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PLEASE NOTE: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that this article may contain references to deceased persons.
Compiling a list of Aboriginal names for children comes with some challenges.
At the time of European settlement in 1788, more than 250 Indigenous Australian languages including 800 dialectal varieties were spoken on the continent.
Sadly today, only 13 traditional languages are acquired by children. However there remains more than 100 Aboriginal dialects in Australia, which makes the meaning of Aboriginal names often tricky to define.
Thankfully, Welcome to Country website has put together a list of most popular Aboriginal boy names and Aboriginal girl names which we’ve shared in the galleries below.
According to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Indigenous names may have changed over the years due to European settlers writing them down incorrectly.
Also interesting to note is that Indigenous people may have used or been known by many different names throughout their lives. They may have a traditional name, a kinship name, a European first or last name, or a nickname.
As for pronunciation, Mom Junction notes that Aboriginal languages usually put the accent on the first and second last syllable but also, with many of the languages having been forced into disuse, the original pronunciations may have been lost.
Indigenous names may have changed over the years due to European settlers writing them down incorrectly.
“There was once a time when the use of Aboriginal baby names were discouraged and not recognised on paper,” notes the website Welcome to Country. “During those times, Indigenous people would have one traditional name recognised by family groups and one English name for use in the wider community. Thankfully we are now seeing a resurgence of Indigenous names returning without any thought of a second or alternative English name.
“We have tried our best to match the names below with their correct language groups however for some names, it isn’t clear about which language group they originate from. It is also important to note that some names/words are present in more than one Aboriginal language group and may have different meanings.
Please enjoy Welcome to Country’s list of names below …
Kirra is becoming very popular and has been selected as the most popular on our list.
The name Kirra is used by various Aboriginal Nations around the border regions of Queensland and NSW.
To the Yugambeh people, it is said to mean leaf or dancing leaf. Other meanings from surrounding nations include ‘Beautiful woman’, ‘to live’ and even boomerang.
Maali/Mahlee/Marli is a name found in quite a few languages around the world.
The Noongar word Maali means black swan.
Another suggested Aboriginal meanings for Mahlee/Marli are said to mean old tree.
Jedda is another popular Aboriginal girls name.
The name is believed to have originated from the Noongar word Djida, which means little wild goose.
The name became more popular after Rosalie Kunoth-Monks starred in the 1955 film ‘Jedda’.
Yindi is a common Aboriginal girls name and is believed to mean sun.
There is limited information about which Aboriginal language group this meaning comes from.
The word Yindi is also used by Yolngu people and is part of the world famous band, Yothu-Yindi where Yothu means child and Yindi means mother.
Alinta is an Aboriginal word for fire and is believed to have its origins in South Australia.
The name Alinta gained national attention after the 1980’s TV series, Women of the Sun.
This beautiful name is a Gumbaynggir word that translates to girl.
This name is also in use by Palawa people who are originally from Tasmania where Lowanna is the word for woman.
The name Alira/Allira/Allyra is said to be an Aboriginal word for the common Quartz stone.
Keira is a Dharawal word from the Illawarra region of NSW that means large lagoon or high mountain.
This name is also common among people of Celtic descent where the name means dark or dark haired.
This popular Aboriginal name is a Kaurna word for breaking wave/s.
This name much like Kylie is also commonly used by non-Indigenous people who sometimes don’t realise the origins of the name.
Kylie is a Noongar word for boomerang. This Aboriginal name is without a doubt, a name that went mainstream with the popularity of Kylie Minogue in recent times.
Medika is a beautiful name which means blossom or flower and is also a name given to native water lily’s.
The name is believed to have its origins in South Australia.
Translates to permanent (always there) and comes from the Dharug language group in Sydney. There is also a suburb in Sydney bearing this name.
Jarrah is a famous type of eucalyptus tree which is well known for it’s deep red colour. The name Jarrah is derived from the Noongar word Djarraly.
Nullah is a name made famous by Baz Luhrman’s film Australia, where a young Brandon Walters broke a million hearts around the world as the young Aboriginal boy named Nullah.
The word Nullah is a word for war club/hunting stick derived from the Dharug language.
Coen is a name that is popular with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
The name Coen is a Hebrew word for priest. The Aboriginal meaning for Coen is ‘thunder’.
This name is found in different language groups from the east coast of Australia to the west Kimberly coast.
In the Dharug language around Sydney, the word Ngarra has a number of meanings.
One of the most beautiful meanings is ‘together with you’.
Jiemba is the name for the planet Venus or ‘the laughing star’ and it is a Wiradjuri word.
Iluka is a Bunjalung word that means by the sea. There is a small township called Iluka on Bunjalung country and it is right on the water too.
Waru is a very common word used in various Aboriginal languages.
The most well known meaning comes from the Pintupi/Luritja word for fire.
In Kalkadoon country the word Waru is a word used to describe the milky way.
Tjandamurra / Jandamarra
The perfect name for a young warrior. Jandamarra has been gaining popularity in recent years after the release of the documentary film of the Bunuba resistance leader.
The name Yarran is a Wiradjuri word for the Acacia tree (Wattle tree). Yarran or Yarrany wood is very strong and is used for making traditional tools.
Monaro is a Ngarigo word for Plateau or high plain which has its origins in the mountain regions of South East Australia.
There is a small township by this name and the name has reached cult status in Australia with the famous Holden Monaro.
Birrani is a word that comes from Wiradjuri country and is the traditional word for boy.
This name that comes from a tree. Minjarra is the name for a bush plum which grows on Ngarrawanji land in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
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