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Aboriginal words used as place names have figured prominently in non-Indigenous lists of words and geographical descriptions. The transmission of words and names from Aboriginal peoples into non-Indigenous usage involves the complexities of different languages, communication and recording other languages in English. The words that become place names may not have been Indigenous place names but descriptions, names for features, or other associations and taken as place names by Europeans.
William Wells' 1848 A Geographical Dictionary, or, Gazetteer of the Australian Colonies provides an indication of the extent to which Aboriginal place names and words were taken into non-Indigenous usage for geographical features. Two examples are taken from the areas around present day Goulburn and Bathurst.
“…bounded on the north by the river Guinecor from its junction with the Wollondilly to its source near the Burra Burra Lagoon…from Lake George to the Alianoyonyga mountain…to the hill of Wolowolar, and from Wolowolar by Boro creek…across a narrow neck of land to the head of the Uringalla…
The most elevated points are Wayo…Towrang…Marulan…The chief rivers are the Wollondilly…the Cockbundoon…and Guinecor. The principal creeks are Windellama…Mulwaree Ponds, Woorondooronbidge, Kerrowong…and Uringalla.” “…and thence by range to the Conobolas mountains, thence by the Panuara range and Panuara rivulet…The chief rivers watering this country are …Belubula…The creeks are…Coombul…Cadiangullong, Muramur, Mundoraman…Muringulla…Waugola, and Panuara.” William Henry Wells, 1848
Many of these names have been adopted as official place names of Australia. Other names are no longer recorded in the AIATSIS place names thesaurus, the Geographical Names Board of NSW or the Gazetteer of Australian Place Names of Geoscience Australia.: Guinecor, Alianoyonyga, Wolowolar, Woorondooronbidge, Kerrowong, Panuara Range, Coombul, Commbing, Muringulla, Waugola, Guyong, Gulla, and Waugula.
- Australian Aboriginal Place-Names and their Meanings / compiled by James R. Tyrrell. Sydney: Simmons, 1933
- Sydney’s Aboriginal Past: Investigating the Archaeological and Historical Records, 2nd ed. / Val Attenbrow. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2010
- The Land is a Map: Placenames of Indigenous Origin in Australia / edited by Luise Hercus, Flavia Hodges, Jane Simpson. Canberra: Pandanus Books, 2002
- The Sydney Language / Jakelin Troy. [Flynn, ACT: J. Troy], 1994
Gazetteers & almanacs
Two examples of early reference books which contain list of place names current at the time, many of which have a basis in an Aboriginal language.
- A Geographical Dictionary, or, Gazetteer of the Australian Colonies: Their Physical and Political Geography, Together with a Brief Notice of all the Capitals, Principal Towns, and Villages, also of Rivers, Bays, Gulfs, Mountains, Oopulation and General Statistics / by William Henry Wells ; illustrated with numerous maps and drawings. Sydney: W. & F. Ford, 1848. (Library also holds 1970 facsimile)
- Waugh's Australian Almanac for the Year 1858, 21 and 22 Victoriæ / by James W. Waugh. Sydney: James W. Waugh, 1858.
Place names researched by the Australian Museum
- Place names chart: A chart of place names for the Aboriginal people of coastal Sydney, including current place names, references and historical names and descriptions
- "The Aboriginal names of rivers in Australia philologically examined." / Peter MacPherson, Australian Museum Pamphlets Series, vol. 254, 1887, p. 113-141 (From the Journal of the Royal Society of N.S.W, volume 20, 1886)
- Aboriginal Place Names around Port Jackson and Botany Bay / compiled by Val Attenbrow. Sydney: Australian Museum, 2001
- List of New South Wales Aboriginal Place Names and their Meanings / compiled by W.W. Thorpe. Sydney: Australian Museum, 1927 (The Library holds several editions of this work)
- New South Wales Aboriginal Place Names and Euphonious Words, with their Meanings / compiled by Frederick D. McCarthy. Sydney: Australian Museum, 1946 (The Library holds several editions of this work)
Go to our Library Catalogue and use some of the following search terms:
Title: ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘Name’
Title: ‘place name’
Subject: Names, Aboriginal Australian (incomplete results)
Subject: Names, Geographical (better results)