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Category: Aboriginal baby names

posted by: waltzingmorethanmatilda View all posts by this author
Head portrait of three young Aboriginal children from a remote community

by Anna Otto of Waltzing More Than Matilda

When the British colonized Australia in the 18th century, they were almost immediately fascinated by the Aboriginal languages they encountered. The first known Europeans to choose an Aboriginal name for their child were the chaplain and his wife from the First Fleet, whose daughter was baptized Milbah, a local name which had delighted them.

At the time of first European settlement, there were as many as 700 different Aboriginal languages and dialects. Today there are less than 150 in daily use, and all but 20 are in danger of disappearing. By using Aboriginal words and phrases as names, whether on people, businesses, fictional characters, houses, streets, towns, and even pets, those languages remain in use at least to an extent.

I know people are still interested in Australian Aboriginal names, because my posts on the subject are the most popular on my blog. I’m not in any way an expert on Aboriginal language and culture, and have only chosen names which are already in use, or which Indigenous people have been willing to share, or which come from extinct languages.

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australia

Even though Australian baby names are a lot like British names, they do also have their own distinctive flavor.  The blend of cultures Down Under and the strong presence of several enduring indigenous languages and groups have a powerful influence on Australian baby names (the complex Aboriginal naming traditions definitely deserve a future blog of their own).  Last year, for example, though Australia’s most popular list included Jack and Ella, Joshua, Ethan, Emily, Chloe and Mia, also high up on their list were Matilda, Isla, Lachlan (the name of Oz newspaper mogol Rupert Murdoch’s high-profile son), the Scottish-influenced Angus, and the nickname-name Archie.

Aussie heroes–from outlaws like Ned Kelly to poets like Banjo Paterson to politicians such as Prime Minister Geogh Whitlam–provide some interesting and adoptable namesakes.

Here are some from the world of sports:

EVONNE Goolagong
KARRIE Webb
KEL Nagle
KIEREN Perkins
LIESEL Jones
LIONEL Rose

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