling waters.” The falls at Amicalola are Georgia’s highest at 729 feet. Amicalola Falls State Park is located about 8 miles from Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the 2,144-mile Appalachian Trail.

Anaguluskee – Indian meaning “flower of the branch.”

Appalachian – In Creek, Apalachee means “people on the other side” or “highland farmer.” The name was first used to designate the mountain range, probably in South Carolina, by a French explorer in 1567. The Appalachian Trail is a 2,144-mile footpath stretching from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine.

Arkaquah – Cherokee for “crooked creek,” pertaining to the long, winding creek that flows through Union County. It is also the name of an Indian. It is also spelled Akaguah or Arkaqua.

Brasstown Bald – Georgia’s highest mountain (4,784 feet) is named for a Cherokee town on the Hiawassee River in Towns County. The actual Cherokee name for the town was “It-se-yi” or “New Green Place” or green valley, but the white settlers confused this with “unt-sa-yi” or “place of brass.” The whites applied this name to the mountain.

Chattahoochee (River) – From “Chatu-huchi,” a name for the Lower Creek dialect originally applied to a Creek town on the river. The name means “marked rock” or “picture rocks,” referring to the picture writing found on the rocks at that site. The Chattahoochee River forms in White County above Helen, flowing south through Georgia to Alabama and Florida, where it joins the Apalachicola, which then flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

Chattooga (River) – From the Cherokee “Tsatu-gi,” although some say the meaning is not clear and appears to be of non-Cherokee origin. Others say it is Cherokee and means “has crossed the river” and “drank by sips” or “he sips.” There is some indication of an ancient settlement named “Tsatu-gi” that was on the Chattooga River, a head-stream of the Savannah River, forming the Georgia & South Carolina border. This is also a famous whitewater rafting river, featured in the movie Deliverance.

Cherokee – Corruption of the Lower-dialect Cherokee term “Tsa-ra-gi.” Cherokees also called themselves “ani-uni-wa” or “principal people.” Cherokee County, Georgia, was the parent county of numerous other North Georgia counties. It was formed in 1831 by Georgia legislature to include what was then the Cherokee nation. It was subdivided in 1832 into 11 counties.

Chestatee (River) – Corruption of the Cherokee word “atsun-stati-yi” meaning “fire light place.” This was the name by which the Cherokee called the present-day Chestatee River, which flows through Lumpkin County and empties into Lake Lanier. This river was the eastern boundary of the Cherokee Nation under the Treaty of February 27, 1819.

Chicopee – “Swift water” or “violent waters.” This name is believed to have originally designated falls in the Chicopee River in Massachusetts.

Choestoe – It is probably from the Cherokee word “Tsistu-yi” meaning “land of the dancing rabbits” or “the rabbit place.” This is the name of the southernmost district in present day Union County. Until 1845, it had been part of Lumpkin County.

Cohutta – A Cherokee Indian name that translates into “mountains that hold the sky.”

Coosa – Cherokee word for creek meaning “cane break.”

Coosawatee (River) – Corruption of the Cherokee word “Ku-sa-weti-yi,” which literally means “old Creek place.” It was an important Cherokee settlement on the lower part of the river in present-day Gordon County.

Currahee (Mountain) – Some say it is a Cherokee word meaning “it stands alone.” Others believe that this mountain in present-day Stephens County is apparently the site where the Cherokee found a popular salad green they called “gula-hi-yi” and that Currahee is a corruption of this Cherokee word.

Dahlonega – Some say it is from “Tahlonega” meaning “golden.” Others interpret the name as “place of yellow money.” Still others say it is a corruption of the Cherokee word “da-lon-ni-ge-i,” the Cherokee term for the color yellow. Dahlonega is the county seat of Lumpkin County and was incorporated December 21, 1833. It is the site of America’s first gold rush.

Eastonallee – From the Cherokee word “U-stana-li” denoting a natural barrier of rocks across a stream. A community in present-day Stephens County on Eastonallee Creek, near which was an old Cherokee settlement by the same name. Others say it means “rocky bridge across the waters.” The crossing at Eastonallee Creek lay along an ancient footpath that grew into a road at an early date.

Enotah – Bare or bald.

Ellijay – From the Cherokee word “Elatse-yi” or the abbreviated “Elatse,” which means “green earth.” It is the Gilmer county seat.

Etowah – A widely used name throughout the territory formerly inhabited by the Cherokee. It is the name of a river, which originates in Lumpkin County and flows southwest to Rome, Georgia, where it joins the Oostanaula River to form the Coosa River. It is not believed to be a Cherokee word, but used to designate a Cherokee settlement on the river in Forsyth County. White settlers corrupted the name to “Hightower.” The early plat maps of Lumpkin County show the river’s name as “Hightower.”

