The Names of Sydney: Aboriginal

Conspicuous by their absence in the Inner City are names of Aboriginal origin. Only three survive - Barangaroo, Woolloomooloo and Bennelong - the latter being the name of one of only a handful of Aboriginal people of Sydney's first decade who aligned themselves in any way with the white settlement. The latter was recorded as the native name for the area, which was retained by the first white settler there and used as the name of his property. Speaking of Aboriginal names, in much the same way that the English use suffixes like "town" or "ville" in their names, eg. Campbelltown and Hurstville, the natives of the Sydney region used the suffix "matta" in reference to a locality eg. Cabramatta. In the case of Cabramatta, a cabra was an edible root, therefore the name means "place where there are edible roots". When the white settlers asked the native the name of a particular place, what the whites wrote down wasn't necessarily the name of the place, in fact there is little evidence to suggest that the Aborigines regularly named places in the same way most other cultures did. In the case of Cabramatta, it is more a description of the place than its name.

Aboriginal Names of Sydney Places

The Spit: Burra Bra

Clontarf beach: Warringa (Warringah Shire Council recalls the aboriginal name)

Manly: Canna (Cannae Point recalls the aboriginal name)

North Harbour: Balgowlah

Chowder Bay: Koree

Bradleys Head: Burrogy

Cremorne Point: Woolloorigang

Elbow Point in Mosman Bay: Goram-bulla-gong

Bottle & Glass Rocks: Moring

Rose Bay: Pan-ner-rong

Bondi: Bundi, Boondi, or Bundye (meaning noise of water breaking over rocks)

Coogee: Coggee (meaning bad smell and refers to rotting seaweed on the beach)

Long Bay: Boora

Woolloomooloo Bay: Walla-Mulla (describes young male kangaroo leaping through the bush during a hunt)

La Perouse: Bunnerong

Pyrmont: Pirrama

Lavender Bay: Quiberee

Shark Island: Bo-a-millie

Goat Island: Mel Mel (meaning eye)

Pinchgut Island (Fort Denison): Matye-wan-ye

Clark Island: Billongoola

Localities with Aboriginal Names

Allawah: Aboriginal word meaning "stay here", believed to have been used by the local Botany Bay Aborigines.

Balgowlah: (or Bulgowlah) said to be an Aboriginal name for "North Harbour". The area now known as Balgowlah was known to the Aborigines as Jilling.

Barreenjoey Peninsula: meaning Young Kangaroo. Name first recorded by Gov. Phillip.

Bangalley Head: named after the Aboriginal name for the Bastard Mahogany Tree (Eucalyptus Botryoides) which grows in this area.

Bennelong Point: the site of the Sydney Opera House. It here that Gov. Phillip built a hut for Bennelong, an aborigine whom he befriended and was used as a guide and interpreter by the colonists. In the 19th century, the location became known as Bennelong Point. During his tenure as Governor, Macquarie built a fort on the point as part of his harbour defense system. This was replaced by a tram depot, which was demolished in the 1950s to make way for the Opera House. It is one of only two names in the Sydney region to honour an Aboriginal. Aboriginal name: Tubow-gule.

Berala: taken from the Aboriginal name for musk-duck "bareela".

Berowra: meaning "place of many winds".

Bilgola Plateau: possibly after the Aboriginal name Belgoula, reputed to be the Aboriginal name of the nearby beach.

Birrong: reputed to mean "star". The name recalls Boorong, the daughter of Maugoran, a Burramattagal elder. Boorong was brought to Sydney from the Birrong area suffering from smallpox in 1789 and was cared for by Chaplain Richard Johnson and his wife Mary. She was adopted by them after she recovered. Boorong's three brothers - Ballooderry (Leatherjacket), Yerinibe and Bidgee Bidgee (River Flat), were later appointed 'chief' of Parramatta by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Birrong is the only place in the Sydney region to be named after a female Aborigine.

Bondi: from the Aboriginal word "bundi" which described the sound of waves breaking on the beach. The name was first used by the pioneer surveyor James Meehan, who referred to it as Bundi Bay.

Bonna Point: derived from Burra Burra, the Aboriginal Name for Long Bay.

Boora Point: Burra Burra was the Aboriginal Name for Long Bay.

Bow Bowing Creek: Aboriginal name of the creek. The original spelling was Boro Borang but through the careless writing of old deeds it became Boro Bowing and then today's Bow Bowing.

Bumborah Point: Aboriginal name for a reef.

Bundeena Bay: Aboriginal name said to be a Dharawal term for 'noise like thunder'. The name was later adopted by white settlers for the town of Bundeena on the bay.

Bungan Head: of Aboriginal origin, the name was first recorded in a survey in 1814 as Bongin Bongin, referring to the area (700 acres) which included present day Mona Vale and Bungan and was granted to Robert Campbell junior. The name of Bongin Bongin Bay is a derivation of Bungan, which is believed to be the Aboriginal name foi the location.

Bungarribee Creek: first recorded as name of the home of settler for John Campbell, built in 1824. Its meaning is not known.

