Definition of Athabaskan in English:


(also Athapaskan)


  • 1Denoting or relating to a family of North American languages including especially Navajo and various Apache languages of the south-west US, several languages of coastal California and Oregon, and many languages of Alaska and north-western Canada, including Chipewyan.

    • ‘My grandmother is a full blood Ahtna Athabaskan Indian.’
    • ‘‘While you're thinking about what you're going to say, they're already talking,’ complained one Athabaskan Indian woman.’
    • ‘Other languages with similar devices to mark topic object include Wichita, Pawnee, Tlingit, and some Athapaskan languages such as Navajo and Schaptin.’
    • ‘I enjoyed the warmth of the hospitality in isolated Athabaskan Indian and Inuit communities.’
    • ‘The Yukon River and its tributaries are central to Athabaskan story cycles.’
    • ‘Culturally and linguistically distinct from Native Americans of the lower 48 states, as well as from the Athabaskan people of Alaska, the Inuit are closely related to the Mongoloid peoples of eastern Asia.’
    • ‘We're part of the Athapaskan people from the Northwest Territories.’
    • ‘The name comes from the old native Athabaskan lingo for ‘The Great One’.’
    • ‘The fall of the White River ash likely had devastating consequences for the native residents of the Yukon, and numerous authors have suggested that the eruption initiated a large-scale Athapaskan migration out of the area.’
    • ‘On the basis of comparison with the other Athabaskan languages, Carrier must at some point in the past have had nasalized vowels, but it no longer does, and even records from the late nineteenth century don't show it.’
    • ‘She met Osgood in person only once, in the early 1970s, while attending an Athapaskan conference in Ottawa.’
    • ‘The collection features Athabaskan stories from Alaska and the Yukon, a region that has often been neglected in previous collections.’
    • ‘Collectively, the Athapaskan people of this region refer to themselves as ‘Dene’.’
    • ‘Navajo is identified as one of the Western Apachean languages of the Southern Athapaskan group.’
    • ‘They have no linguistic relationship to any other language except for a vague similarity to the Athabaskan language.’
    • ‘That is to say, missionaries trained in the lower 48 states came up to Alaska to establish and serve churches among the Eskimo and Athabaskan peoples.’
    • ‘The Navajo language belongs to the Athapaskan language family that is spoken from beyond the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Canada to the southwestern United States.’
    • ‘In Athabaskan languages, they are focused on the land and the flow of the rivers.’
    • ‘One interpretation is that it may be an Athapaskan hunting tool known as a ‘Little Owl.’’
    • ‘‘Everything is under threat,’ said Chief Gary Harrison of the Arctic Athabaskan Council.’
  • 2Denoting or relating to speakers of any of the Athabaskan languages.


  • 1mass noun The Athabaskan family of languages, sometimes classified in the Na-Dene phylum.

    • ‘The ‘keepers of the language’ should be the language family - Algonquin, Athapaskan, Eskimo-Aleut, Haida, Iroquoian, Hutenai, Salishan, Siouan, Tlingit, Wakashan.’
  • 2A speaker of any of the Athabaskan languages.

    • ‘Ron Scollon and Suzanne Scollon found that the personal ‘display’ required in argumentative writing was culturally inappropriate for the Athabaskan of Alaska, a tribe related to the Dene.’
    • ‘They also share some cultural similarity with the Athabaskan, with whom the Tlingit have interacted and traded for centuries.’


From Athabasca, the name of a lake in western Canada, from Cree Athap-askaw ‘grass and reeds here and there’, + -an.