The Descriptive Detail of Inuit Town Names

Inukshuk overlooking Kangiqtiniq (Rankin Inlet), Nunavut – Source:

As Inuit town names are being reestablished in the Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland, this author has found them to often be much more interesting and descriptive than the former English or Danish (in Greenland) names.

Sermersooq, Greenland – Source:

Too often, in North America we have a tendency to name places after people, places, or events that have nothing to do with the geographical location. Native Americans and First Nations’ people on the other hand name places based on the physical or environmental attributes of the location.  This list below from across the Arctic region shows many examples.

Arctic Circle Cairn in Naujaat (Repulse Bay), Nunavut – Source:

The most surprising attribute that does not appear to be included, relates to the northern lights. Meanwhile, there are a few that are less than the most inviting town names. Personal favorites are highlighted in bold. As the Winter Solstice quickly approaches, enjoy these descriptive, and often beautiful Inuit town names. Peace.

Aasiaat, Greenland = spiders

Aklavik, NWT = barren ground/grizzly place

Akulivik, QC = central prong of a fishing spear

Alluitsup Paa, Greenland = outside of Alluitsoq (a former nearby town)

Anaktuvuk Pass, AK = place of caribou droppings

Arviat, NU = Bowhead whale

Atqasuk, AK = place to dig the rock that burns (coal)

Aupaluk, QC = where the Earth is red

Aujuittuq, NU = place that never thaws

Inukjuak, QC = the giant

Ilulissat, Greenland = icebergs

Inuvik, NWT = place of man

Inujivik, QC = place where ice accumulates from strong currents

Igluligaarjuk, NU = place with a few igloos

Iglulik, NU = place of igloos

Iqaluit, NU = place of fish

Iqaluktuuttiaq, NU = good place with lots of fish

Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland = big house dwellers

Kangiqtiniq, NU = deep bay or inlet

Kangiqsujuaq, QC = very large bay

Kangerlussuaq, Greenland = big fjord

Kangirsuk, QC = the bay

Kangiqtugaapik, NU = nice little inlet

Katovik, AK = seining (type of fishing) place

Kimmirut, NU = looks like a heel (reference to a rocky outcropping located in the inlet)

Kinngait, NU = high mountain

Kugaaruk, NU = little stream

Kugluktuk, NU = place of moving water

Kullorsuaq, Greenland = big thumb (for a thumb-shaped pinnacle nearby)

Kulusuk, Greenland = place of the Black Guillemot (a bird)

Kuujjuag, QC = great river

Kuujjuarapik, QC = little great river

Mittimatalik, NU = place where Mittima is buried

Naajuat, NU = nesting place for seagulls

Nanisivik, NU = place where people find things

Nanortalik, Greenland = place of polar bears

Narsaq, Greenland = plain

Nuuk, Greenland = cape

Paamiut, Greenland = people who reside by the mouth of the fjord

Pangnirtung, NU = place of the bull caribou

Paulatuk, NWT = place of coal

Puvirnituq, QC = place where there is the smell of rotting meat

Qamani’tuaq, NU = big lake joined by a river at both ends

Qausuittuq, NU = place with no dawn

Qikiqtarjuaq, NU = big island

Quaqtaq, QC = tapeworm

Salliq, NU = a large flat island in front of the mainland

Salluit, QC = the thin ones

Sanirajak, NU = one that is along the coast

Sermersooq, Greenland = beautiful glacier fjord

Sisimiut, Greenland = the people at the fox burrows

Taloyoak, NU = large bull caribou blind

Tasiujaq, QC = which resembles a lake

Tasiusaq, Greenland = looks like a lake

Tikirarjuaq, NU = long point

Tsiigehtchic, NWT = mouth of the iron river

Tuktoyaktuk, NWT = looks like a caribou

Ulukhaktok, NWT = where there is material for Ulus (an Inuit knife)

Umingmaktok, NU = he/she caught a muskox

Uqsuqtuuq, NU = place of plenty of blubber

Umiujak, QC = resembles a boat

Utqiagvik, AK = place for gathering wild roots

  • AK – Alaska
  • NU – Nunavut
  • NWT – Northwest Territories
  • QC – Quebec


This entry was posted in archaeology, Arctic, Canada, cities, civics, culture, diversity, environment, Europe, geography, land use, Language, North America, place names, placemaking, planning, topography, Travel and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Descriptive Detail of Inuit Town Names

  1. Great post! Some of us are still trying to persuade the people in charge of North American weather maps we see on TV to use the current place names, for example, Utqiagvik.


  2. problogic says:

    Thank you, Jean and I agree they should be updated.


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