Fear Not: Here’s Why ‘Kill’ Is Found In So Many NY Locale, Waterway Names

What’s in a name? In the case of these New York locales and waterways, nothing nearly as sinister as their titles may imply.

New York State.

New York State.

Photo Credit: Canva/omersukrugoksu

Pull up Google Maps and you’ll notice that the Empire State is dotted with several towns ending in the suffix -kill: Northern Westchester’s Peekskill, Dutchess County’s Fishkill, and of course the picturesque Catskill Mountains, to name a few.

Zoom in a bit further and you’ll spot winding creeks and rivers that are curiously referred to as kills: Normans Kill near Albany and Poesten Kill near Troy, for example.

So, what gives? It turns out there’s a perfectly logical, non-homicidal explanation for all this "killing" going on across the state.

According to Merriam-Webster – you know, the dictionary folks – in addition to taking someone’s life, the word “kill” refers to a body of water, namely a channel or creek. Wikipedia broadens the definition to include rivers, tidal inlets, and straits.

The term comes from the Middle Dutch word “kille,” meaning “riverbed” or “water channel.” So, naturally you’ll find it in areas with heavy Dutch influence like the Hudson and Delaware Valleys.

For example, the Village of Fishkill was so named by Dutch immigrants combining the words “vis” (fish) and “kil” (stream), according to its website.

If this type of “kill” is news to you, you’re not alone. This reporter found at least three different subReddits dedicated to New York’s plethora of kills.

“You’re killing me with this,” one user quipped.

So, the next time someone asks if you want to jump in “the kill” with them, just know that they’re not asking you to engage in a heinous crime. Hopefully. 

to follow Daily Voice Southwest Dutchess and receive free news updates.