Indigenous Australian Names: Miro, Mika, Rianna
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.
Pronunciation: Indigenous languages do not have a heavy stress, so each syllable is fairly equal in emphasis. The accent is generally on the first or second-last syllable. The pronunciation of many names and words has been corrupted, and most likely differs from their original pronunciation. With extinct languages, we can never know how they were said. In these cases, I have made suggestions as to how you might choose to say them.
Means “flame” in one of the traditional languages from South Australia. Alinta was one of the main characters in the 1981 mini-series, Women of the Sun.
Jedda was a 1955 film; the first Australian film made in colour, and the first to have Aboriginal lead actors. In the film, which is set in the Northern Territory, the name is explained as meaning “little wild goose”.
Means both “moon” and “month” in the Nyungar language from Western Australia.
This meant “small caterpillar” in the Palawa language from Tasmania.
A coastal town in South Australia whose name means “near water” in the local language. It’s been quite popular in Australia.
The Bouddi Peninsula is in the Central Coast region of New South Wales, and there is a suburb of Bouddi in the city of Gosford, as well as Bouddi National Park. It means “heart” in the Darkinyung language.
Meant “sand hill” in the Diyari language from the South Australian desert.
A coastal town in New South Wales whose name means “by the sea” in the Bundajalong language. Once thought of as a girl’s name, the names Luca and Luka now make this seem unisex, and in recent times I have seen it on more boys than girls.
Meant “barn owl” in the Jiwarli language from Western Australia.
Means “laughing star” in the Wiradjuri language from New South Wales. It refers to the morning star, or the planet Venus. This was one of the names the local Aboriginal people gave to poet Mary Gilmore, but I have only seen it on boys.
Means “crow” in the Kaurna language from the Adelaide area of South Australia. The Aboriginal people seem to have used this as a female name, but I think it could work for either sex.
In the Nyungar language, a miro is a type of spear-thrower which propels the aim of the gidgee – a fearsome quartz-tipped spear about eight feet long.
The name of a desert in the Northern Territory, whose name is a corruption of the Walpiri name for the area, Chanamee, meaning “never die”. The name is apparently due to the fact that rock holes in a particular gully were supposed to never run dry of water. This name is rare, and can be given to both girls and boys.
Tau (rhymes with “cow”)
Means “dusk, twilight” in the Kaurna language.
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on September 19th, 2013 at 11:50 pm
Just so people know – Alinta is also the name of the gas company here in oz… could lead to a few unfortunate jokes
on September 20th, 2013 at 12:25 am
Indigenous Australian names are so beautiful! I really love the word “Orana” as well – it means welcome.
on September 20th, 2013 at 4:24 am
I enjoyed this post. For some reason I was expecting you to give us names in common use in indigenous communities rather than language names….
I live in an area with a large indigenous population and at first I was surprised by how different the names are to the Australia stats. Older names like Frank, Lillian, Albert, Pearl are particularly popular – all family names after grandparents who were named in the days of white missions.
on September 20th, 2013 at 7:22 am
Alinta, Kalina, Allira are only name I like. Don’t like any boys names.
on September 20th, 2013 at 9:34 am
Kalina just went on my list. What a lovely choice.
on September 20th, 2013 at 11:20 am
Bouddi (pronounced booty?) would be bullied beyond belief. I like the girls names, but Jedda kind of sounds like jedi.. Maybe a more subtle name for a daughter of Star Wars fans? 😉
on September 20th, 2013 at 1:21 pm
I really enjoyed reading this post!!
The majority of these names are so lovely, my favourite being Allira. It’s so beautiful.
on September 20th, 2013 at 2:09 pm
I grew up in the Northern Territory, and have always thought Tanami (TAN-ah-my) would be a stunner of a name; sounds like a celebrity baby name 😀
I knew en elder called Jedda, but as mentioned by mmljar1, many men and women of our parents/grandparents age were named by white missionaries: Pearl, Lily, Dorothy, Molly, Terrance, Kevin and Albert amoung a few.
I’m suprised Kylie (‘Boomerang”) wasn’t on this list…
on September 20th, 2013 at 6:36 pm
Miro was the name that made me click on this post, Love it! Koa & Kirra are absolutely amazing also.
on September 20th, 2013 at 8:15 pm
@ Arlina Iluka is a mining company, and that doesn’t seem to bother people. Alinta is a variety of strawberry too.
@mmljar1 Those old-style names are right on trend now! The young actor Clarence Ryan is another Indigenous Australian with an older style name.
@Faithnamer I wouldn’t say Bouddi like “booty” – to me it seemed a lot like Bodhi, which is quite well-used in Australia. I never thought of Jedda being like “Jedi” – that’s very creative! lol
@Aveline I did consider Kylie, and Narelle too, but could only pick ten, so tried to think of names that seemed a bit more contemporary. Maybe another post???? 🙂
on September 21st, 2013 at 5:10 am
And don’t forget Mimi, which means ‘little fairy’ in native aboriginal Australian.
on September 23rd, 2013 at 1:58 am
I like Mika and Talia and I know one person with each. Mika is a nn for her full name Marika which I thought was pretty cute.
on November 18th, 2013 at 11:28 pm
I’m in the US and had a college roommate by the name of Kalina, but she spelled it Khaleena.
on January 29th, 2014 at 6:30 pm
I know a girl named Mika and she had a matchy name with her sister Kimberly (who was 10 years younger than her).
on February 22nd, 2014 at 7:27 pm
We are from Jamaica and we named our son Mowan. We found it on the internet listed as an aboriginal name meaning the Sun. I would love to know some more about it, such as the proper pronunciation (we call him Mo -whaan) and which indigenous Australian langue it originates from. Have not been able to find this kind of info online so any help would be apprciated!
on February 22nd, 2014 at 7:28 pm
sorry that should read “language”!
Only one Solution to Stop the Risks to 1000s of Aboriginals, and the Original Australian Culture – Quentin's Life blog Said
on January 27th, 2017 at 11:39 am
[…] Otto, A. (2013, September 19). Indigenous Australian Names: Miro, Mika, Rianna [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://nameberry.com/blog/indigenous-australian-names-miro-mika-rianna […]
on February 10th, 2017 at 6:18 am
I don’t know what the traditional pronunciation of Marlee is, but the town is said “Mar-LEE” (Rather than MAR-lee, like a spelling variation of Marley).
她絕對不是假娃娃，而是世界上最黑的小寶寶！『黑到發亮』的小嬰兒，實在是太美太震撼了！ – read 123 閱讀網 Said
on February 16th, 2017 at 12:09 am
[…] nameberry […]
on January 14th, 2018 at 8:48 am
1. I LOVE this list
2. Does anyone feel awkward naming their child a name from a culture other than their own or one that is completely different from theirs? I just don’t want to be disrespectful to anyone especially in a culture (not just Aborigine) where names mean so much. What does everyone feel?
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