The words Ohio, Ontario and Onontio (or Yonnondio)-which should properly be pronounced as if written Oheeyo, Ontareeyo, and Ononteeyo--are commonly rendered "Beautiful River," "Beautiful Lake," "Beautiful Mountain." This, doubtless, is the meaning which each of the words conveys to an Iroquois of the present day, unless he belongs to the Tuscarora tribe. But there can be no doubt that the termination io (otherwise written iyo, iio, eeyo, etc.) had originally the sense, not of "beautiful," but of "great." It is derived from the word wiyo (or wiio) which signifies in the Seneca dialect good, but in the Tuscarora, great. It is certain that the Tuscaroras have preserved the primitive meaning of the word, which the Hurons and the proper Iroquois have lost. When the French missionaries first studied the languages of these nations, traces of the original usage were apparent. Bruyas, in the "Proemium" to his Radices Verborum Iroquæorum, (p. 14), expressly states that jo (io) in composition with verbs, "signifies magnitude." He gives as an example, garih8ioston, "to make much of anything," from garth8a, thing, and io, "great, important." The Jesuit missionaries, in their Relation for 1641, (p. 22) render Onontio "great mountain," and say that both Hurons and Iroquois gave this title to the Governor of that day as a translation of his name, Montmagny.
Ontario is derived from the Huron yontare, or ontare, lake (Iroquois, oniatare), with this termination. It was not by any means the most beautiful of the lakes which they knew; but in the early times, when the Hurons dwelt on the north and east of it and the Iroquois on the south, it was to both of them emphatically "the great lake."
Ohio, in like manner, is derived, as M. Cuoq in the valuable notes to his Lexicon (p. 159) informs us, from the obsolete ohia, river, now only used in the compound form ohionha. Ohia, coalescing with this ancient affix, would become ohiio, or ohiyo, with the signification of "great river," or, as the historian Cusick renders it, "principal stream."
M. Cuoq, in his "Etudes Philologiques" (p. 14) has well explained the interesting word Rawenniio, used in various dialectical
forms by both Hurons and Iroquois, as the name of the deity. It signifies, as he informs us, "he is master," or, used as a noun, "he who is master." This, of course, is the modern acceptation; but we can gather from the ancient Huron grammar, translated by Mr. Wilkie, (ante, p. 101) that the word had once, as might be supposed, a larger meaning. The phrase," it is the great master," in that grammar (p. 108) is rendered ondaieaat etharontio or etha8endio. The Huron nd becomes in Iroquois nn. Etha8endio is undoubtedly a form of the same word which appears in the Iroquois Rawenniio. We thus learn that the latter word meant originally not merely "the master," but "the great master." Its root is probably to be found in the Iroquois kawen, or gawen (Bruyas, p. 64), which signifies "to belong to any one," and yields, in. combination with oyata, person, the derivatives gaiatawen, to have for subject, and gaiatawenston, to subject any one.