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Illinois, n. and adj.

Inflections:   Plural unchanged.

α. 16 Ilinois, 16 Islinois, 16– Illinois, 17–18 Illenois, 18 Illinoise.

β. 17 Ilinese, 17 Illinese.

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Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Partly a borrowing from French. Partly from a proper name. Etymons: French Illinois, proper name Illinois.
Etymology: Partly (i) (originally) < North American French (Mississippi Valley) Illinois, †Ilinois, †Islinois (1670 or earlier), ultimately < Illinois irenȣeȣa   (/irenweːwa/) he speaks Illinois, lit. ‘he speaks the ordinary language’, via another Algonquian language (probably Ojibwa (Ottawa)), apparently with subsequent reinterpretation of the final syllable as French -ois   (see -ese suffix),
and partly (ii) (in some later combinations) < the names of the Illinois River, the Illinois Territory, and (subsequently) the U.S. state of Illinois, all ultimately named after the Illinois people, who inhabited the region (see note).
The self-designation of the people was Illinois Inoca  .
Variants and pronunciation.
In the β. forms   with remodelling of the final syllable after -ese suffix.
The current English pronunciation without the final consonant reflects the French pronunciation. A pronunciation with final /z/ is also given in some American dictionary sources.
Historical place names.
In the 18th cent., the Illinois Country   (French le Pays des Illinois  , lit. ‘land of the Illinois people’, also more usually aux Illinois  , lit. ‘at the Illinois’) was the name of a large territory in New France, part of which was ceded to the British in 1763 and subsequently broken up further. The Illinois Territory (of the United States) was formed in 1809, and its southern part, centring on the Illinois River, became the State of Illinois in 1818.
In Illinois River   (compare quot. 1755 at sense B.) after French Rivière des Illinois, lit. ‘River of the Illinois people’ (1697 in the work translated in quot. 1698 at sense A. 1).
The forms of the place name chiefly match those used for the name of the people, but also include Elenoise and Illinoize (19th cent.), implying a variant pronunciation of the place name with final /z/.
 A. n.

 1. A member of a confederation of Algonquian peoples formerly inhabiting a large area of the Mississippi River valley, including most of what is now the state of Illinois.

1698   tr. L. Hennepin New Discov. in Amer. lxxiv. 286   He earnestly intreated them to return home, and trouble the Ilinois [Fr. les Illinois] no further.
1703   tr. L. de Lahontan New Voy. N.-Amer. I. 231   Some Ilinese [Fr. Ilinois] at Chegakou.
1766   R. Rogers Ponteach ii. ii. 43   This same Chekitan a Captive led The fair Donanta from the Illinois.
1833   B. B. Thatcher Indian Traits II. i. 30   An Illinois interrupted him, and said that he had killed such and such persons.
1896   Amer. Hist. Rev. 1 235   Radisson does not mention in his journal the great and populous nation of the Illinois.
1907   F. W. Hodge Handbk. Amer. Indians I. 598/2   Seemingly belonging to the Illinois.
2007   Jrnl. Illinois State Hist. Soc. 100 199   This interaction appears to have predated the migration of the Illinois and Miamis to the prairies.

1698—2007(Hide quotations)


 2. The language of the Illinois, spoken in several closely similar dialects by them and the Miamis. Also more fully Miami-Illinios. Cf. Miami n. 2.

1703   tr. L. de Lahontan New Voy. N.-Amer. I. xvi. 130   About two a clock in the Morning two Men approach'd to our little Camp, and call'd in Illinese [Fr. en langue Ilinoise], that they wanted an Interview.
1867   G. Gale Upper Mississippi x. 202   Marquette..found among them one that could speak Illinois.
1933   L. Bloomfield Language iv. 72   The languages..of the Great Lakes region (..Illinois, Miami, and so on).
2007   Church Hist. 76 369   Pierre Deliette, a prominent French trader who spoke Illinois himself.

1703—2007(Hide quotations)

 B. adj.

  Of, belonging to, or relating to the Illinois or their language.

1698   tr. L. Hennepin Continuation iii. 17 in New Discov. in Amer.   The Sieur la Salle chose twenty of his best Men, including a Savage of the Nation of the Chaouens nam'd Nika, which in the Illinois Language [Fr. la langue des Illinois] signifies Comrade.
1703   tr. L. de Lahontan New Voy. N.-Amer. I. 231   Upon the Ilinese Lake [Fr. du Lac des Ilinois], and the adjacent Country.
1839   N. Amer. Rev. Jan. 76   Through this swamp our adventurers floated on leisurely..and, about the last of December, reached a village of the Illinois Indians containing some five hundred cabins.
1895   Amer. Catholic Hist. Res. Jan. 37   The first stopping place the voyagers made appears to have been at the mouth of the Des Moines river..where they found the Illinois tribe.
1938   W. D. Strong Indian Tribes Chicago Region (ed. 2) 4   The Illinois effigy mounds may have the same origin. A few large oval mounds occur.
1948   Chicago Tribune 26 June i. 7/8   Starved Rock obtained its name from a legend which says that a band of Illinois Indians perished there in 1769.
2007   Econ. Bot. 61 102/2   Arkansas was what the Illinois tribe called the Quapaw (‘down-stream people’).

1698—2007(Hide quotations)




 C1. General attributive with the sense ‘coming from, found in, or associated with the river, territory, or state of Illinois’.

1775   R. Weston Eng. Flora 18   Illinois Walnut-tree.
1785   H. Marshall Arbustrum Americanum 69   Juglans pecan. The Pecan or Illinois Hickery.
1818   M. Birkbeck Lett. from Illinois 104   I am an Illinois farmer.
1861   Daily Disp. (Richmond, Va.) 1 Aug. 2/3   The consternation in Washington, upon the arrival there of the Illinois Xerxes [sc. Abraham Lincoln], was indescribable.
1913   Chicago Tribune 16 Nov. b2   An Illinois home-coming crowd of 7,000 saw the battle.
1968   Listener 27 June 843/3   An upper-middle-class..suburb in an Illinois dormitory town.
2017   Chicago Daily Herald (Nexis) 3 Apr. 15   Experts say the number of Illinois residents pulling up stakes and moving to Indiana likely will grow in the coming years.

1775—2017(Hide quotations)


  Illinois nut   n. now chiefly hist. the pecan tree, Carya illinoinensis; (also) the fruit or seed of this tree.  [Probably so called with reference to the Illinois River, near which the tree is common.]

1783   W. Fleming Jrnl. 16 Jan. in N. D. Mereness Trav. Amer. Colonies (1916) 666   I was informed the Oionn or Illinois nut grows near the Falls.
1785   T. Jefferson Notes Virginia vi. 64   Paccan, or Illinois nut. It grows on the Illinois, Wabash, Ohio and Missisipi. It is spoken of by Don Ulloa under the name of pacanos.
1860   T. C. Croker Walk from London to Fulham 144 (table)    A tree from an Illinois-nut, given by Mr. Aiton to Mr. Ord, about 40 feet high.
1902   G. S. Boulger Wood 215   Hickory, Pecan... South-central United States. ‘Illinois Nut’.
2007   E. Rose in A. F. Smith Oxf. Compan. Amer. Food & Drink 444/2   It was Wangenheim who, in recognition of their common name ‘Illinois nuts’, gave pecans their species name illinoinensis.

1783—2007(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, March 2019).

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