- a trunk, chest, etc. for storing supplies, as in a lumbering camp
- a small, rough shelter for sleeping, cooking, etc., often one mounted on runners or wheels or on a raft or boat
Origin of waniganOjibwa waanikaan, pit, hole dug in ground
or wan·ni·gan also wan·gun
- New England & Upper Northern US a. A boat or small chest equipped with supplies for a lumber camp.b. Provisions for a camp or cabin.
- Alaska a. A small house, bunkhouse, or shed mounted on skids and towed behind a tractor train as eating and sleeping quarters for a work crew.b. An addition built onto a trailer house for extra living or storage space.
Origin of waniganOjibwa waanikaan, storage pit. Word History: Wanigan is apparently a borrowing of Ojibwa waanikaan, “storage pit,” a word derived from the verb waanikkee–, “to dig a hole in the ground.” Citations from the 1800s in the Oxford English Dictionary indicate that the word was then associated chiefly with the speech of Maine. It denoted a storage chest containing small supplies for a lumber camp, a boat outfitted to carry such supplies, or the camp provisions in general. In Alaska, on the western edge of the vast territory inhabited by Algonquian-speaking peoples, the same word was borrowed into English to indicate a little temporary hut, usually built on a log raft to be towed to wherever work was being done. According to Russell Tabbert of the University of Alaska, wanigan is still used in the northernmost regions of Alaska to designate a small house, bunkhouse, or shed that is mounted on skids so that it can be dragged along behind a tractor train and used as a place for a work crew to eat and sleep. However, Tabbert notes that in southeast Alaska, where mobile homes are a common option for housing, wanigan now means an addition built onto a trailer house for extra living or storage space. Classified advertisements for trailer homes frequently mention wanigans.