Wangkiny / Language Glossary

Nyungar wangkiny or language, and the commitment to it, is central to Nyungar identity. As Nyungar language was not written prior to colonisation, there are many spellings of the word Nyungar itself (e.g. Noongar, Nyoongar) and many other Nyungar words.

Nyungar language is evident in place names, street names, plants and animals found throughout Nyungar boodjar. Nyungar words such as ‘gidge’ for spear have also been incorporated into the Australian-English language, Nyungar have remained faithful to our Nyungar wangkiny despite regressive policies and practices imposed upon us.

Nyungar wangkiny assists in restoring and preserving Nyungar ways of expressing culture and experience.1  As stated by the late Ballardong man Ralph Winmar (1996), Elder and “Keeper of the Stories”, “Nyungar language has a harmonious quality, and it is a real treat to hear two fluent speakers in conversation.”2 

This glossary does not include place names and other items. Click on these links for the Nyungar names for Placenames, Features of Derbal NaraPlants and Animals, and the Six Seasons.

As mentioned above, there are often multiple names and/or multiple spellings of similar names. For example, ‘whale’ is written as mamang, mamung, mummung, mammang, mamong, meemonga or namang. As Nyungar was not a written language before colonisation, these spellings represent variations in the interpretation by various recorders of the pronunciation of a given Nyungar word. The pronunciation itself may also have varied from place to place or clan to clan. Here we include one spelling for each similar sounding name; hence for whale we present ‘mamang’.3 

There may also be names for a single species that are quite different. These different names could represent different stages in the life cycle, different sexes, different features of the species’ lifestyle or regional variations in usage. For example, for humpback whale we found the names recorded as goonga goombar (carrying a large neck or back), booga bidern (back of whale a creating trail in water as it jumps, i.e. breaching) and bugal-el-ngor (literally hillock on back) (personal communication, Clint Bracknell and Len Collard).

Glossary

Click on the Nyungar word sound file to hear the word.

Bidi

Trail

click to play sound Bidi

Boodjar or boodjera

Country or land

click to play sound Boodjar or boodjera

Boodjar-gordo

An island

click to play sound Boodjar-gordo

booga bidern

Back of whale a creating trail in water as it jumpsor i.e. breaching

click to play sound booga bidern

Booka

Coat

click to play sound Booka

Boolyada

One who possesses magic

click to play sound Boolyada

Boorda

Valley

click to play sound Boorda

Boornyarri

Man's name

click to play sound Boornyarri

Booyee

Rock

click to play sound Booyee

Borda borda

Later on

click to play sound Borda borda

bugal-el-ngor

Literally hillock on back

click to play sound bugal-el-ngor

Bulland

Crane

click to play sound Bulland

Bullung

Pelican

click to play sound Bullung

By-yu

Zamia season or fruit

click to play sound By-yu

Daap

Knife - ceremonial

click to play sound Daap

Derbal Nara

Cockburn Sound - Derbal means estuary and Nara means salmon

click to play sound Derbal Nara

Derbal Yaragan

Swan River

click to play sound Derbal Yaragan

Derbow

Dive or stoop

click to play sound Derbow

Djakat

Roots

click to play sound Djakat

Dogee

Rain

click to play sound Dogee

Doordajee Doordajee

Now that means she is going to have a baby

click to play sound Doordajee Doordajee

Dowak

Short heavy stick

click to play sound Dowak

Dwert

Dingo or dog

click to play sound Dwert

Gabbee or gaba

Water

click to play sound Gabbee or gaba

Gidge or gidjee

Fishing Spear

click to play sound Gidge or gidjee

Gilgie

Freshwater crayfish

click to play sound Gilgie

Gnarnk

Bloodline

click to play sound Gnarnk

Gnoort

Horse

click to play sound Gnoort

Gooiara

Sand

click to play sound Gooiara

Goonga goombar

Carrying a large neck or back

click to play sound Goonga goombar

Jenna koorliny

Walk

click to play sound Jenna koorliny

Jennark

Spirit

click to play sound Jennark

Jimbar

The jimbar was like a dinosaur, as big as a dinosaur

click to play sound Jimbar

Joobaitch

Nyungar man

click to play sound Joobaitch

Kaanya

Spirit

click to play sound Kaanya

Kaarda

Goanna

click to play sound Kaarda

Katitjin

Knowledge

click to play sound Katitjin

Katta

Hill

click to play sound Katta

Keirp

Water

click to play sound Keirp

Kieler

Dolphin

click to play sound Kieler

Kodj

Stone axe

click to play sound Kodj

Kooboorl kooboorlor koombar kumbariny

That means the belly is getting big

click to play sound Kooboorl kooboorlor koombar kumbariny

Koorannup

Spirit place across the sea

click to play sound Koorannup

Koormul

Possum

click to play sound Koormul

Koorndan

Shame

click to play sound Koorndan

Kooyal

Frog

click to play sound Kooyal

Kulbardi

Magpie

click to play sound Kulbardi

Kuljak

Swans

click to play sound Kuljak

Kura

Long time ago

click to play sound Kura

Kura yeye boorda

From the past today and into the future

click to play sound Kura yeye boorda

Kurrlonggur

Children

click to play sound Kurrlonggur

kurrlonggur ngarnk

Child's mother

click to play sound kurrlonggur ngarnk

Kyli

Boomerang

click to play sound Kyli

Maaman or Maam

Male - also father

click to play sound Maaman or Maam

Mamong

Whale

click to play sound Mamong

Mar

Wind

click to play sound Mar

Meeandip

Garden Island

click to play sound Meeandip

Meeka

Moon

click to play sound Meeka

Meen

Roots

click to play sound Meen

Mia

Shelter hut camp

click to play sound Mia

Miro

Spear thrower

click to play sound Miro

Moodjar

Christmas Tree

click to play sound Moodjar

Moort

Family

click to play sound Moort

Nangar

The stars

click to play sound Nangar

Ngoorndiny

A Resting place - of the Waarkle

click to play sound Ngoorndiny

Nyingar

Echidna

click to play sound Nyingar

Nyitting

Cold time or Dreamtime

click to play sound Nyitting

Nyungar or Noongar

People

click to play sound Nyungar or Noongar

Waakal or Waarkle or Waugal

Dream time rainbow serpent

click to play sound Waakal or Waarkle or Waugal

Wadjemup

Rottnest Island - Place of the Emus

click to play sound Wadjemup

Waigen

Rainbow

click to play sound Waigen

Waitch

Emu

click to play sound Waitch

Wardan

Sea

click to play sound Wardan

Wardong

Crow

click to play sound Wardong

Warra

Bad

click to play sound Warra

Wedjela or wedjella

White person

click to play sound Wedjela or wedjella

Whadjuk

The people of the Swan coastal plain. Could refer to Weitch, or emu

click to play sound Whadjuk

Woonda

Shield

click to play sound Woonda

Woordanung

Spirit place across the sea

click to play sound Woordanung

Woorriji

Lizard

click to play sound Woorriji

Wort buranginy

To pinch or grab the throat

click to play sound Wort buranginy

Yondock

Ancestral Crocodile

click to play sound Yondock

Yonka or yonga

Kangaroo

click to play sound Yonka or yonga

Yorga

Female

click to play sound Yorga



References

1. Collard, Harben & van den Berg. Nidja Beeliar Boodjar Noonookurt Nyininy, 13.

2. Winmar. Walwalinj, v.

3. Scott & Woods. Mamang.