Macquarie Dictionary


“Down came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong”

This week’s Aussie Word of the Week is jumbuck. A jumbuck is a name for a sheep. Formerly quite common, now virtually obsolete except for its prominent placement in the national song Waltzing Matilda, jumbuck originated from Aboriginal Pidgin English, where it seems as though it might have related to the phrase jump up.

One theory has jumbuck as an Aboriginal word for ‘a white mist preceding a shower’, to which sheep supposedly bore a resemblance. Whichever origin story is correct, jumbuck isn’t the first word borrowed from an Indigenous language. For more information, read our blog on loan words from Australian languages. 

At Macquarie, we can’t get enough of sheep, apparently. If you’re also going a bit baa baa, why not check out our blog on the sheepish origins of dags as well as our blog on sheep shearing slang.

Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.

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