Frogtown – This is the translation of the Cherokee word “Wali-si-yi,” or literally “place of the frog” or “giant frog.” It names a district in northern Lumpkin County on the Chestatee River where the old Coosa-Tugaloo trading path crossed. It is also a community in Forsyth County on the Etowah.

Hemp Top – Translation of Cherokee word “gatun-lti-yiy,” or literally “hemp place.” This community in Fannin County was probably so named because of wild hemp (Apocyunum cannabinum), which apparently grew there. This species of hemp was used for bow strings.

Hiawassee – Corruption of the Cherokee word “ayu-hwa-si,” meaning “meadow” or “savannah.” Today, Hiawassee is the county seat of Towns County. It is also the name of the river, which rises on the North side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Towns County and flows northward to form Lake Chatuge. This name also appears (with slightly different spellings) in North Carolina and Virginia.

Moccasin (Creek) – It means “it wraps around” in Powhatan (Virginia) or moccasin (or Micmac, m’kussin). The name was recorded by colonists in Virginia as early as 1612. According to one Native American source in Virginia, the name for soft wraparound shoes used by Indians and the name for a snake, come from the same meaning. The term moccasin was used by Virginia’s Pamunkey Tribe to describe all snakes.

Nacoochee – Comes from the Cherokee name “Na-gu-tsi,” a prominent old Cherokee settlement in White County on the Chattahoochee River. This site has mounds from the Mississippian period (800 A.D.-1254 A.D.).

Nottely (River) – Named for “Na-du-li,” an old Cherokee settlement on the Nottely River in Cherokee County, NC. Does not appear to be of Cherokee origin and has no meaning in Cherokee.

Sautee – From the Cherokee “Itsa-ti,” the meaning of which is unknown. This Cherokee term appears to have been applied to prominent towns in the Nation. Corruptions of this word are found on old maps as “Chota,” “New Echota” and “Great Echota.”

Soquee (River) – From the Cherokee “sakwi-yi,” the name of an old Cherokee settlement on the Soquee River in Habersham County. The Soquee originates in Habersham County from the tributaries in or near the Tray Mountain Wilderness Area and flows south to join the Chattahoochee River below Clarkesville.

Talking Rock – Translation of the Cherokee word “Nunyu-gunwani-ski” or “rock that talks.” It is said to refer to a particular “echo” rock in the creek by the same name in Pickens County.

Tallulah (Falls) – It is a corruption of the Cherokee “Ta-lu-lu.” There is no clear translation, although it is thought to denote the distinctive sound of a certain species of frog in that area, the “Du-lu-si.”

Toccoa – From the Cherokee “Tag-wa-hi” or “Catawba place,” implying the former presence of that tribe. Toccoa, Georgia, is the county seat of present day Stephens County. It is also the name of a river, which originates on the north slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Union County and flows north through Fannin County to form Lake Blue Ridge. It then turns into the Ocoee River when it crosses into Tennessee. The Ocoee was the site of the 1994 whitewater Olympics.

Track Rock Gap – Located 5 miles east of Blairsville in Union County, Cherokees called it “Datsu-nalas-gun-yi” meaning “where there are tracks.” Several large soapstone rocks are covered with petroglyphs depicting human and animal tracks. They were in place when the Cherokee arrived some 250 years ago, and remain of uncertain origin. The most popular theory is that they are graffiti carved by ancient hunters resting at the gap while awaiting game to pass through.

Waleska – The name of a prominent Indian who lived in Cherokee County and distinguished himself by the feathers he wore from eagles he killed. A community in northeast Cherokee County is named for him.

War Woman – It is also known as “Pretty Woman.” The exact Cherokee term is unknown; however, it is claimed that the Long-Hair Clan (Ani-Gila-hi) was sometimes referred to as “Pretty Woman Clan” and that the office of War Woman may have been a hereditary position, which passed through that clan. A War Woman was a powerful woman who decided the fate of prisoners taken in war. A district of present day Rabun County is named “Warwoman.”

Yahoola (Valley) – It is from the Cherokee word “Yahula-i” or “place of Yahula,” a Cherokee trader who was taken away by the Nunne-hi or spirit people. It is said the name may be derived from “yahu-lu” meaning “hickory.” Yahoola Creek and the Yahoola Valley in Lumpkin County were both named for this mythical character.

Yonah (Mountain) – Cherokee word “yo-nuh” meaning bear. This is the name given by the white settlers to the mountain in White County, but the Cherokees called it “Gada-lulu,” an untranslatable name. Prior to the establishment of White County in 1857, a town near the base of the mountain was called “Mt. Yonah.” It was later called Cleveland and became the county seat of White County.