Sometimes—often—we just don’t know where a name came from. Arimo is one Idaho example. Idaho, a Guide in Word and Picture, the travel guide/history edited by Vardis Fisher in 1937 for the Federal Writers Project, says that Arimo is an Indian word meaning “an uncle who bawls like a cow.” That seems like something you wouldn’t really need a unique word for, given the number of times its likely to come up in conversation. Meanwhile, Lalia Boone’s book Idaho Place Names, A Geographical Dictionary lists it as the name of a red-haired Indian chief, though it adds the adverb “supposedly” to the description to tip the reader to the uncertainty of the definition.
Montpelier’s name has a solid provenance. It was named for Montpelier, Vermont by a man who was born there, Brigham Young. The city in Vermont was, in turn, named after a city in the south of France.
Picabo, Idaho gained some fame thanks to its namesake Picabo Street, the Olympian. It is (here comes that adverb) supposedly an Indian word meaning either “come in” or “silver water,” two meanings that could so easily be confused. Obviously. Oh, and the Indian inviting you into, perhaps, that silver water, would probably have pronounced it Pee-Kah’-bow.
One of the prettiest place names in Idaho is a combination of the names Julia and Etta, daughters of postmaster Charles Snyder. Juliaetta had previously been named Schupferville. Good call, dad.
Sinker Butte and Sinker Creek in Southwest Idaho are named either because the creek sinks out of site intermittently in the desert, or because early settlers used gold nuggets as sinkers on their fishing lines. I’m leaning toward the former, but the latter certainly has its charm.