From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bayou Corne in Louisiana, October 2010

In usage in the United States, a bayou ( /ˈb., ˈb./) [1] is a body of water typically found in a flat, low-lying area, and can either be an extremely slow-moving stream or river (often with a poorly defined shoreline), or a marshy lake or wetland. The term bayou can also refer to a creek whose current reverses daily due to tides, and which contains brackish water highly conducive to fish life and plankton. Bayous are commonly found in the Gulf Coast region of the southern United States, notably the Mississippi River Delta, with the states of Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas being famous for them. A bayou is frequently an anabranch or minor braid of a braided channel that is moving much slower than the mainstem, often becoming boggy and stagnant. Though fauna varies by region, many bayous are home to crawfish, certain species of shrimp, other shellfish, catfish, frogs, toads, American alligators, American crocodiles, herons, turtles, spoonbills, snakes, leeches, and many other species.


The word entered American English via Louisiana French in Louisiana and is thought to originate from the Choctaw word "bayuk", which means "small stream". [2] The first settlements of Bayou Têche and other bayous were by the Louisiana Creoles, and that is why bayous are associated with Creole and Cajun culture.

An alternative spelling, "buyou", has also been used, as in "Pine Buyou", used in a description by Congress in 1833 of Arkansas Territory.


The term Bayou Country is most closely associated with Cajun and Creole cultural groups derived from French settlers and stretching along the Gulf Coast from Houston, Texas to Mobile, Alabama and picking back up in South Florida around the Everglades with its center in New Orleans, Louisiana.[ citation needed]

Houston has the nickname "Bayou City". As of 2016 "bye-you" is the most common pronunciation, while a few use "bye-oh", although that pronunciation is declining. [3]

Other uses

The Illinois Bayou in Arkansas harks back to the original meaning of "small stream" and may be the only bayou with whitewater rafting. [4] [5] [6] It meets neither of the definitions above.

Notable examples

See also

  • Backswamp – Environment on a floodplain where deposits settle after a flood
  • Billabong – Australian term for a seasonal oxbow lake
  • Hurricane on the Bayou – 2006 documentary film by Greg MacGillivray
  • Oxbow lake – U-shaped lake formed by a cut-off meander of a river
  • Yazoo stream – Tributary stream that runs parallel to, and within the floodplain of a larger river for considerable distance
  • Bayeux – Subprefecture and commune in Normandy, France


  1. ^ "bayou". Unabridged. Random House. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  2. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary, Dictionnaire de l'Académie française, 9th edition
  3. ^ Shilcutt, Katharine (2016-10-24). "What's a Bayou Anyway?". Houstonia. Retrieved 2019-01-01.
  4. ^ Illinois Bayou
  5. ^ Southwest Paddler
  6. ^ US vs. Daniel Lewis Lee

External links