The customs and language of the Maliseet are very similar to those of the neighboring Passamaquoddy (or Peskotomuhkati). They are also close to those of the Mi'kmaq and Penobscot tribes.

The Wolastoqiyik/Maliseet differed by pursuing a primarily agrarian economy. They also shared some land with those peoples. The Wolastoqiyik/ Maliseet and Passamaquoddy languages are similar enough that they are properly considered slightly different dialects of the same language. Typically they are not differentiated for study.

Although generally known in English as the Maliseet or Malecite, their autonym is Wolastoqiyik. They are known in French as Malécites or Étchemins (the latter collectively referring to the Maliseet and Passamaquoddy, both Eastern Algonquian-speaking groups.)

They called themselves Wolastoqiyik after the Wolastoq River at the heart of their territory. (In English it is commonly known as the St. John River.) Wolastoq means "Beautiful River". Wolastoqiyik means "People of the Beautiful River," in Maliseet.

The term Maliseet is the exonym by which the Mi'kmaq people referred to this group when speaking about them to early Europeans. Maliseet was a Mi'kmaq word meaning "broken talkers" or "lazy speakers". Although the Wolastoqiyik and Mi'kmaq languages are closely related, the name expressed what the Mi'kmaq perceived as a sufficiently different dialect to be called a "broken" version of their own language.

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