What Does "Chautauqua" Mean? Chautauqua Institution Courtesy: Fenton History Center, Jamestown, N.Y. The term "Chautauqua" has come to be associated with the Chautauqua Movement which grew from the county's own Chautauqua Institution. The Institution began in 1874 as a training camp for Methodist Bible School teachers. Since then, it has grown into an educational and culteral center attracting more than 150,000 visitors during its annual nine-week summer season. The Chautauqua Movement spread across the country and hundreds of traveling or tent "Chautauquas" offered educational opportunities to the public. Many of these exist to this day. Chautauqua Institution, Amphitheater. Courtesy: Fenton History Center, Jamestown, N.Y. What does "Chautauqua" Mean? Variations of the word "Chautauqua" appear on French maps dating from their early explorations of the area. Legends regarding the meaning of the word are unsubstantiated, but the most often heard interpretation has its origin in Seneca language: "Bag ties in the middle". This name represents the elongated shape of Chautauqua Lake, with the narrow point near the lake's middle (Bemus Point-Stow).