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This follows on from last week’s list, Girls Names of Aboriginal Origin. It was more challenging to find boys’ names, because many, if not most, Aboriginal words end in a vowel, and easily conform to we think of a “feminine sounding” name. They are similar to names in Hebrew, Arabic, and in the Indian languages in that regard, and even now you will find people who insist that Ezra must be a female name, because it ends in -a.
These are not traditional or tribal Aboriginal names for men, but rather words from Aboriginal languages that I thought could be used as names by people from any culture. Some of them coincide with words or names from other languages, as I thought people may be interested to know that a word from their own heritage has a distinct Australian meaning as well.
Dural is a pleasant semi-rural suburb of Sydney, and its meaning has been in some dispute. It is said that dural was a word from the Dharug language, meaning “gully, valley”, and this information came from a traditional owner of the land in the 19th century. It was also said to mean “burning logs”, from the word dooral dooral, but this belief only dates from the 1940s, and is taken from the Wiradjuri language. As the Wiradjuri people are from central New South Wales, the local meaning is claimed to be the correct one. Translations of this name as “hollow tree” or “burned out tree” in baby name books can be safely discarded as invention. I think Dural seems very usable as a personal name, and I considered it for Sydney Suburbs That Could Be Used as Boy’s Names. It sounds like familiar names such as Darrell, and sturdily similar to the word endure.
This word means “barn owl” in the Jiwarli language of northern Western Australia. As in many other societies, several Australian Aboriginal cultures saw owls as symbols of wisdom, mystery, secrets and sacred knowledge; messengers from one world to another, and companions of the medicine men. The owl features in several myths and legends, and is sometimes depicted in Aboriginal art. This name seems familiar to us, because Jarli is also a Scandinavian boy’s name based on the word for “earl”, and I have seen one or two boys with this name. I like the sound and the meaning of this name, and it is similar to another Jiwarli word: jali, meaning “friend”.
This word from a Queensland language refers to a spear with two barbs, and is pronounced KY-uh. It has been used in the Latin name for a species of caddisfly – Chimarra kaiya – who is so called because of its distinctive barb-like projections. In the Kaurna language of South Australia, the similar sounding kaya means “spear”, although in Nyungar it means “hello; yes”. This is always listed as a girl’s name in baby name books, but the name Kai makes this name look masculine to me. I don’t see how the sound of it is any more “girly” than, say, Hezekiah. The meaning does not seem feminine either. I would say it is a unisex name, and suitable for a boy.
This means “red earth, burnt earth” in the Ngiyampaa language of New South Wales. It refers to the ochre used for making body paint for the Coroborees; the sacred ceremonies of Indigenous Australians involving ritual, dance and music. Red ochre is also used in other Aboriginal forms. Kuparr was the basis for the name of the mining town Cobar, and because copper was mined there, it has also been suggested that it may have been the local way of translating the word copper. Most likely the similarity between the words is a coincidence though. The attraction of this name is that it sounds a bit like Cooper. If you like the sound of Cooper but think it seems a bit boring or surnamey, Kuparr might be for you.
Miro (MEE-roh) is a Nyungar word for a type of spear thrower which propels the aim of the gidgee; a fearsome qaurtz-tipped spear about 8 feet long. Miro exists as a name or word in several other languages. It’s a Slavic name which is short for Miroslav, meaning “glorious peace”. In Japanese, it’s short for Miroku, a Japanese form of Maitreya, the fifth (future) incarnation of the Buddha. In New Zealand, it’s the name for a species of conifer tree. In Korea, it means “maze”. It’s also the surname of Spanish artist, Joan Miró i Ferrà (Joan was a man) – his surname was short for Ramiro, the Spanish form of a Germanic name meaning “famous counsel”. It’s very multicultural, and none of the meanings that I’ve seen are negative. I think it’s attractive. We had a baby boy in a recent birth announcement named Finn Joseph Miro, so it’s considered usable in Australia.
This is one of the Aboriginal names for the Black-necked Stork, which is found across the tropical north of Australia, and is the only stork species native to Australia. I have not been able to track down which language it is from, except that it’s not from the Northern Territory, where this bird is called a jabiru. It’s therefore either from Queensland or northern New South Wales, as the only other places where this bird exists. It’s listed as one of the Indigenous names by museums, so I feel fairly confident it’s authentic. The stork is mentioned in several Aboriginal legends, one of them an extremely touching love story. The attraction of this name is that it sounds exactly like the fashionable name Monty, but has its own significance.
