How did “Labrador” originate?

June 9, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Geography

According to Scandinavian sagas, Bjorn and Eric the Red discovered Labrador about the year 1000 A.D. They called it Helluland, meaning land of slate or naked rocks. The region was rediscovered in 1498 by John Cabot, who supposed it to be the eastern extremity of Asia.

There are three theories as to how the region received its present name, all of them resting upon little more than mere supposition. One holds that Labrador was named after a Basque Whaler named la Bradore who settled on the bay of that name in 1520.

Another derives the name of this British territory from Portuguese llavrador, “yeoman farmer.” In 1498 after John Cabot had made his first voyage and was making plans for his second, he went to Lisbon in quest of sailors to form his crews. There he met and enlisted the services of a man named Joao Fernandes, nicknamed “Llavrador,” who had made a voyage from Iceland to Greenland about 1492. When Cabot reached Greenland in June, 1498, he named the region “Labrador’s Land,” after Joao Fernandes, called Llavrador, because the latter had been the first person to tell him of that country. According to one tradition, Fernandes was a llavrador, “farmer,” from the Azores. Greenland itself was known as Labrador’s Land until the name was transferred to the peninsula on the mainland under the impression that Labrador was part of Greenland.

Still another theory is that Labrador is derived directly from the Portuguese word meaning “laborer.” In 1500 the Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte Real took home a cargo of natives from the region now known as Labrador. Some authorities think these natives were Eskimos; it is more probable they were ordinary Indians. At any rate, King Emanuel of Portugal was pleased with them and thought he had come into possession of another slave coast whence natives might be exported to the other colonies as slaves. Hence the name Labrador, or “Laborer’s Land.”

Labrador proper is not a part of Canada, as many people in the United States suppose, but is a dependency of Newfoundland, a separate unit in the British Empire.


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