Oxford Dictionaries recently announced the largest ever quarterly update of Australian English on OxfordDictionaries.com, with over 500 entries added to the free online dictionary of English.
This update included a selection of Aboriginal words and terms relating to Aboriginal culture.
The words in this update recognise the complex role of Aboriginal language in Australian English. The dictionary update shows that borrowing from Aboriginal languages is a continuing process, with more words being recognised as having their origin in Aboriginal languages, and other words moving from Aboriginal languages into mainstream Australian English. Maluka (the person in charge; the boss) is derived from the Aboriginal language Djingulu, for instance, and has moved into general use; similarly, the word munjon (an Aboriginal person who has had little contact with white society) was borrowed in the 1930s from Yindjibarndi.
Below we’ve included some of the terms* that we found interesting, some we knew and some that were new to us (we love learning new words).
The full range of terms is available at OxfordDictionaries.com
coolamon /ˈkuːləmən/ ▶noun Austral. an Aboriginal container made of wood or bark, used for holding liquids or goods, or carrying a baby: a coolamon of water. – origin mid 19th cent.: from Kamilaroi (an Aboriginal language) and neighbouring languages gulaman.
kangaroo dance ▶noun Austral. an Aboriginal dance in which the movements of a kangaroo are represented: novices perform a hopping kangaroo dance to demonstrate their acquisition of ritual knowledge.
keeping place ▶noun Austral. an Aboriginal cultural centre dedicated to the preservation of traditional Aboriginal culture, artefacts, etc.: the site also features an art gallery and an indigenous keeping place.
kopi /ˈkəʊpi/ ▶noun [mass noun] Austral. powdered gypsum, used in ritual Aboriginal mourning. – origin late 19th cent.: from a dialect of Baagandji (an Aboriginal language) gabi.
Mabo /ˈmɑːbəʊ/ ▶noun used in reference to the 1992 ruling of the High Court of Australia that Aboriginal claims on land supersede Crown sovereignty and white settlement: since Mabo, Australia effectively has two land tenure systems. – origin 1990s: from the name of Eddie Mabo (1936–92), a principal claimant in a legal test case of 1992 that established tenure in relation to the Meriam people.
makarrata /makəˈrɑːtə/ ▶noun Austral. an Aboriginal ceremonial ritual symbolizing the restoration of peace after a dispute: [as modifier] a traditional makarrata ceremony. A treaty or agreement: they conducted an inquiry into the feasibility of a Makarrata between the Commonwealth and Aboriginal people. – origin 1930s: from Yolngu languages makarrarta.
mimi /ˈmiːmi/ ▶noun (pl. same or mimis) Austral. a spirit person depicted in rock and bark paintings of Western Arnhem Land: they say that the mimi can magically bring a rock wall down, paint on it, and then raise it again | mimis were mischievous beings who lived in caves. – origin 1940s: from Gunwinygu (an Aboriginal language) mimih.
mindi /ˈmɪndʌɪ/ ▶noun Austral. (in Aboriginal mythology) a creature in the form of a huge snake that brings disease: they believed the hostile tribes had unleashed the power of mindi on them. – origin mid 19th cent.: from Wemba-wemba (an extinct Aboriginal language) mirnday.
nardoo cake (also nardoo bread) ▶noun Austral. a savoury cake or bread made by Aborigines using nardoo flour and water: the Aborigines fed them with fish and lumps of nardoo cake.
native title ▶noun [mass noun] Austral./NZ the right of indigenous peoples to own their traditional lands and waters, as recognized by common law: the ruling recognized native title.
pirri /ˈpɪri/ ▶noun Austral. an Aboriginal leaf-shaped engraving tool made of stone or quartz: the pirris from both archaeological sites were made from local stone. – origin late 19th cent.: from Arabana (an Aboriginal language) birri ‘fingernail’, extended to refer to any pointed object.
pitchi /ˈpɪtʃi/ ▶noun Austral. an Aboriginal container made of wood or bark, used for holding liquids or goods, or carrying a baby: they all drink from the pitchi, including the boy. – origin late 19th cent.: from Western Desert language and neighbouring languages bidi.
rainbow serpent ▶noun Austral. a widely venerated spirit of Aboriginal mythology, associated with the creation of the earth in the Dreamtime: popular representations in literature reinforce the deity status of the rainbow serpent.
weet-weet /ˈwiːtwiːt/ ▶noun Austral. an Aboriginal throwing weapon consisting of a flexible handle with a wooden or bone knob at the end: he was astounded by their skill in throwing the boomerang and the weet-weet. – origin late 19th cent.: from Wuywurung (an Aboriginal language) wij-wij.
wilgie /ˈwɪldʒi/ ▶noun [mass noun] Austral. the pigment red ochre as used by Aborigines to paint the body on ceremonial occasions: the boys are painted all over with wilgie and are then fed by the old women with various grass seeds. – origin early 19th cent.: from Nyungar (an Aboriginal language) wilgi.
wirra /ˈwɪrə/ ▶noun Austral. an Aboriginal tool used for digging, in the form of a cup-like scoop traditionally made of hardwood: their only tools are a yam-stick and a wirra. – origin late 19th cent.: from Western Desert language.
wirri /ˈwɪri/ ▶noun Austral. an Aboriginal weapon used as a club or missile: he is allowed to carry a wirri for killing birds. – origin mid 19th cent.: from Gaurna (an Aboriginal language).
witarna /wɪˈtɑːnə/ ▶noun Austral. a wooden object which makes a loud noise when whirled around, used in Aboriginal rituals and considered to be sacred: two men come towards them, stamping, biting their beards, and swinging the witarna. – origin mid 19th cent.: from Banggala (an Aboriginal language) widarna.
yabber stick ▶noun Austral. an Aboriginal medium of communication consisting of a piece of wood carved with symbolic patterns, handed from one community to another: he read the message of the yabber stick with the dignity befitting his position. – origin late 19th cent.: from yabber ‘to chatter’.
*Please note: these are not new terms, but new to oxforddictionaries.com.
The team at oxforddictionaries.com have selected the words for the update.