Definition of Athabaskan in US English:


(also Athapaskan)


  • Denoting, belonging to, or relating to a family of North American languages including especially Navajo and various Apache languages of the southwest US, several languages of coastal California and Oregon, and many languages of Alaska and northwestern Canada, including Chipewyan.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In Athabaskan languages, they are focused on the land and the flow of the rivers.’
    • ‘The collection features Athabaskan stories from Alaska and the Yukon, a region that has often been neglected in previous collections.’
    • ‘I enjoyed the warmth of the hospitality in isolated Athabaskan Indian and Inuit communities.’
    • ‘‘Everything is under threat,’ said Chief Gary Harrison of the Arctic Athabaskan Council.’
    • ‘One interpretation is that it may be an Athapaskan hunting tool known as a ‘Little Owl.’’
    • ‘We're part of the Athapaskan people from the Northwest Territories.’
    • ‘Other languages with similar devices to mark topic object include Wichita, Pawnee, Tlingit, and some Athapaskan languages such as Navajo and Schaptin.’
    • ‘The Yukon River and its tributaries are central to Athabaskan story cycles.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘My grandmother is a full blood Ahtna Athabaskan Indian.’
    • ‘Collectively, the Athapaskan people of this region refer to themselves as ‘Dene’.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They have no linguistic relationship to any other language except for a vague similarity to the Athabaskan language.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She met Osgood in person only once, in the early 1970s, while attending an Athapaskan conference in Ottawa.’
    • ‘Navajo is identified as one of the Western Apachean languages of the Southern Athapaskan group.’
    • ‘‘While you're thinking about what you're going to say, they're already talking,’ complained one Athabaskan Indian woman.’


  • 1The Athabaskan family of languages.

    • ‘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.

    • ‘They also share some cultural similarity with the Athabaskan, with whom the Tlingit have interacted and traded for centuries.’
    • ‘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.’


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