Burraneer / Burraneer Bay: originally Burrameer Bay, an Aboriginal word meaning "point of the bay".

Burrawang Reach: Aboriginal name for wild ducks.

Cabarita: from an Aboriginal word meaning "by the water".

Cabramatta: claimed to be from Aboriginal words "cabra" (an edible freshwater grub) and "matta" (place or locality). Also said to mean "Higher up the water" or the "Head of the waters".

Cammeray: locality and bay named after the Cammeraygal Aboriginal tribe, reputed to be a group of fierce fighters, which occupied the area.

Cannae Point: recalls Canna, the Aboriginal name for the Manly area.

Caringbah: from an Aboriginal word for "a pademelon wallaby".

Carramar: from an Aboriginal word meaning "shade of trees".

Careel Head: meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Cattai National Park: named after the Cattai Aboriginal clan, which lived in the Middle Hawkesbury region. The National Park is within their hunting ground.

Chullora: from an Aboriginal word meaning "flour".

Cobbitty / Cobbitty Creek: name is of Aboriginal origin. First recorded as Kobbatty and is said to have referred to nearby hills.

Cogra Point / Bay: Aboriginal, meaning rushes or reeds. The suburb name Kogarah is derived from the same word.

Collaroy: from an Aboriginal word meaning "long reeds". Its name came into use after the coastal stream Collaroy ran aground on the beach here in 1881.

Congwong Beach / Bay: meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Coogee: derived from Aboriginal word "koojah" meaning "a stinking place", probably a reference to rotting seaweed on the beach.

Cowan Creek: Cowan is an aboriginal word meaning "opposite" or "the other side". Originally called the South Bay by Captain Phillip. The name Cowan Creek appears to have been first used by William Boan in an application for land in 1826.

Cronulla: The name's origin is obscure; two theories abound, the latter is the most likely - 1. Cronulla is the name given by local aborigines to an early settler, John Connell; 2. The native word for a small pink shell found on the beaches of Cronulla is Kurran-ulla.

Cruwee Cove: Named after an Aboriginal who, during early colonial times, claimed to have sighted James Cook's arrival at Botany Bay in 1770. He is reported to have lived to the mid 1850s.

Curl Curl: from an Aboriginal word thought to mean "lagoon".

Curraghbeena Point: Said to be the Aboriginal name for the point between Mosman and Little Sirius Cove.

Currawong Beach: named presumably for its abundance of currawong.

Dee Why: origin is unsure, though numerous suggestions abound. According to some, it is derived from the aboriginal word "diwai", a waterfowl supposed to have inhabited the lagoon. Another suggestion is that it refers to the Spanish caravel, "Santa Ysabel", which went missing in fog off Calao, South America in 1595, and according to folklore, was wrecked here. The first recorded use of the name was in September 27, 1815, when Surveyor James Meehan recorded in his field book, "Dy Beach - marked a honeysuckle near beach". Meehan recorded difficulty accessing the area because of the heavy brush and swamp, and it is believed he was using an abbreviation of the Greek word "dysprositos", meaning "difficult to reach".

Deeban Spit: meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Dharruk: from an Aboriginal name, purported to be that of a local tribe.

Dural: named originally Dooral-dooral, Aboriginal for "a smoking hollow tree".

Elanora Heights: from an Aboriginal name for "home (or camp) by the sea".

Engadine: Two theories as to the rigin of the name abound: 1. from an Aboriginal word meaning "black rock". 2. It is the name of property of an early settler, Charles McAlister, who named his home thus because the surrounding area reminded him of Engadine in Switzerland. The name was officially adopted for the district when the railway station was thus named in 1924.

Girraween: from an Aboriginal name meaning "the place where the flowers grow".

Gunnamatta Bay: Derived from Goonamarra, the Aboriginal name for the area from Cronulla to Kurnell.

Gunyah Beach: meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Gwawley Bay: Aborginal name for Taren Point, meaning not known.

Gymea: Aboriginal name for the tall, red-flowering native lily, or Myrtle, which used to be prolific in the area. The name was recorded by W.A.B. Greaves, a government surveyor when he went through the area in 1855.

Illawong: from an Aboriginal word meaning "between two waters" (Georges and Woronora Rivers).

Jannali: from an Aboriginal word meaning "beautiful moonrise".

Jibbon Beach / Head / Bumborah: meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Kirrawee: from an Aboriginal word meaning "lengthy".

Kirribilli: Believed to be an Anglicised version of an aboriginal word of unknown meaning, at times historiansd have wondered if it had its origins in the name of the Milson's family cottage, which was Carabella.

Kogarah: derived from the Aboriginal word "coggera" or "cogerah" meaning "rushes". The name was originally used for Rushcutters Bay.

Ku-Ring-Gai: The name of the district encompassing Sydney's upper north shore. It is of Aboriginal origin, and was used by the local clan to descriibe themselves and their territory - Kuri - "us"; Gai - "place of". The art of the Kur-Ring-Gai people can be seen in the hundreds of rock carvings and cave paintings to be found throughout the Kun-ring-gai Chase National Park. Mount Ku-Ring-Gai is similarly derived.

