The name Weehawken is generally considered to have evolved from the Algonquian language Lenape spoken by the Hackensack and Tappan. It has variously been interpreted as "maize land", "place of gulls", "rocks that look like trees", which would refer to the Palisades, atop which most of the town sits, or "at the end", among other suggested translations.
Three U.S. Navy ships have been named for the city. The USS Weehawken, launched on November 5, 1862, was a Passaic-class monitor, or ironclad ship, which sailed for the Union Navy during the American Civil War, encountered battles at the Charleston, South Carolina coast, and sank in a moderate gale on December 6, 1863. The Weehawken was the last ferry to The West Shore Terminal on March 25, 1959, at 1:10 am, ending 259 years of continuous ferry service. Weehawken Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village was the site of a colonial Hudson River ferry landing.
The name and the place have inspired mention in multiple works of popular culture.
Weehawken was formed as a township by an act of the New Jersey Legislature, on March 15, 1859, from portions of Hoboken and North Bergen. A portion of the township was ceded to Hoboken in 1874. Additional territory was annexed in 1879 from West Hoboken.
The township's written history began in 1609, when Henry Hudson, on his third voyage to the New World, sailed down what was later named the North River on the Half Moon and weighed anchor in Weehawken Cove. At the time it was the territory of the Hackensack and Tappan, of the Turtle Clan, or Unami, a branch of the Lenni Lenape. They were displaced by immigrants to the province of New Netherland, who had begun to settle the west bank of the Hudson at Pavonia in 1630. On May 11, 1647, Maryn Adriansen received a patent for a plantation (of 169 acres) at Awiehaken. In 1658, Director-General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant negotiated a deal with the Lenape to purchase all the land from "the great rock above Wiehacken", west to Sikakes (Secaucus) and south to Konstapels Hoeck (Constable Hook). In 1661, Weehawken became part of Bergen when it (and most of northeastern New Jersey) came under the jurisdiction of the court at Bergen Square.