Clans and language groups

The Aboriginal clan names used in the Aboriginal People of Coastal Sydney section of this website come from manuscripts and publications dated between 1790 and 1798.

It is only after the 1870s that the names Darug, Dharawal, Darginung and Gundungurra were used by pioneer anthropologists and linguists to refer to the languages spoken in the Sydney and surrounding regions, and only in 1970 that the name Guringai (originally used in 1892 to refer to people living between Port Macquarie in the north to Bulli in the south) was used for a language of the Sydney region.

Spelling variations occur throughout the historical literature and through to the present. This site uses the spellings listed below, which follow the linguistic conventions used by linguist Jakelin Troy (1993), but also provides a number of different spellings for each language group and clan as documented between 1788-1800.

Language groups: Darginung, Darug, Dharawal, Gundungurra, Guringai. There were at least two dialects in the Darug language: a coastal dialect spoken between Botany Bay and Port Jackson, and a hinterland dialect to the west on the Cumberland Plain. A separate language Guringai may have been spoken north of Port Jackson or possibly another Darug dialect. Dharawal was spoken south of Botany Bay and west as far as the Georges River, and Darginung to the north-west of the Hawkesbury River.

Language groups

Language group name: Darginung
Other spellings: Darkinung (Mathews 1897); Darkiñung (Mathews 1903); Darginyung (Capell 1970).

Language group name: Darug
Other spellings: Dhar'-ook (Mathews and Everitt 1900); Dharrook (Mathews and Everitt 1900); Dhar'rook (Mathews 1901a, 1902); Dharruk (Mathews 1901b, 1903, Capell 1970); Dharook (Capell 1970); Dharuk (Capell 1970: Map 1).

Language group name: Dharawal
Other spellings: Turuwal (Ridley 1875, 1878); Thurrawal (Mathews and Everitt 1900, Mathews 1901a, 1901b, 1903, Capell 1970); Thur'rawal (Mathews 1902); Dharawal (Capell 1970, Eades 1976).

Language group name: Gundungurra
Other spellings: Gundungurra (Mathews 1901a, 1903, Mathews and Everitt 1900, Capell 1970); Gun'dungur'ra (Mathews 1901a, 1902); Gun'-dung-ur'ra (Mathews & Everitt 1900).

Language group name: Guringai
Kurig-gai (Fraser 1892a, 1892b; Thorpe 1913); Kuringgai (Fraser 1892a; Capell 1970); Kurringgai (Fraser 1892a, 1892b); Kuring-gai (Fraser 1892b, Appendix 10); Kurring-gai (Fraser 1892b); Guringai (Capell 1970).


Dr Val Attenbrow , Principal Research Scientist
Last Updated:

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