Boonwurrung language

Boonwurrung (also anglicised as Bunurong, Bun wurrung, among other spellings)[3] is an indigenous Australian language traditionally spoken by the Boonwurrung people of the Kulin Nation of Central Victoria prior to European settlement. The last remaining traditional native speakers died in the early 20th century, however there is an active revival movement underway in the Boonwurrung community.

Native toAustralia
EthnicityBoon wurrung (Yalukit)
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

Geographic distributionEdit

Boonwurrung was spoken by six clans along the coast from the Werribee River, across the Mornington Peninsula, Western Port Bay to Wilsons Promontory.

Related languagesEdit

Boonwurrung is closely related to the Woiwurrung language, with which it shares over 90% of its vocabulary, and to a lesser degree with Taungurong spoken north of the Great Dividing Range in the area of the Goulburn River. Woiwurrung, Taungurong and Boonwurrung have been considered by linguists to be dialects of a single Central Victorian language, whose range stretched from almost Echuca in the north, to Wilsons Promontory in the south.[4]

R. Brough Smyth wrote in 1878 that "The dialects of the Wooeewoorong or Wawoorong tribe (River Yarra) and the Boonoorong tribe (Coast) are the same. Twenty-three words out of thirty are, making allowances for differences of spelling and pronunciation, identical; five have evidently the same roots, and only two are widely different".[5]

Placenames derived from Bunwurrung language termsEdit

Placename Origin
Allambee Reported to mean "to sit and wait for a while",[6] possibly from the verb ngalamba.
Beenak Basket.
Buln Buln "Lyrebird", same origin as the name of the Melbourne suburb Bulleen.[7]
Bunyip From the mythical water-dwelling beast, the bunyip.
Corinella Unclear, some sources state "Running Water"[8] whereas others claim "Home of the kangaroo"[9]
Dandenong Possibly derived from Tanjenong, the indigenous name of Dandenong Creek.[10]
Darnum Debated, some sources claim "Parrot", referring specifically to the crimson rosella. However, other sources claim this to be folk etymology.[11] The name Datnum is recorded as the name of the parrot spirit who assisted Bunjil, one of six wirmums or shamans in Kulin mythology.
Dumbalk "Ice" or "Winter"
Eumemmerring Claimed to be a word meaning "agreement",[12] early settler reports recorded "um um" as a word for "yes".
Korumburra Thought to mean "Blowfly",[13] recorded as karrakarrak in related languages.
Koo Wee Rup Blackfish
Koonwarra Black swan
Lang Lang Unclear, may be connected to Laang meaning stony, although other sources claim the name derives from a different word meaning a group of trees, or from an early European settler named Lang.
Leongatha From liang, meaning "teeth".
Meeniyan Moon
Moorabbin Unclear, possibly "woman's milk". Other sources state "resting place",[14] or "people of the flat country."[15]
Moorooduc Unclear, some sources claim "flat swamp", others claim "dark" or "night".
Mordialloc From Moordy Yallock. Yallock means creek or river, in reference to the Mordialloc Creek estuary. Some sources give "moordy" as meaning "small", whereas other sources have given it to mean "swamp".[16]
Murrumbeena Unclear, according to some sources named after a member of the native police. Identical with the word Murrumbeena recorded by Daniel Bunce in 1851 as meaning "you".[17]
Nar Nar Goon Unclear, said to be from a word for koala.
Narre Warren Unclear, some sources allege connection to nier warreen meaning "no good water", although warreen usually refers to the sea. Other sources cite connection to narrworing, meaning "hot".
Nayook From the word "ngayuk" meaning cockatoo.
Neerim High or long.
Noojee Often described as "place of rest", apparently literally means "done", "finished" or "complete".
Nyora Native Cherry
Tarwin From dharwin meaning "thirsty"
Tonimbuk From the verb meaning "to burn".
Tooradin Named from a monster of local legend, which lived in the waters of Sawtell Inlet.
Warneet One of the words for "river".
Warragul Usually given as meaning "wild dog", although warragul was recorded as meaning "wild" for anything, including humans.
Wonthaggi Thought to be from the verb wanthatji meaning "get", "bring" or "pull". Other sources claim it means "home".
Yannathan A form of the verb yana meaning "to go" or "to walk".[citation needed]
Yarragon Thought to be short for Yarragondock, meaning moustaches.[18]


  1. ^ R. M. W. Dixon, Australian Languages: Their Nature and Development: v. 1 (Cambridge Language Surveys). Cambridge University Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-521-47378-1
  2. ^ S35 Boonwurrung at the Australian Indigenous Languages Database, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  3. ^ Other spellings and names include Boonerwrung, Boon Wurrung, Putnaroo, Thurung, Toturin, and Gippsland dialect (AusAnthrop Australian Aboriginal tribal database, Detailed record of the Bunurong Archived July 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, AusAnthrop anthropological research, resources and documentation on the Aborigines of Australia. Retrieved May 30, 2012)
  4. ^ [Wathawurrung and the Colac Languages of Southern Victoria, Barry J. Blake (1998) in Pacific Linguistics, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University]
  5. ^ [The Aborigines of Victoria, with Notes Relating to the Habits of the Natives of other Parts of Australia and Tasmania, compiled from various sources for the Government of Victoria by R. Brough Smyth (1878)]
  6. ^ Allambee at Victorian Places
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 February 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ Indigenous and Minority Placenames of Victoria
  12. ^ [4]
  13. ^ [5]
  14. ^ Moorabbin becomes a city
  15. ^ [The Argus Newspaper, 12 Feb 1938, page 19]
  16. ^ [The Argus Newspaper, 12 Feb 1938, page 19]
  17. ^ [Language of the Aborigines of the Colony of Victoria and other Australian Districts, Daniel Bunce 1856]
  18. ^ Yarragon at Victorian Places