burrowing squirrel, 1812, American English, perhaps an Englishing of Louisiana French gaufre "honeycomb, waffle," said to have been used by French settlers in reference to small mammals on analogy of the structure of their burrows, from Old French gaufre, walfre (12c.), which is from Frankish or some other Germanic source. The rodent was the nickname of people from Arkansas (1845) and later Minnesota (1872). The gopherwood tree of the Bible (used by Noah to make the ark, Genesis vi.14) is unrelated; it is from Hebrew gofer, name of a kind of wood now unidentified, perhaps meaning the cypress.
updated on September 26, 2016