What Is the Origin of the Name 'Ontario'?

Understand the name of Canada's most populated province

City skyline reflected in Lake Ontario
City skyline reflected in Lake Ontario. Peter Mintz / Design Pics

The province of Ontario is one of the 10 provinces and three territories that make up Canada.

Origin of the Name 'Ontario'

The word Ontario originates an Iroquois word meaning beautiful lake, beautiful water or big body of water, though experts remain uncertain about the precise translation of the word, according to Ontario's government website. Naturally, the name first referred to Lake Ontario, the easternmost of the five Great Lakes.

It is also the smallest Great Lake by area. All five of the Great Lakes, in fact, share a border with the province. Initially called Upper Canada, Ontario became the name of the province when it and Quebec became separate provinces in 1867.

More About Ontario

Ontario is by far the most populated province or territory, with well over 13 million people living there, and is the second-largest province by area (fourth-largest, if you include the Northwest Territories and Nunavut). Ontario contains both the country's capital, Ottawa, and its largest city, Toronto.

The water-based origin of Ontario's name is appropriate, given there are more than 250,000 lakes in the province, making up about a fifth of the world's fresh water.

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Munroe, Susan. "What Is the Origin of the Name 'Ontario'?" ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/ontario-508567. Munroe, Susan. (2017, July 30). What Is the Origin of the Name 'Ontario'? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ontario-508567 Munroe, Susan. "What Is the Origin of the Name 'Ontario'?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ontario-508567 (accessed March 24, 2018).