What does the name Cherokee mean?
There are many theories on the meaning of the word Cherokee.
For example, the western dialect of the Cherokee does not contain an ‘r’ sound. The origin of this name is possibly from the word "atsila" or the eastern dialect version, "atsira," meaning fire, thus the full meaning could be ‘people of the fire.’ This has been documented from informants in the 1800’s. In the Cherokee language, it is pronounced anitsalagi, meaning Cherokee people.
The Cherokee people call themselves aniyvwiya, meaning the Real People.
The elders tell us Cherokee people historically have also called themselves anigaduwagi, or Kituwah people.
There have been many different spellings of the word Cherokee throughout history and by people of other cultures. Some visitors have even speculated that it is a name given by another Native people, meaning "Cave People" or "People of a Different Tongue."
Other names applied to the Cherokee have been: