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The Name Ratohnhakéton

Q: How do you pronounce Ratohnhaké:ton and what does it mean, I heard it was "he hunts"?

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A: Apparently this is the name of a character in the "Assassin's Creed" series of video games. The name Ratonhnhaké:ton comes from the Mohawk language (one of the Iroquois languages), and it means "his spirit has emerged" or "he has begun to live." ("He hunts" would be Ratorats, which is a completely different word.) The correct pronunciation of "Ratohnhake:ton" varies a bit according to different Mohawk dialects. Most Mohawk speakers pronounce it similar to lah-doan-hah-gay-doon, but some Mohawk people, especially at Tyendinaga, pronounce it more like rah-doon-hah-gay-doon. The colon (:) is just a sign that the vowel before it is held longer than the others. Many Mohawk people leave this symbol out when they are writing Mohawk (i.e., Ratohnhaketon.)

Hope that answers your question!
Native Languages of the Americas

Q: I read on another website that Ratonhaketon means "Life Scratcher." Which is it?

A: That would be a more poetic, but also valid, interpretation of the name. Mohawk people do not have names that are literal sentences; they are usually name forms, including a couple of word roots, ending, and often (but not always) a gender prefix. This leaves a Mohawk name's "meaning" open to a certain amount of interpretation. In Ratonhnhake:ton, "onh" is a root meaning "spirit" or "life," and "ake:t" is a root that can mean either "emerge" or "scratch something." (The prefix "ra-" is for a man's name.) Our Mohawk speaker understood the name Ratohnhake:ton as "his spirit emerges," but it could just as easily be translated "his spirit scratches its way out" or "he scratches at life" or "he scratches to survive." It's not an actual historical name (it was invented for the game,) so it has no family history to help explain its context as most Mohawk names do. People who play the game must use their imagination to decide what the name means to them. One of the most beautiful things about Haudenosaunee names is the way that they can really make a person think about who he is and who he wants to be. It's good that this game has taken the time to share that tradition with a wider audience.

Have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Related Links

 American Indian character names
 American Indian translation
 Mohawk language
 Mohawk words
 Iroquois Confederacy



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