Bayou is a word that sounds French but is in fact of Choctaw origin, deriving from bayuk, meaning “small stream.” In recorded usage since 1818, bayou most commonly refers to marshy offshoots and overflowings of lakes and rivers in the delta of Louisiana and the Gulf area. In a region of mostly swamps and marshy prairies, the bayous are spaces of open water, sluggish or stagnant, often the abandoned channels of the river delta cut off into oxbow lakes in the river’s variorum history of trial and evolution. Bayou can also refer to a secondary channel, away from the mainstream, where the current is slower and the volume smaller. Sometimes a tributary is referred to as a bayou, as is any sluggish stream. The word can be said to refer to any slow water in a marshy area, if not dead water perhaps sleeping water, or dreaming water.

Robert Morgan