• cayuse •
kai-yus • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. An American Indian tribe of Oregon and Washington state, a member of that tribe, or the language they speak. 2. A small native Indian horse ridden by American cowboys.
Notes: Although today's Good Word is seldom used in speech, you may run into it in novels or songs about the Old West of yesteryear. Since it comes from a very foreign language (see Word History), it has not developed any family at all.
In Play: I was listening that old Cole Porter song, "Don't Fence me in", when I heard this seldom used word that was strangely familiar to me. It contains a verse that goes:
Just turn me loose,
Let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western skies.
On my cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise.
Word History: Today's Good Word is a shortening and commonization of the noun phrase Cayuse pony. The word itself comes from the Cayuse language, a Columbian Salish language of the Pacific Northwest: qayus "horse". It might be a borrowing from Spanish caballos [kabayos] "horses", since the cayuse was a descendant of the original horses that the early Spanish explorers introduced to the Americas. Americans are fond of using beautiful Amerindian words for naming things, such as Susquehanna, sequoia, Allegheny, Savannah, Chautauqua—to barely scratch the surface.