Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
or wan·ni·gan also wan·gunnoun
- New England & Upper Northern U.S. 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: Ojibwa waanikaan, storage pit.Regional Note: Wanigan is apparently borrowed from Ojibwa waanikaan, “storage pit,” from the verb waanikkee-, “to dig a hole in the ground.” Nineteenth-century citations 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, as in Algonquian, the camp equipment and provisions. In Alaska, on the western edge of the vast territory inhabited by Algonquian-speaking tribes, the same word was borrowed into English to indicate a little temporary hut, usually built on a log raft to be towed to wherever men were working. According to Russell Tabbert of the University of Alaska, wanigan is still used in the northernmost regions of Alaska to mean “a small house, bunkhouse, or shed mounted on skids” to be dragged along behind a tractor train 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.