Indigenous Language Wordlists on SLQ webpages

How can I find an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander word for different parts of the body?

Yuwaalaraay parts of the body.

Yuwaalaraay parts of the body.

A good starting point is the State Library’s Indigenous Languages webpages. On these webpages, State Library has collated over 20 lists of words from 70+ different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages!

Body Parts - SLQ Webpages.

Body Parts – SLQ Webpages.

This is one of the most popular and growing sections and includes themes such as parts of the body, numbers, animals and everyday words. There is even a list of how to say g’day in 70 different Indigenous languages of Queensland!

Brisbane Animals wordlist.

Brisbane Animals wordlist.

Schools and kindergartens as well as community members are looking for examples of Indigenous words to include in games, stories and other learning activities. Parts of the body are especially popular as the words can be used for rhymes such as Hokey Pokey or Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Vocabulary from German Mission, 1841.

Vocabulary from German Mission, 1841.

Generally, these words have been sourced from historical documents such as the 1841 vocabulary compiled by Rev Eipper at the German Mission, Nundah.

South-East Queensland Placenames (Meston).

South-East Queensland Placenames (Meston).

Another rich source is the Meston Notebooks which includes a number of vocabularies collected by Meston in his role as Chief Protector of Aborigines. Rev William Ridley like many missionaries of the 19th Century also took an interest in recording Aboriginal languages – his 1855 Notebook has been digitised by the State Library and can be accessed online.

Hawkwood Station, Parry-Okenden (1914).

Hawkwood Station, Parry-Okenden (1914).

Other sources for Aboriginal words include Trove/NLA Newspapers with many pastoralists and others submitting vocabularies for inclusion in local newspapers – the image above is from The Queenslander and depicts a set of words from Hawkwood Station, via Mundubbera.

Language Resources, SLQ Collections.

Language Resources, SLQ Collections.

Complementing these historical sources and original materials are a range of published materials including dictionaries, linguistic surveys and other texts compiled by linguists and community groups. Collection items can be valuable resources that assist community groups in researching and reviving their local Indigenous languages.

Queensland Language Wordle.

Queensland Language Wordle.

Additionally, these materials and the wordlists on State Library’s webpages can help raise awareness of the diversity of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Be sure to visit regularly as new wordlists are often added every month!


Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, Queensland Memory

State Library of Queensland Indigenous Languages webpages


References and Further Reading

The following selection from the State Library collections represent a sample of the diverse range of language materials, many of which contain vocabularies and wordlists from Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Further items can be found using One Search.

Allan, J. and Lane, J. (2001) The language of the Wangerriburra and neighbouring groups in the Yugambeh region. Kombumerri Aboriginal Corporation for Culture: Beenleigh. P 499.15 all

Breen, J. G. and Blake, B. (2007) The grammar of Yalarnnga: a language of western Queensland. Pacific Linguistics: Canberra. J 499.152 BRE

Curr, E. M. (1887) The Australian Race: its origins, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent. John Ferres Government Printer: Melbourne. RBF 572.994 cur

Dixon, R. M. W. (1972) The Dyirbal language of north Queensland. London: Cambridge University Press. G 499.15 1972

Dixon, R. M. W. (1977) A grammar of Yidin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. G 499.155 1977

Dixon, R. M. W. (1991) Words of our country: stories, place names and vocabulary in Yidiny, the Aboriginal language of the Cairns-Yarrabah region. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press. G 499.15 1991

Dixon, R. and Blake, B. (Eds) (1979) Handbook of Australian Languages. The Australian National University Press; Canberra. G 499.15 1979

Edwards, R. (Ed) (2001) Dictionary of Torres Strait languages. Rams Skull Press: Sydney. Q 499.1503 RAY

Eipper, C. (2007) German Mission to the Aborigines at Moreton Bay, 1841. Archive CD Books. QCFS 266.02343094 2007

Helon, G. (1994) The English-Goreng Goreng-English dictionary. Gurang Land Council: Bundaberg. G 499.15 1994

Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. Australian National University: Canberra. J 499.15 HOL

Mathew, J. (1910) Two representative tribes of Queensland: with an inquiry concerning the origin of the Australian race. T Fisher Unwin: London. J 306.0899915 MAT

Meston, A. (undated) Archibald Meston Papers Undated. OM64-17

Minjerribah Moorgumpin Elders-in-Council Aboriginal Corporation (2011) Jandai language dictionary: a dictionary of language spoken on Stradbroke and Moreton Islands based on words remembered by all Elders and recorded by interested visitors to our shores. HKT 499.153 JAN

Patz, E. (2002) A grammar of the Kuku Yalanji language of north Queensland. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. J 499.15 PAT

Ridley, W. (1866) Kamilaroi, Dippil and Turrabul: languages spoken by Australian Aborigines. Government Printer: Sydney. RBJ 499.15 rid

Sutton, P. (ed) (1974) Languages of Cape York: papers presented to the Linguistic Symposium, Part B, held in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Biennial General Meeting, May,1974. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: Canberra. G 499.15 1976

Sutton, P. (1995) Wik-Ngathan dictionary. Caitlin Press: Prospect, SA. Q 499.15 SUT

Tennant-Kelly, C. and University of Queensland (2011) The Caroline Tennant-Kelly ethnographic collection: fieldwork accounts of Aboriginal culture in the 1930s. University of Queensland: St Lucia. (CD-ROM) HCF 305.89915 CAR

Terrill, A. (2002) Dharumbal: the language of Rockhampton, Australia. Pacific Linguistics 525. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. J 499.15 TER

Thancoupie (2007) Thanakupi’s guide to language and culture: a Thaynakwith dictionary. Q 305.899 THA

Watson, F. J. (1944) “Vocabularies of four representative tribes of South Eastern Queensland”; supplement to the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Queensland), No. 34, Vol XLVIII. REFJ 499.15 wat