Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of a breed of powerful dog developed in Alaska as a sled dog and having a thick gray, black, or white coat.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A ancient northern breed of dog of the husky type, particularly used as a sled dog.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A local name for the Eskimo dog, apparently used in Alaska.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. breed of sled dog developed in Alaska

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Short for malamute dog, from Inupiaq Malimiut, name of a subgroup of the Inupiaq.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

So called because the dogs were bred by the Mahlemuit (from Inupiak malimiut), a people of western Alaska.

Examples

Comments

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  • "Drivers liked to work with large dogs because they often carried loads one and a half times heavier than their teams. Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, and hounds were popular imports, and they were cross-bred with the indigenous dog population. In Nome, the imports were bred with malamutes, named after the Eskimo Mahlemuit people. Over the past several hundred years, the Eskimos had used and bred their dogs to freight heavy loads for relatively short distances. When miners crossbred the Native dogs with Newfoundlands and St. Bernards, the outcome was sometimes astonishing: mutts that weighed as much as 125 pounds. The malamute nearly disappeared, yet its name lived on; miners in Nome as well as in the Interior often called their mixed-breed dogs malamutes."

    --Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury, The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race against an Epidemic (NY and London: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003), 20

    (In light of the comments below, it may be worth noting that the authors, though they spoke with many Alaskans and did research there, are from New York.)

    January 24, 2017

  • Maybe they're adhering more closely to the name of the tribe that originally raised the dogs?

    October 14, 2007

  • Interestingly, this is always spelled "malemute" in print sources in Alaska. It's the mascot of one of our local high schools and the name of a popular saloon. It also appears as malemute in many place names around the state. I don't believe I have ever seen it spelled "malamute" up here.

    October 14, 2007

  • a.k.a. Alaskan malamute. "The malamute is a Nordic dog, descended from the Arctic wolf. Its name comes from Mahlemuts, an Alaskan tribe that raised and cared for these beautiful snow dogs.... The malamute is a sled dog." (Simon & Schuster's Guide to Dogs, 1980)

    February 21, 2007