This means “eggshell” in the Kaurna language of South Australia. I thought of it because I have seen the name Tarka used in the birth announcements from the London Telegraph. It has a number of meanings in other contexts. There is a well-loved English children’s book called Tarka the Otter, so famous that it has given its name to a railway line and a bike path in the West Country. It was made into a film in the 1970s. In the book, Tarka’s name was meant to suggest the barking sound that an otter makes. In India, tarka is a word for seasoning added to a meal, and in Quechuan, a tarka is a type of flute played by the Indigenous people of the Andes. Tarka Cordell was a British musician who died in tragic circumstances a few years ago; I’m not sure where his name was taken from, or whether he is the inspiration for British children having Tarka as one of their names. This is the second name with the meaning of “eggshells” I have suggested; the other was Keid. Because eggshells appear so fragile, and yet are surprisingly strong under compression, I find this meaning very evocative.
Means “evening, dusk, twilight” in the Kaurna language of South Australia, and is said to rhyme with the word cow. In Maori, it can mean a number of different things, including “sweetheart”, “song, chant”, “string”, or “ridge”. In one of the Indigenous languages of Indonesia, it means “man”. In Samoan, it can mean “anchor” or “war”. It’s known to many people in the context of the Tau Cross, a symbol of life which was used by the Egyptians, and became important in a number of different religions and spiritual paths, including Christianity. I have met men named Tau, but I’m not sure which meaning was associated with their names. I think Tau fits in very well with other popular names for boys, such as Ty, Tai and Taj, and would be readily accepted.
Warragul, pronounced WOHR-uh-guhl, is a town in the West Gippsland region of rural Victoria, the birthplace of legendary Aboriginal boxer Lionel Rose. Its name is said to come from a local word, warrigal, meaning either “wild” or “wild dog”, referring to the dingo. The dingo is Australia’s largest predator on land, and its ancestor is thought to have been introduced to Australia by seafarers from south east Asia thousands of years ago, when dogs were less domesticated and more closely related to wolves. Dingoes play a major role in Aboriginal myths and legends; in stories they are often guardians of humans who can warn them of the supernatural or evil spirits. There are also myths of dingo-people shapeshifters, or “were-dingoes”, and often the dingo in legends is a rebel or trickster figure. In everyday life, dingoes were tamed and kept in Aboriginal camps as guard dogs. They were treated with great affection, given names, slept with their human companions, and were even breastfed. At least sometimes they were buried alongside humans. I saw someone in a parenting forum say they had already used Warragul as a baby name.
Warrin meant “winter, cold and frosty season” in one the language spoken around the Sydney region when Europeans first arrived. However, there are a number of similar words used throughout Indigenous languages. Warran or Warrung was the original name for the place we call Sydney Cove, and by extension, Sydney itself; it is said to mean “the other side [of the harbour]”. In the Brisbane area, Warun was a place name in the suburb now called Redcliffe; it may have meant “neck”. There are historical records of a man from south-west Queensland named Warun, so it was used as a personal name. In the Melbourne area, warun meant “eel” in the local language, a fish prized as a valuable food source; there is a suburb of Geelong named Warun Ponds. I have also seen the word warun translated to mean “diving ducks” in the Northern Territory. Baby name books translate Warun as meaning “sky”, but I don’t know which language they are deriving it from. From this I deduce that the English name Warren is the most “indigenous sounding” of our names, and perhaps it deserves a closer look.
(The photo is of young actor Brandon Walters, who starred in Baz Luhrman’s film, Australia).
Felis Catus said:
Cringing to death. As an Aboriginal person I really have to request that non-Aboriginal people don’t take random-ass Native words to call their kids. Not only is it really colonialist, it just sounds idiotic. Please stop
If I called my dog Uluru would you be unhappy. She really is lovely. Her mother came from Australia, a working sheepdog. I live in the uk
– Lol 🙂
I love the name Jarrah for a boy – meaning eucalyptus. I am currently pregnant and am if it is a little boy I think we will name him this.
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Nook of Names said:
Fascinating again! I love names like Tarka which have so many meanings in so many languages around the world. Obviously, they’re technically and officially unrelated — but I do wonder sometimes whether the Universe has something subtle going on when I encounter such coincidences.
Yes me too – intellectually there is no connection, but intuitively you feel that there must be, on some other level.
I love these Aboriginal names. I can easily see Jarli and Miro being used outside the Aboriginal culture. I do know a girl Kaiya, but I can see why you would classify it as an unisex name.
I know of a Tarka! (A Tragic Tarka, I’m afraid.) I was not aware of its meaning beyond the Otter connection — very interesting.
Oh dear, Tarka Cordell was tragic as well, and even Tarka the Otter had a bad end. It’s starting to seem slightly depressing now.
I know many people who are convinced that Ezra, Enzo, Noah, Levi, Luca and Nico are girls names because they end in a vowel.
Hmm, no wonder Charlie is now Top 100 for girls, then!
I love the name Miro! I had no idea it was an Aboriginal name, but have always loved it thanks to Joan Miro, one of my favourite artists. Richard Roxborough also has a son named Miro – the first time I’d heard it used as a Christian name, but I’m glad to hear it’s a legitimate first name in other cultures too.
Thanks for the tip! Richard and family may end up on the blog some time.