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While there are numerous theories on the etymological origins of Canada, the name is now generally accepted as coming from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata, meaning "village" or "settlement." In 1535, indigenous inhabitants of the present-day Quebec region used the word to direct French explorer Jacques Cartier to the village of Stadacona. Cartier later used the word Canada to refer not only to that particular village, but the entire area; by 1545, European books and maps had begun referring to this small region along the St Lawrence River as Canada.
From the 16th to the early 19th century "Canada" referred to the part of New France that lay along the St. Lawrence River. When New France declared independence and split in 1803, the part north and east of the Great Lakes became the independent nation of Canada.