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8 comments on this post.
  1. Gregor:

    I became randomly curious about the “Snake or Shoe first” origin of the word today, and couldn’t find much information online. This is a great article. Thank you for taking the time to research the origin. It’s annoying that it may remain a mystery, but it’s nice to know that mysteries still exist today.

    I agree with your most plausible theory, that the word derived as slang for their shoes, because of the snake-like stealth it provided their feet (which would be very vital to hunting and daily life as well). Also, I have read some texts that explain that snake designs were placed on their shoes for that very reason. This seems much more likely than any snake being named after a shoe, for a shoe-like appearance it may have.

    Thank you!

  2. Joel Chapman:

    Years ago we played in the creek close to my family farm all day long at times. I have stepped on a water moccasin and it coiled around my foot immediately. I’ve wondered if this isn’t the reason for the name. I jumped and left the snake wasn’t bitten.

  3. Warren Thompson:

    I found a source that suggest it may derive from another Native word “mokesoji”. Wasn’t able to find anything else about that word, though.

    “Besides that ‘deadly moccasin’ and frequent ‘black
    snakes,’ there were ‘whip snakes,’ ‘milk snakes,’ and many
    others which the negroes would bring home as trophies of
    their courageous slaughter ; but by no scientific names were
    they known there. Except this name moccasin or mokesoji,
    which probably conveyed some especial meaning to the
    aborigines, few of the Indian vernaculars have been
    preserved in the United States, as we find them in other
    parts of America, which latter are treated of in chapters
    xxii. and xxiii. of this work ; but common English
    names prevail. ”

  4. Tom:

    I heard the word was derived from Gaelic traders. They tried to explain what they wanted for their feet by saying the Gaelic words mo chosa to the native Indians back when trading first started.

  5. Sherry:

    Water moccasins can swim on top of the water. Looks like they are gliding across the top of the water.
    Walking on the water. Very quiet.
    Water walker. Moccasin.

  6. Amito:

    Bless you for this informative and well researched answer to a question I am sure many a child has asked their parent. My son is currently reading The Underneath and his question led me here. Many thanks!

  7. John M Nicastro Jr.:

    “makkusin”-Algonquian (commonly abbreviated PA) is the proto-language from which the various Algonquian languages are descended. It is generally estimated to have been spoken around 2,500 to 3,000 years ago*1 1 Goddard, Ives (1978). “Central Algonquian Languages”. In Trigger, Bruce G.; William C. Sturtevant (eds.). Handbook of North American Indians: Northeast. 15. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. pp. 583–587. ISBN 978-0-16-004575-2.

  8. Sam:

    So, a while back a friend of mine and I were in the car chatting and she said she wanted to swim in a certain lake nearby. To which I replied, ‘I wouldnt swim there. There’s manatees!’ She said ‘Really? Sea cows?’ And thats when I realized I had used the wrong word and meant moccasins. Right after that, ‘Who names a snake after a shoe!?’ Since then its been an ongoing debate as to which came first. The chicken or the egg. The snake or the shoe. Thank you so much for delving into this!

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