Quitaque and Other Tongue-Tying Texas Town Names
Here I am, living down here in Nacogdoches for fourteen months—just long enough to learn how to spell and pronounce it—and now my company up and transfers me to Waxahachie!
Every state in the nation has its share of odd town names—and Texas is no exception. Drive our highways and byways, especially those marked by blue lines on old paper maps, and you’re bound to come across some places with some mighty unusual names. We’ve got towns with names dedicated to weaponry, like Cut and Shoot, Gun Barrel City, Gunsight, and Point Blank. We’ve got towns with names that like to brag a little, like Best, Cool, and Grit. We’ve got happy town names: Sweet Home, Smiley, and Joy; and some that are just plain silly: Lazbuddie, Zipperlandville, Jot ’Em Down, Bug Tussle, and Ding Dong. We’ve got town names that’ll get your tummy to rumbling and your mouth to watering: Bacon, Oatmeal, Raisin, Coffee City, and Noodle. Then there’s Telephone, Dime Box, Kermit, Loco, Wink, Fink, Notrees, Turkey, and if we haven’t exhausted all possibilities there’s Uncertain.
Add to this mix some of the most gum-busting and tongue-tying town names in the whole dern nation and you’ve got quite an interesting place. And one thing Texas is, is interesting. But visitors to the state or recent transplants, and even some long time residents, don’t find it all that interesting in sounding like a doggone fool while trying to get their tongues wrapped around some of the names of our Texas towns. So, to help out, I offer this pronunciation guide of fifty Texas tongue-twisting town names in the hopes that’ll keep you from stepping on your tongue the next time you need to ask for directions to Quitaque.
Acala (uh KAY luh)—Named for the long-staple acala cotton found growing wild near a town in Mexico by the same name.
Addielou (ad ee LOO)—Named for Addie Lou Walker of Kanawha.
Amarillo (am uh RIL o)—From the Spanish for “yellow,” in honor of the yellow flowers that proliferate in the area.
Ambia (AM bee uh)—According to legend it is an alternative to Amber, named after the amber color tobacco juice in the spittoons of John Boyd’s general store.
Anadarko (an uh DAR ko)—From a Native American Caddo tribe, which means “where there are bumblebees.”
Anahuac (AN uh wak)—From the Nahuatl (Aztec) for “near the water,” a reference to the Valley of Mexico.
Anaqua (un NAH kwuh)—From the Spanish (via Nahuatl/Aztec) for “paper tree,” named after the anaqua tree.
Arneckeville (AHR nuh kee vil)—Named for German emigrants Andreas Christoph Heinrich and Ursala Barbara Arnecke.
Bexar (BEHR)—From San Antonio de Béxar, named in honor of Baltasar de Zúñiga y Guzmán of Aríon and Marquis of Valero, second son of the Duke of Béjar and Viceroy of New Spain 1716–1722.
Blanco (BLANG ko)—From the Spanish for “white,” named for the white limestone banks of the Blanco River, so named from the 1721 Spanish expedition of Marqués de Aguayo.
Boerne (BER nee)—Named for German intellectual, political writer, and satirist Karl Ludwig Börne.
Buda (BYOO duh)—Americanized from the Spanish viuda, meaning “widow.”
Burnet (BUHR nit)—Named for David Gouverneur Burnet, President of the provisional government of the Republic of Texas and first Vice President of the constitutionally formed Republic of Texas.
Colmesneil (KOL muhs nell)—Named for William T. Colmesneil, a Texas & New Orleans Railroad conductor.
Danevang (DAN uh vang)—From the Danish for “Danish Field,” named by the Dansk Folkesamfund (Danish People’s Society) for their colony where they hoped the Danish language and culture might be preserved and perpetuated.
Dumas (DOO muhs)—Named for Louis Dumas, a Sherman businessman and real estate investor, who organized the Panhandle Townsite Company that laid out the town in 1891.
Falfurrias (fal FYOO ree uhs)—Origin unknown, but Edward Lasater, the founder of the town said it was a Lipan Apache word meaning “the Land of Heart’s Delight.”
Floydada (floy DAYD uh)—A combination of the county name Floyd and ada for Ada Catherine Bear, niece of Caroline Price, who donated the land for the townsite.
Goldthwaite (GOL thwayt)—Named for Joseph G. Goldthwaite, and Galveston businessman who organized the sale of town lots.
Gruene (GREEN)—Named for Heinrich (Henry) Gruene, a store keeper who build a school and managed a dance hall in the town.
Helotes (he LO teez)—From the Nahuatl (Aztec) elotl, meaning “roasting ears” or “corn on the cob.” It was Americanized into Spanish as elotes or olotes, meaning “cornfields.
Iraan (eye ruh AN)—A combination of the first names of husband and wife Ira and Annie Yates, who held a naming contest, the winner of which won a free building lot.
Jiba (HEE buh)—Americanized from the Spanish word giba, meaning “hump,” named for a small hill.
Kosciusko (kuh SHOOS ko)—Named in honor of Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko (Americanized as Thaddeus Kościuszko), one of George Washington’s trusted aides during the Revolutionary War and an advocate for Polish independence.
Leakey (LAY key)—Named for John Leakey, the first permanent settler in the area.
