Chautauqua is a town in Chautauqua County, New York, U.S. . The population was 4,666 at the 2000 census. The town is named after Chautauqua Lake. The traditional meaning remains 'bag tied in the middle'. The suggested meanings of this Seneca word has become numerous: the place where one is lost; the place of easy death; fish taken out; foggy place; high up; two moccasins fastened together; and a bag tied in the middle.
The town of Chautauqua is in the western part of the county on the northwestern end of Chautauqua Lake. It is northwest of Jamestown. Chautauqua is famous as the home of the Chautauqua Institution, the birthplace in 1874 of the Chautauqua Movement of educational and cultural centers.
The town of Chautauqua was formed on April 11, 1804, from the town of Batavia, while still part of Genesee County. The first settler arrived the year before near the current village of Mayville. When Chautauqua County was created on March 11, 1808, the town's territory was increased to include the eastern tier of townships, so that the town and the new county were coextensive. The town is the "mother of towns" in Chautauqua County since all other towns in the county towns were once part of it. The town is still one of the largest in the county.