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Indigenous Languages

Indigenous Languages

Australian English borrowed more than 400 words from some 80 Aboriginal languages

Cartoon of two wombats trying to get reception on a broken television.

Cartoon: David Pope


Broken, exhausted, out of action — 'the TV's bung'.

It comes from bang meaning 'dead', which was first recorded in 1841 in the Yagara Aboriginal language of the Brisbane region.

The word found its way into nineteenth-century Australian pidgin, where the phrase to go bung meant 'to die'. By the end of the nineteenth century, the present sense had developed.

audio Hear the word bung in use (MP3 54kb)

Cartoon of a British settler arriving on the shores of Australia and calling out coo-wee, to be answered with a bellowing, 'Koori!'

Cartoon: David Pope


An Aboriginal person, usually from south eastern Australia.

First recorded in 1834, Koori comes from the term for 'Aboriginal man or person' in the language of the Awabakal Aboriginal people of eastern New South Wales, and in neighbouring languages. It is now widely used throughout the south-eastern states.

Different words for 'Aboriginal person' are used in other parts of Australia, such as Murri, Nyungar, Palawa, and Yolngu.

audio Hear the word Koori in use (MP3 66kb)