Origin of Canuckearlier Kanuck, apparently ; from Hawaiian kanaka, man
nounOften Offensive Slang
Origin of CanuckPossibly from alteration of Canada or from Hawaiian kanaka, man, human being (from Proto-Polynesian *tangata, (the Hawaiian word perhaps coming to refer to French Canadians because both Hawaiians and French Canadians worked in the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest)).
In Canada, the term is not derogatory, and is considered to apply to all Canadians. In the United States the term is often considered derogatory, and is particularly derogatory when applied to French Canadians in New England.
(comparative more Canuck, superlative most Canuck)
- (informal, occasionally construed as derogatory) Canadian.
1835 Kanuk (US), 1849 canuck (Canadian), origin Unknown.
Several dictionaries simply state that it is an alteration of Canada or Canada. More than one theory holds that the name began as an informal self-appellation by an early Canadian minority, and later acquired a national identity. A few sources explain the ending as coming from Inuktitut inuk (“man, person”), from Chinook (“Aboriginal people of the U.S. Pacific Northwest”), or another Canadian Aboriginal ending like -uc, -uq, or -oc.
Another theory is that the name is from the surname Connaught, used as a French-Canadian nickname for the Irish. Yet another speculates that the origin is Laurentian kanata (“village”), which is also the origin of Canada. It has also been thought to come from Iroquoian Canuchasa (“hut”), German Genug von Canada (“enough of Canada”), or French quelle canule.
Since 1975, a number of linguists have come to believe that the name probably comes from Hawaiian kanaka (“man”), a self-appellation of indentured colonial canoemen and Hawaiian sailors working off the Pacific Northwest, Arctic, and New England coasts. The term may have come to English through French canaque, or more likely, via American whalers. Compare English Kanak and French Kanak or canaque (“black person”), Austrian German Kanake.