Skip to main content
Select Source:

Bayou

BAYOU

BAYOU, a term used throughout the South, may refer to bays, creeks, sloughs, or irrigation canals for rice fields. However, in the Mississippi River Delta region of Louisiana and Mississippi, it chiefly refers to the sluggish offshoots of rivers that meander through marshes and alluvial lowlands in the flat delta. During floods, the river may break through its curving banks to forge a more direct channel. The old channel, having lost the principal flow, becomes a sluggish stretch of brown water called a bayou. Some larger examples, such as Bayou Lafourche, are remnants of belts the Mississippi once followed to the Gulf of Mexico. Five times in the last five thousand years, the Mississippi has shifted to an entirely new course. In 1963 the Army Corps of Engineers installed a dam to try to prevent the Mississippi from diverting into the Atchafalaya


River, a diversion that could leave New Orleans on a bayou.

The term "bayou" most likely came from the Choctaw bayuk ("small sluggish stream"), although some sources insist it is derived from the French boyau ("gut" or "channel"). When boats were virtually the only means of transportation in the delta region, much human activity focused on bayous. Legendary pirate Jean Laffite used Bayou Barataria in southeastern Louisiana as his headquarters in the early 1800s. Bayou Pierre, southwest of Jackson, Mississippi, was an obstacle well known to travelers on the Natchez Trace. Antebellum planters romanticized the bayous' beauty, building colonnaded mansions among moss-draped live oaks on the shores. During the Civil War, Confederates used bayous flowing into the Gulf to run weapons, medical supplies, and other contraband past the Union blockade. Today bayous are used for flood control, fishing, and even recreation. Louisiana has incorporated several bayous into its state parks.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Balée, William, ed. Advances in Historical Ecology. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

Kane, Harnett T. The Bayous of Louisiana. New York: Morrow, 1943.

McPhee, John. The Control of Nature. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1989.

Robert W.Twyman/w. p.

See alsoAcadia ; Houma ; Mississippi River .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bayou." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bayou." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bayou

"Bayou." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bayou

bayou

bayou (bī´ō, bī´ōō) [Louisiana Fr.; from Choctaw bayuk=small stream], term used mainly in U.S. Gulf states, especially Louisiana and Mississippi, to describe a stationary or sluggishly moving body of water that was once part of a lake, river, or gulf and is swampy or marshy in nature. Bayou is sometimes used as a synonym for oxbow lake, a former meander in a river valley cut off from that stream.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"bayou." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"bayou." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bayou

"bayou." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bayou

bayou

bay·ou / ˈbīoō; ˈbīō/ • n. (pl. -ous ) a slow-flowing stream in a swampy area.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"bayou." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"bayou." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bayou-0

"bayou." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bayou-0

bayou

bayou XVIII. — Amer. F. — a Choctaw word.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"bayou." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"bayou." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bayou-1

"bayou." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bayou-1

bayou

bayou •bayou

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"bayou." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"bayou." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bayou

"bayou." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bayou