Antigonish , ; "The Big Town" is a Canadian town in Antigonish County, Nova Scotia. The town is home to St. Francis Xavier University and the oldest continuous Highland games outside of Scotland. It is approximately one hundred miles (161 km) northeast of Halifax.
Antigonish had been the location of an annual Mi'kmaq summer coastal community prior to European settlement; although the original definition of the name has been lost as the Mi'kmaq language has undergone many revisions over the last two centuries. The first European settlement took place in 1784 when Lt. Colonel Timothy Hierlihy of the Royal Nova Scotia Volunteer Regiment received a large land grant surrounding Antigonish Harbour. Hierlihy and his party founded the Dorchester settlement, named for Sir Guy Carleton, who was Governor General of Canada and subsequently Lord Dorchester. In 1796 another settler, with the assistance of a First Nations guide, blazed a trail from Antigonish Harbour to Brown's Mountain, using the shortest route. This trail became a guide for travellers and eventually evolved into a winding Main Street. By the late 1820s, Dorchester was commonly referred to as Antigonish. In 1852, a newspaper, The Casket, began publication and continues to this day as an independent paper.
St. Francis Xavier University was established in Antigonish in 1855, having been founded in 1853 in Arichat, Cape Breton and originally called the College of East Bay after East Bay, Nova Scotia where an earlier institution had once existed (1824–1829). St.F.X. was originally a Catholic seminary and was granted full university powers in 1866 by an act of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly. The town is also the episcopal seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish.
The first hospital in Antigonish opened on June 10, 1906.
Antigonish is notable for having a social movement named for it, the Antigonish Movement, launched from St. Francis Xavier University in the 1920s by local priests and educators including Rev. Dr. Moses Coady and Father Jimmy Tompkins.