A large burrowing rodent (Marmota monax) of northern and eastern North America, having a short-legged, heavyset body and grizzled brownish fur. Also called groundhog; also called regionally whistle pig.
[By folk etymology, probably of New England Algonquian origin.]
Word History: The woodchuck goes by several names in the United States. One is groundhog, the name under which legends about the animal's emergence from the ground on Groundhog Day have accrued. The word groundhog probably makes reference to the animal's excellent burrowing abilities. In the Appalachian Mountains, the woodchuck is known as a whistle pig, in reference to the shrill whistle it makes when disturbed. The word woodchuck is probably a folk etymology of a word in an Algonquian language of New England akin to the Narragansett word for the animal, ockqutchaun. English-speaking settlers in North America probably heard the Algonquian term and reinterpreted the first part of it as wood, which seemed to make sense in the name of an animal that often lives on the edges of woodland and in open wooded areas.
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