Llano (LA no)—From the Spanish for “plain” or “flat land.” The river that runs through the area has always been known to the Spanish as Rio de los Chanes (or Rio de los Sanas), which was named for the Chane (or Sana) people, a Tonkawan tribe. Chanes became Llanes, which later became Llano.
Manchaca (MAN chak)—Named for Jośe Antonio Manchaca, a Texan officer in the Texas Revolution, who served under Juan Seguin.
Marathon (MEHR uh thun)—Named by Albion Shepard, a former sea captain and a surveyor for the Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio Railroad, who said the local terrain reminded him of Marathon, Greece.
Mexia (muh HEE uh)—Named for the estates of Enrique Guillermo Antonio Mexía and his sister, Adelaida Matilda Mexía.
Miami (meye AM uh)—Probably named for Miami, Kansas, which was named for the Native American Miami tribe who had been removed to that area from Indiana, meaning “downstream people.”
Nacogdoches (nak uh DO chuhs)—Named for the Native American Nacogdoche tribe or the “Paw Paw people,” a division of the Caddo confederacy. It was the site of the 1716 Spanish mission of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de los Nacogdoches.
New Braunfels (nyoo BRAHN fuhlz)—Originally named Neu Braunfels for Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels by Nicolaus Zink who lead a group of German emigrants to the area.
Oenaville (o EE nuh vil)—The origin of the name is unknown, but one of the most popular legends is that the town was named for Oena, a Seminole beauty that Cullen D. Johnson, who established the town, left behind when he came to Texas.
Palestine (PAL uhs teen)—Named for Palestine, Illinois, not the old Roman province of Israel, by associates of Daniel Parker, who was from the Illinois town. Parker was a minister of the Primitive Baptist church and organizer of the Union Primitive Baptist Association of Texas.
Pecos (PAY kuhs)—From the Spanish adaptation of the Keres Native American name for the Pecos Pueblo, east of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The name first appeared in reports of the Juan de Oñate Expedition in 1598. Its general meaning is “place of water.”
Pflugerville (FLOO ger vil)—Named for Henry Pfluger, who settled the area in the early 1850s. The name is German for “plowman.”
Quihi (KWEE HEE)—Named for the white necked Mexican eagle buzzard. Sometimes spelled Quichie or Keechie.
Quitaque (KIT uh kway)—Named for the Quitaca Native American tribe who inhabited West Texas and eastern New Mexico. Cowman Charles Goodnight claimed the name was an Indian word meaning “end of the trail.” More likely, the name is a Spanish and Americanized corruption of the Nahuatl (Aztec) cuita, meaning “excrement,” reportedly the source name of the horse manure piled looking Quitaque Pikes in Motley County.
Ravenna (ri VEN uh)—Origin of the name is unknown, but the traditional story is that the town was named for all the ravines in the area. However, the spelling indicates that it was borrowed from the town of Ravenna in northeast Ohio or from the village of Ravenna in Italy.
Refugio (ruh FYOO ree o)—Named for the Mexican municipality and villa of Refugio. In 1793 Spanish Franciscan monks established the mission of Nuestra Señora del Refugio, “Our Lady of Refuge.” In 1836 the county and town were created by the Republic of Texas.
Salado (suh LAY do)—From the Spanish for “salty,” named for the Salado Creek, a rest stop on the Austin-Waco stagecoach line.
San Felipe (san fuh LEEP)—Named for Felipe de Garza, Mexican governor of the Eastern Interior Provinces, which included Austin’s Colony, and Saint Philip the apostle of Christ. The town was also known as San Felipe de Austin since Stephen F. Austin first established his 1824 colony in the area.
Tenaha (TEN uh hah)—From an unidentified Native American language meaning “muddy water.” However, an early spelling, Tenaja, suggest it is from the Spanish word tinaja, meaning “large jar,” a reference to the rock basins created by streams and dripping water eroding the rock into jar-like waterholes.
Unland (YOO luhnd)—Named in honor of nineteenth century German poet, literary critic, lawyer, and politician Ludwig Uhland.
Veribest (VEHR ee best)—Named for the quality of meat products, preserves, and cooking utensils produced by the Armour packing company of Chicago. According to legend, named by homemaker Sue Rister while grocery shopping, referring to the Armour products as the “Very Best.” The name also added a positive image of the town.
Viboras (vee BOR uhs)—From the Spanish for “vipers” or “rattlesnakes.”
Waco (WAY ko)—Named for the Native American Waco tribe whose main village was near the site of the present-day city.
Waxahachie (wahks uh HACH ee)—A combination name from Native American origin. It either came from the Muskogee clan name waksee and hahchee, meaning “creek” or “river;” or, from the Wichita words waks and hahch, a Caddoan language of the people who lived in the area, meaning “fat monster” or “fat wildcat.”
Ysleta (is LET uh)—From the Spanish word isleta, meaning “little island.” Founded by Isleta Pueblo Indians and Spaniards from Isleta Pueblo south of present-day Albuquerque, New Mexico, who fled during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The Texas settlement was originally named Ysleta del Sur,” Little Island of the South,” generally regarded as the oldest extant settlement in Texas.
Zuehl (ZEEL)—Named for Prussian Ferdinand Zuehl (Fred Zuehl) who established a general store in the area in the 1860s.
Phonetic spellings taken and town descriptions adapted from Edward Callary, with Jean K. Callary, Texas Place Names (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2020).