Humanities › Issues What Is the Origin of the Name "Ontario"? Share Flipboard Email Print Peter Mintz / Design Pics Issues Canadian Government The U. S. Government U.S. Foreign Policy U.S. Liberal Politics U.S. Conservative Politics Women's Issues Civil Liberties The Middle East Terrorism Race Relations Immigration Crime & Punishment Animal Rights View More By Susan Munroe Canadian Culture Expert B.A., Political Science, Carleton University Susan Munroe is a public affairs and communications professional based in Canada. our editorial process Susan Munroe Updated November 25, 2019 The province of Ontario is one of the 10 provinces and three territories that make up Canada. "Beautiful Lake" 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. 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. Naturally, the name first referred to Lake Ontario, the easternmost of the five Great Lakes. It is also the smallest Great Lake by area. In addition, all five of the Great Lakes share a border with the province. Initially called Upper Canada, Ontario became the name of the province when it and Quebec separated 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.