Ecosystems and Culture

Salmon Etymology

The salmon (Salmo salar) is a species of fish that is found in tributaries and the oceans of Canada, the United States, and Europe. It is a migratory fish.

The salmon totem is a reminder of how important it is to follow your passion. It is also a symbol of strength and perseverance.


Salmon is a large fish that migrates from fresh water to the ocean and back again. The orangey-pink flesh of the salmon is prized for its flavor and nutritional value.

People have eaten salmon for thousands of years. The salmon was an important food source for indigenous peoples and later for Hudson’s Bay Company trappers, explorers, and EuroAmerican settlers.

The question of whether or not to pronounce the l in salmon is a matter of opinion, and reflects a longstanding controversy over how to pronounce the word “Latin.” In fact, the l in salmon originated in Latin – but through L-vocalization became silent in English. The reintroduction of the l in modern spelling was part of a 17th century obsession with Latin that led to the b in debt and the d in doubt being reinserted into the English language.


The salmon (Salmo salar) is a large fish that is consumed as food and lives in both freshwater and marine waters. It is a member of the Salmonidae family and the genus Oncorhynchus.

It spawns in freshwater streams, where it lays its eggs. After hatching, the alevins migrate to the ocean to grow up. The salmon spend one to five years in the ocean before returning to spawn again.

A salmon can be smoked or eaten raw as a salad ingredient or a fish course. A salmon steak is a popular meal in the United States and Canada.

The biblical name Salmon is a boy’s given and surname that derives from the Hebrew word SHlm (shalom) meaning “peace.” The name also may be related to the Yiddish boy’s name Zalman. The name is associated with prosperity and abundance in many cultures, making it a good choice for a baby boy. The salmon is also a symbol of rebirth and resurrection.


Salmon are keystone species that transfer massive amounts of nutrients rich in nitrogen, sulphur, carbon and phosphorus from the ocean to inland freshwater ecosystems. In addition, the migration of salmon provides food for predatory land animals such as bears and osprey and their decomposition benefits forest ecosystems.

In recent decades, wild populations of salmon in the Atlantic and Pacific have declined dramatically. This has affected fishing and the livelihoods of many people around the world and increased the demand for salmon products.

Some salmon — for example, the potamodromous (migrating only between freshwater and sea) salmon in lakes such as Sebago, Onega, Ladoga and Vanern — are genetically different from those that live at the ocean coast. This difference probably reflects the fact that the former were isolated from the open sea during glacial periods and thus underwent independent evolution in a freshwater-only environment. Molecular evidence suggests that these genetic differences at the level of an ESU (Evolutionarily Significant Unit) reflect repeated, parallel evolution of life history strategies.


Salmon is the common name for a group of fishes that belong to the family Salmonidae, and are harvested as food. The word derives from the Latin salmo, meaning ‘to leap’, a reference to the fishes’ behavior in freshwater and marine waters.

While some species of salmon remain in freshwater throughout their lives, most are anadromous and migrate to the ocean to mature, after which they return to inland freshwater to spawn. The migration is important because it transfers vital nutrient (along with carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus) from the ocean to inland ecosystems. Predation by piscivorous wildlife along the way serves to distribute the nutrients even further, and decomposition of the salmon carcasses benefits the forest ecosystem.

In the Pacific Northwest, salmon is a keystone species. Its migratory path helps transfer essential nutrients from the ocean to inland freshwater ecosystems, and its interaction with other organisms – including humans – is critical for sustainable management.

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