mountains of southcentral United States, said to be from French aux Arcs, short for aux Arkansas "to the Arkansas (Indians)," who once inhabited that region. See Arkansas.
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organized as a U.S. territory 1819, admitted as a state 1836; it was named for the Arkansas River, which was named for a Siouan tribe.
The spelling of the term represents a French plural, Arcansas, of a name applied to the Quapaw people who lived on the Arkansas River; their name was also written in early times as Akancea, Acansea, Acansa (Dickinson, 1995). This was not the name used by the Quapaws themselves, however. The term /akansa/ was applied to them by Algonquian speakers; this consists of /a-/, an Algonquian prefix found in the names of ethnic groups, plus /kká:ze, a Siouan term referring to members of the Dhegiha branch of the Siouan family. This stem is also the origin for the name of the Kansa tribe and of the state of Kansas; thus the placenames Arkansas and Kansas indirectly have the same origin. [William Bright, "Native American Placenames of the United States," 2004]
The silent final -s, perhaps originally from the French pronunciation, was made official in 1881 by an act of the state legislature.