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What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?

Australian place names contain riddles.  Many of our town names are borrowed from Aboriginal language.  Many are the result of mis-heard interpretations but others are faithfully represented.

It is fascinating to dig deeper and find the "meaning" or localised use of many town names attributed to Aboriginal language.

Some of my favourites came about from a stint with a newspaper in Albury-Wodong.  My editor sent me out on a familiarisation trip to learn the pronunciation of local towns and to meet come characters who would become long-term contacts for stories.

Numurkah (Gnamulka) means "war shield", although some now think this is mistaken.  However when you consider that Wunghnu is said to mean "hunting boomerang" or an act of war "to hatchit the tendons behind the knee", perhaps war shield is correct.

Tallygaroopna (originally Tallygaroopnu) is believed to mean "tall trees".  The "oopna" seems to be a common thread, as Mooroopna is said to mean "deep water hole" (others say "ghost spirit).The native name for Shepparton was Kannygoopna meaning "place where big fish are caught".  So it appears the "oopna" refers to big, deep or tall.  Ardmona's name came from a farm named ‘Ardmona’, owned by Charles and Lochie McDonald.

It is thought that the name Kialla was derived from that of an Aboriginal sub-tribal group, "Kiaella".  Undera is believed to have come from the Aboriginal word for rat.  Cosgrove is probably of Irish origins, meaning "triumphant".  Pine Lodge most likely referred to an abundance of the Callitris tree, typically known as Murray Pine.

Dookie district was surveyed, taking in much of the Emu Plains pastoral run. Local lore has it that Mrs Turnbull, wife of the station's proprietor, was so unhappy at the prospect of survey and possible farm subdivision that the surveyor suggested a place name derived from the Singhalese word "duka", meaning sorrow. Mrs Turnbull had lived in Ceylon. Duka was re-spelt Dookie.

Echuca is believed to mean "meeting of the waters", referring to the Goulburn and Murray River meeting point.  Tatura comes from the Aboriginal term for "small lagoon"  Kyabram is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word Kiambram meaning "Thick Forest".  Moama is from the word for "burial ground".

It is thought that Barmah derives from an Aboriginal word "paama", meaning "meeting place".  Gunbower is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning "twisting", possibly a reference to a creek or river meander.

Reverend Joseph Docker settled Benalla in 1838 creating a pastoral run called Benalta Run, said to be from an Aboriginal word for "musk duck".  Cobram is named after the Aboriginal word meaning "head/head station", as Cobram was the head pastoral station in the district.  Barooga is named after the Aboriginal word meaning "my home".

Wangaratta is believed to have come from Pangarang language meaning "nesting place for cormorants".  Tarrawinge is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning "emu".  Tatong is Aboriginal for "unseen".

Yarrawonga is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning "place where the wonga pigeon rested", or "water running over rock".  Mulwala's name is believed derived from the Aboriginal word for "rain".

Albury was first named Bungambrawartha, meaning "favourable place for tall talk".  Corowa comes from the native word "Currawa", a pine from which aborigines procured gum for fashioning spears.  Euroa is from Eurawa, meaning "push, shake, thrust".  Thurgoona means "darter or diving bird", probably a cormorant.  Ettamogah means "let's have a drink", kinda obvious when you think of the pub.

Gooroombat comes from "Coorambatti" and means "nonsense"..  Here's an odd one — Nagambie is believed to have come from the word "Nagomba", meaning woman's breasts.  Puckapunyal means "middle hill",  Tungamah equals "bush turkey". and Yarraweyah is "strong wind".  Katamatite is believed to refer to the local creek.  Katandra is thought to refer to "song of birds"  Wilby is thought to come from Aboriginal "wilpy", meaning "hut".

Milawa was named in 1874 after being known only as "The Square" for many years prior. The word Milawa is aboriginal in origin and is said to mean "flat land".

Whroo is for "waterhole" and comes from the Aboriginal word "wooroo".  It is thought that Waranga is derived from the word for "sing"  Dhurringile means "crouching emu".

Rushworth comes from old English referring originally to Rishworth in Yorkshire, meaning "rushes".  Ballendella was named Bamawm East until renamed after the Ballendella Parish.  Originally Rowe's camp, following a survey Rowechester was named. In 1855, it was renamed Rochester.

Toolamba means "small lagoon circled".  Gigarre is Aboriginal for "sour".  Congupna is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal word describing a large fish, probably perch. 

Zeerust appears to have come from South African language referring to an area strong in farming, particularly citrus.  Yabba Yabba, now shown on maps as Yabba North and Yabba South, is 30 km north-east of Shepparton. It was named after the Yabba Yabba pastoral run (1850), the name thought to be derived from an Aboriginal expression describing "talk".

Boomahnoomoonah is believed to mean "big red kangaroo" although some think it mean "big water".  When driving past Boomahnoomoonah, you often go by without noticing because the signpost is often stolen as a collectible.  Upotipotpon means "plenty of grass"

Tittybong — If your looking, it's just north of Teddywaddy. And apart from being a place west of Kerang, it is an expression for action of the female appendage leaping from it`s cotton, underwired prison.  Teddywaddy comes from an Aboriginal expression meaning "muddy water".

Deniliquin is said to be derived from "the sandhills".  Yackandandah is from the word "Yag-gun-doona" meaning "hilly country" although locals will tell you it refers to "water running over rocks".  Tangambalanga is believed to refer to "fresh water crayfish" or "very large yabbie".

Thoona is meant to mean a "village surrounded by hills".  Although mistaken for an Aboriginal word, Baddaginnie was the name given to the local township by Ceylonese railway workers building the Melbourne-Sydney rail line in the 1860s. According to local legend, when provisions failed to arrive at the settlement, the Ceylonese men named their camp ’baddaginnie’ meaning "hungry" in the Sinhala language (bada is ’stomach’ and ginnie is ’fire’).

Tatong derived its name from "Tatong Run" an Aboriginal word meaning "water hole".  The "Baw Baws" (Mt Baw Baw) was believed to have a boiling water hole in which aborigines could be sucked up and die a horrible death.  Hence, Baw Baw, meaning bad water at bottom of mountain.

Corryong (originally Caryoong) means "belt made of possum wool".  Nar Nar Goon means "koala".  One of my favourites is Bringyadogalong — it sounds Aboriginal yet it's made up and appears on Army survey maps as the name of a property near Upper Gundowering.  Upper Gundowering means "good camping place or home".  There is no Lower Gundowering.

Dederang is "hailstones".  Gooramadda — parting of the clouds. On the Victorian side of the Murray River, at Howlong, the natural land formation and thermal currents create this unusual phenomena on one side of the river it can be raining but dry on the other.

Bendigo is an odd one.  It sounds Aboriginal yet it is derived from the name of a boxer called "Bendigo" Thompson.  Wycheproof means "rushes or grass on a hilltop".

This is a never ending effort, as there are so many links to Aboriginal language in our town names and places.  We will endeavour to put out a more comprehensive ready reckoner in the future.


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