Manitoba is from a Native American word, but like many such toponyms the exact origin is uncertain. The name was originally applied to the lake known as Lake Manitoba and was extended to the surrounding territory.
It is most likely from either the Ojibwa manito-bah or the Cree manito-wapow, both meaning strait of the spirit, a reference to the sound of the water flowing though the narrows of Lake Manitoba which can produce an eerie sound. Another, less likely, possibility is that it is from the Assiniboine mini-tobow, meaning lake of the prairie. An 18th-century French name for lake was Lac des Prairies.1
Alan Rayburn, Dictionary of Canadian Place Names (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 233;
Illustrated Dictionary of Place Names: United States and Canada, edited by Kelsie B. Harder (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976), 318.
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton