Lacrosse was invented by Native North Americans. Its name was dehuntshigwa'es in Onondaga ("men hit a rounded object"), da-nah-wah'uwsdi in Eastern Cherokee ("little war"), Tewaarathon in Mohawk Langauge ("little brother of war"), and baaga`adowe in Ojibwe("knocking about of balls").
The game was named lacrosse by early French lookers. It is widely and inaccurately believed that the name stems from the French term "crosse", for the shepherd's crooklike crosier carried by bishops as a symbol of office. Jesuit missionary Jean-de-Brébeuf noted the resemblance between the crosier and the shape of the racket stick in the Relation des Jésuites around 1640. In fact, the term crosse is a general word in French for any type of bat or stick used in a ball game. The name lacrosse is simply a reflection of this term, and perhaps a shorthand for a phrase such as "le jeu de la crosse" (the game of the stick).
Lacrosse traditionally had many different purposes. Conflict resolution and training of young warriors was only one part of the game. Games could be played on a pitch over a mile wide and sometimes lasted for days. Often players were gravely injured or even killed. Early balls were made out of the heads of the enemy, deerskin, clay, stone, and sometimes wood. Lacrosse has played a significant role in the community and religious life of tribes across the continent for many years. Early lacrosse was characterized by deep spiritual involvement, befitting the spirit of combat in which it was undertaken. Those who took part did so in the role of warriors, with the goal of bringing glory and honor to themselves and their tribes, and as a religious ritual. The game was said to be played "for the pleasure of the Creator."