toboggan (n.)

picture credits: This image is available from Library and Archives Canada under the reproduction reference number PA-008492 and under the MIKAN ID number 3194118

Last week I introduced you to an English word with French origin. Today I give you the Native American toboggan. The first time I saw this kind of sled was in the film Home Alone (1990). The main character Kevin is left behind by accident as his family goes on Christmas Holiday. Among all the stupid things he does while they are away is going down the front-room staircase on a toboggan. But it was not a standard model as the movie geeks at IMDB will tell you but rather a film prop:

“As Kevin flies through the air outside the front door after he sleds down the stairs, you can see the rollers on the bottom of the toboggan.”InternetMovieDataBase :;7 December 2008)

The word toboggan is probably of Algonquin origin, a Native American language with now less than 3000 speakers mainly in Quebec and Ontario. This etymology makes it a genuine American English word.

The con struc tion of this sled – with out run ners on the underside – made it quite suitable for transporting traps, game and other goods over deep snow. Nowadays, and probably since the middle of the 19th century, it is mainly used for fun rides as you can see in the picture. In Canada and the US you sometimes even find sledding slopes reserved exclusively for toboggans.

I must admit I never rode a toboggan myself but it is an experience I definitely want to treat myself to, one day. I am afraid, however, that toboggans are a bit hard to come by here in Germany.

toboggan at

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