or wan·ni·gan  (wŏn′ĭ-gən) also wan·gun (wŏn′gən, wăng′-)
1. New England & Upper Northern US
a. A boat or small chest equipped with supplies for a lumber camp.
b. Provisions for a camp or cabin.
2. Alaska
a. A small house, bunkhouse, or shed mounted on skids and towed behind a tractor train as eating and sleeping quarters for a work crew.
b. An addition built onto a trailer house for extra living or storage space.

[Ojibwa waanikaan, storage pit.]
Word History: Wanigan is apparently a borrowing of Ojibwa waanikaan, "storage pit," a word derived from the verb waanikkee-, "to dig a hole in the ground." Citations from the 1800s in the Oxford English Dictionary indicate that the word was then associated chiefly with the speech of Maine. It denoted a storage chest containing small supplies for a lumber camp, a boat outfitted to carry such supplies, or the camp provisions in general. In Alaska, on the western edge of the vast territory inhabited by Algonquian-speaking peoples, the same word was borrowed into English to indicate a little temporary hut, usually built on a log raft to be towed to wherever work was being done. According to Russell Tabbert of the University of Alaska, wanigan is still used in the northernmost regions of Alaska to designate a small house, bunkhouse, or shed that is mounted on skids so that it can be dragged along behind a tractor train and used as a place for a work crew to eat and sleep. However, Tabbert notes that in southeast Alaska, where mobile homes are a common option for housing, wanigan now means an addition built onto a trailer house for extra living or storage space. Classified advertisements for trailer homes frequently mention wanigans.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(ˈwɒnɪɡən) or


1. a lumberjack's chest or box
2. a cabin, caboose, or houseboat
[C19: from Algonquian]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


or wan•ni•gan

(ˈwɒn ɪ gən)

also wan•gan, wan•gun

(ˈwæŋ gən)

1. a small portable house, used as an office or shelter in temporary lumber camps.
2. (esp. in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest) a lean-to or other small addition built onto a house.
[1840–50; < Ojibwa wa∙nikka∙n pit, derivative of wa∙nikke∙- to dig a hole in the ground < Proto-Algonquian *wa∙θehke∙- (*wa∙θ- hole + *-ehke∙- make)]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Contestants in the Wanigan Race have to paddle down a river on a wooden raft while cooking a pot of chili.
(71.) A wangan (also spelled "wanagan," "wanigan," or just "van") was a shallow-bottomed riverboat of blocky proportions that stored food and supplies on river drives.
She worked as a cook at Wanigan Cafe, Foster Cafe and the Foster school cafeteria.