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OzPic Episode 9: Donga

The word donga is borrowed from South African English, from the time of the Boer War, meaning ‘a gully or watercourse’. These watercourses were formed by water erosion but were mostly dry, thus giving cover to soldiers.

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In Australian English donga came to refer to a local phenomenon in desert country – a round depression that is watered in times of heavy rain so that the growth within it is lush by comparison with the surrounding desert. But it can also be used in the South African way to refer to any dry watercourse.

The use of donga is also associated with the military, so it often refers to one of a series of huts constructed for the accommodation of soldiers, or for people in a quasi-military situation. 

Do you have a natural donga near you? What does it look like? Have you ever made use of donga-style shelters? Let us know or send us a photo.

OzPic: Picturing the Australian Environment

This joint project between the ABC and Macquarie Dictionary aims to uncover new words relating to the Australian environment and to collect photographs that illustrate the environment around you for inclusion in the dictionary.

Tune in to your local ABC radio station each week for a regular program with our Editor, Susan Butler, or listen to latest audio here. You can sign up to the free newsletter to receive regular updates about the project and be notified when the latest audio is available online. And follow the #ozpic conversation on Instagram.

The Great Australian Spelling Bee

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The Great Australian Spelling Bee

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Word of the Day


Not docile; stubborn .


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