24 June 2015

kill (body of water)

Looking across the Arthur Kill from Perth Amboy, NJ to Harbortown, NY

I was reading an article about my home area of New York / New Jersey and it alluded to a body of water known as the Arthur Kill. I've seen the term before and never really questioned it, knowing it as simply some kind of waterway.

A kill is similar to a creek. The word comes from the Middle Dutch kille, meaning "riverbed" or "water channel". It is logical then that we find the term used in areas of Dutch influence.

You will find it used to describe waterways in the Delaware and Hudson Valleys and other areas of the former New Netherland colony of Dutch America. Beside the Arthur Kill (separating NJ from NY's Staten Island), you find the Kill Van Kull, Dutch Kills and English Kills off Newtown Creek, Bronx Kill between the Bronx and Randalls Island.

It also shows up in names of rivers - the Wallkill River in New York and New Jersey and the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania, and in Delaware the spooky-sounding Murderkill River, the Broadkill River, and a river made for a mystery story, the Whorekill River.

The word can't quite escape its English murder and death  association. For example, beside the Arthur Kill is a place known as the "Graveyard of Ships."

The Fresh Kills waterway goes to what was formerly the Fresh Kills landfill. Twenty years ago, it had the dubious honor of being the largest landfill in the world.

The term "kill" is also used in some geographic places and towns: the Catskill Mountains, the city of Peekskill, the town of Fishkill, New York, and the hamlet of Wynantskill, New York.

Arthur Kill area - NJ to the left

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