Macquarie Dictionary


English words of Indigenous origin for NAIDOC Week

This NAIDOC Week, we celebrated Indigenous culture by highlighting some of the many words that have become a part of Australian English from various Indigenous languages. We posted these on our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages. Follow us if you want to see more.








 branch of a river that fills in flood time only, or a lake formed by a river branch that has been cut off  [Wiradjuri (a language from southern NSW): literally, a watercourse which runs only after rain, from bila river + -bang

a boomerang having one side flat and the other convex. [Nyungarn (a language from southern WA) karli]

a spiralling wind, often collecting dust, refuse, etc.; dust devil.  [Either from Yindjibarndi (a language from eastern WA) wili wili, or from Wembawemba (a language from northern Vic.) wilang-wilang]

kangaroo a well-known indigenous marsupial that looms large in Australian culture, history and slang. [Guugu Yimidhirr (a language of far north Qld) gangurru a large black or grey kangaroo]

taipan a long-fanged, highly venomous snake. [Wik-Mungkan (a language of far north Qld) dhayban]

witchetty grub any of various large, white, edible, wood-boring grubs that are the larvae of certain Australian moths and beetles. [Adnyamathanha (a language from central SA) wityu hooked stick used to extract grubs + varti grub]

yowie an apelike human, about two metres tall, supposedly roaming in certain parts of Australia, especially southern NSW. [Yuwaalaraay (a language from northern NSW yuwi dream spirit

bogey a swim or bath in a creek, waterhole, dam, etc. After a hard day's yakka rural workers often grab a bogey.  [Dharug (a language from southern NSW) bugi - to bathe or dive]

quokka a small wallaby, Setonix brachyurus, found in considerable numbers on Rottnest and Bald Islands, off WA. Nyungar (a language from southern WA) kwaka]

yakka hard work, especially manual labour. Now most commonly found in the collocation hard yakka. [Yagara (a language from southern Qld) yaga]

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