The Ojibwe call the lake Gichigami, meaning “big water.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the name as “Gitche Gumee” in The Song of Hiawatha, as did Gordon Lightfoot in his song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald“.
The first French explorers approaching the great inland sea by way of the Ottawa River and Lake Huron during the 17th century referred to their discovery as le lac superieur. Properly translated, the expression means “Upper Lake,” that is, the lake above Lake Huron.
The lake was also called Lac Tracy by 17th century Jesuit missionaries.
The English, upon taking control of the region from the French in the 1760s, following theFrench and Indian War, anglicized the lake’s name to Superior, “on account of its being superior in magnitude to any of the lakes on that vast continent.”