- large province of eastern Canada, probably from Portuguese Lavrador.
[Labrador] is not used in Cartier's narratives, though it appears in the title of the 1598 edition of his first narrative. It is supposed to have been added by the translator. There are, at least, six theories as to the origin of this word. [W.F. Ganong, "The Cartography of the Gulf of St. Lawrence," 1887]
He lists as "The generally accepted and altogether probable one" that "it was originally 'Terra Laboratoris,' land of the laborer because Cortereal brought fifty men thence to Europe, who were described as well fitted for slaves. This is sustained by all the evidence of old maps." Gasper Cortereal was a Portuguese navigator who explored the coast for the Portuguese crown in 1500 and brought home captives. He returned for more in 1501, but was never heard from again. But a Portuguese map of 1520 has the name Lavrador applied to Greenland, while the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland is called Bacalhaos, which is "codfish" in Basque.
Another theory [Room] is that the sense of the name is "landholder" and is a reference to 15c. Portuguese explorer João Fernandes, who was a landholder in the Azores. The breed of retriever dog so called from 1815. Related: Labradorian.