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Mis·sis·sip·pi (mĭsĭ-sĭpē) Abbr. MS or Miss.
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A state of the southeast United States. It was admitted as the 20th state in 1817. French settlers arrived in 1699, and the area became part of Louisiana. It passed to the British (1763-1779) and then to the Spanish before being ceded to the United States in 1783. The Mississippi Territory, organized in 1798 and enlarged in 1804 and 1813, also included the present state of Alabama. Jackson is the capital and the largest city.

Word History: In a letter from August 1863, Abraham Lincoln wrote, "the Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea," referring to General Grant's capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi. In the 1700s and 1800s, it was widely believed that the name Mississippi meant "Father of Waters," in a Native American language, and American writers often used the phrase Father of Waters as an alternate, more poetic appellation for the river. (Other mighty rivers, such as the Nile, had also been given this title in English literature before the Mississippi.) However, the name Mississippi actually comes from Ojibwa misi-sipi, meaning simply "big river." In 1666 French explorers somewhere in the western Great Lakes region encountered the Ojibwa name and rendered it as Messipi. The French then took the name with them as they went down the Big River to its delta, and it eventually superseded all the other names for the Big River used by local Indian tribes and by earlier Spanish explorers. Later, in 1798, Congress applied the Ojibwa name of the river to the territory of Mississippi, newly organized from lands inhabited by the Natchez, Choctaw, and Chickasaw.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

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