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[ath-uh-bas-kuh n] /ˌæθ əˈbæs kən/
a family of languages spoken by American Indians in most of inland northwest Canada and Alaska, in coastal Oregon and California, and in Arizona and the Rio Grande basin, and including especially Navajo, Apache, and Chipewyan.
Compare family (def 14).
a member of any of various American Indian peoples speaking Athabaskan.
belonging to or characteristic of the Athabaskans.
Also, Athabascan, Athapaskan, Athapascan.
Origin of Athabaskan
Woods Cree
1770-80; earlier Athapasca(s), introduced as a term for the Canadian Athabaskans (< Woods Cree ahδapaska·w Lake Athabaska, literally, there are reeds here and there < Proto-Algonquian *aʔlap(y)- net, reticulated + *-ašk- plant + derivational elements) + -an Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for athabascan
Historical Examples
  • The maximum difference between any two known languages of the athabascan group is that between English and German.

    Opuscula Robert Gordon Latham
  • This section of the athabascan boundary has been much disputed.

    California Athabascan Groups Martin A. Baumhoff
  • The other boats follow and anchor, and we have opportunity at close range to inspect these worst rapids of the athabascan chain.

    The New North Agnes Deans Cameron
  • If athabascan, the stretch in question belonged to the Nongatl (Saia).

    California Athabascan Groups Martin A. Baumhoff
  • We have more ethnographic information about the Sinkyone than about most of the athabascan groups.

    California Athabascan Groups Martin A. Baumhoff
  • Each has affinities with the athabascan tongues, and perhaps equal affinities.

    Opuscula Robert Gordon Latham
  • The territory occupied by the Hupa differs in several respects from that of the other athabascan tribes.

    California Athabascan Groups Martin A. Baumhoff
  • Indeed, as late as the 1920's and '30's there were many good athabascan informants still available.

    California Athabascan Groups Martin A. Baumhoff
  • It was not until 1903 that Goddard showed their athabascan affinity (Goddard, 1903b).

    California Athabascan Groups Martin A. Baumhoff
  • The following sketch of athabascan culture attempts to provide some background for the later discussion of the various groups.

    California Athabascan Groups Martin A. Baumhoff
Word Origin and History for athabascan


1846, Athapaskan, from the name of the North American Indian people, from Lake Athabaska in northern Alberta, Canada, from Woods Cree (Algonquian) Athapaskaw, said by Webster to mean literally "grass or reeds here and there," referring to the delta region west of the lake. Also in reference to their language group.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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