hummock

Hummock, also spelled hommock, was originally hammock, a nautical term feasibly drawn from the image of hammocks folded and stowed in a net suspended above the deck. The diminutive ending, as with hillock, is an indicator of size, and the word may have conflated with Low German hümpel (or its variants), which means a small height or eminence. In geography, the term can refer to a mound of broken sea ice forced upward by pressure, as within a floe, or to a small knob of damp earth in subpolar and alpine regions, but more commonly it is applied to a mound or cone-shaped piece of ground elevated above a swampland, especially in the southern United States, and most especially in Florida, where it is sometimes confused with hammock, a dryland feature. Hummocks often have trees and other dense growth on them. Also, in the southwestern part of the Florida Everglades, and elsewhere in the South, the mounds built up of shell fragments or other detritus by pre-Columbian inhabitants may be called hummocks. In Wolfert’s Roost, Washington Irving observes: “When Florida was ceded by the Spaniards . . . the Indians . . . retired . . . [into the] intricate swamps and hommocks and vast savannahs of the interior.”

John Keeble