The name Maranao (ma, an adjective marker, plus ranao, "lake") means approximately, "lake-like" hence, "by or near the lake, " or "lake dwellers". In the early salsila (written genealogical documents) this term refers to the native people living around Lake Lanao.
The Lake Lanao area is the home of the Maranao. The lake, located in North Central Mindanao is some 135 square miles in area and sits at an altitude of 2,300 feet above sea level. This is one of the loveliest potential tourist and recreation sites in Mindanao. To the east of the lake, mountains (popularly referred to as the " Sleeping Lady") rise to an altitude of 5,000 feet; in the south and west rolling hills drop away to Illana Bay and the Zamboanga Peninsula. To the North, the Lake basin spills, forming the Agus River, which rushes abruptly down to Iligan City and the Mindanao Sea. The climate is pleasant and cool, affected by the altitude and the lake's breeze.
The majority of the Maranao are found in Lanao del Sur while the rest are in Lanao del Sur while the rest are in Lanao del Norte, Cotabato City and, as transients, in other parts of the Philippines.