Kurnell: Aboriginal name for Kurnell peninsula, Kurdul.

Kurraba Point: believed to be the Aboriginal name for Hungry Bay or Shell Cove.

Kurrajoing: A Koori name of a tree.

Kutti Beach: aboriginal name for Watsons Bay.

Kyeemagh: said to originate from an Aboriginal word meaning "beautiful dawn". Manly Cove on North Harbour was known to the Aborigines as Kay-Yee-My, which may also account for the name though no explanation exists as to why the name was transferred to this location.

Leumeah: from an Aboriginal word meaning "here I rest".

Lilli Pilli: formerly described as Lilly Pilly Point, because of the native myrtles growing in rich black soil.

Lurnea: chosen to replace Hillview and meaning "a resting place".

Marayong: from an Aboriginal word meaning "emu" or "place of the cranes".

Maroubra: A name said to be of Aboriginal origin (Merro-berah) originally given to Maroubra Bay, meaning "like thunder", which presumably referred to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Another suggestion is is derived from the name of the local clan. According to historian George Thornton (1892), a clan in this coastal area was named after 'a chief of a tribe a little south of Coogee called "Maroobera", and the beach is still so called after him'. This seems to fit the group listed as murro-ore-dial, also recorded in his notebook. His name might be translated as mooroo=path and boora, the Indigenous name for Long Bay, just south of Maroubra. Obed West (Sydney Morning Herald 1882) said Long Bay was the principal Aboriginal camping place between Sydney and Botany Bay and that 'several well-beaten paths led down to the bay &' The north headland of Long Bay is still called Boora Point.

Menangle Creek: Aboriginal name 'Manangle' (or 'Menangle') came from the pond on early grantee Walter Davidson's land at Camden. Meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Milperra: from an Aboriginal word meaning "a gathering of people"

Murriverie Pass: derived from its Aboriginal name, Marevera.

Narrabeen: possibly an Aboriginal name of a bird or of an Aboriginal woman named Narrabin. Another source suggests it is an aboriginal name for a source of fresh water.

Narraweena: from an Aboriginal word meaning "a quiet place in the hills".

Narwee: from an Aboriginal word meaning "the sun".

Panania: either from an Aboriginal word meaning "sun rising in the east and shining on the hills" or a reference to a location where this was seen to occur.

Pimewi Rocks: meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Pirriwi Point: The Aboriginal name for the point known as the Spit.

Tabbigal Gap: meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Tamarama : Originally known as Mills Estate after a local landmark, the windmill of farmer Henry Gough. Tamarama Bay, of Aboriginal origin, was first recorded as a name in 1885 when a fatality at the beach was reported. Also known as Dixon's Bay after Dr Dixon, a nearby land owner, it later became Fletcher's Glen when David Fletcher bought a 10 acre frontage. The original recorded spelling of the name was Oramaramma.

Tarban Creek: corruption of native name 'Tharbine'. Meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Toongabbie: from an Aboriginal word meaning "a place near the water" or "meeting of the waters".

Turimetta Beach / Head: Believed to be a local Aboriginal clan or family name. In this area, the suffix "etta" was part of a family names.

Turramurra: from an Aboriginal word meaning "big hill".

Turrella: from an Aboriginal word meaning "a reedy place" or "water weeds".

Wahroonga: from an Aboriginal word meaning "our home".

Wallumatta Bay: The name of an Aboriginal tribe living in this vicinity on the north side of Parramatta River. Bennelong, who was befriended by Gov. Phillip in 1788, is believed to have been a Wallumatta tribe member.

Warrawee: from an Aboriginal word meaning "stop here" which refers to its use as a compsite.

Warriewood: in the 1880s, the Macpherson family farmed this land which was known as Warriewood. possibly of Aboriginal origin, its meaning is unknown.

Wolli Creek: A word of Aboriginal origin believed to either mean campsite or to be the name of a particular campsite in the creek valley.

Woollahra: from an Aboriginal word meaning "camp" or "meeting ground" or "a sitting-down place", used by the natives as the name of Woollahra Point. Adopted by Sir Daniel Cooper (1821-1902), a speaker in the NSW Legislative Assembly, for his property in the area.

Woolloomooloo: from an Aboriginal word "Walla-mulla" meaning "young male kangaroo". It was first recorded as the name of the home of the first NSW Commisary-General, John Palmer, in 1801.

Woolooware Bay: derived from the Aboriginal word woolowa, meaning a muddy track, a name first used for Woolooware Road.

Woniora River: aboriginal wording meaning "black rock".

Woronora River: of Aboriginal origin, named by Robert Dixon - misspelt as Wooloonora - a native word meaning 'black rocks'.

Wudyong Point: name of Aboriginal origin. Its meaning is unknown.

Yagoona: from an Aboriginal word meaning "now or to-day".

Yana Gap: meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Yarra Bay: Aboriginal word meaning flowing. It is believed to have originally been the name of the creek which flowed into Botany Bay between Frenchmans and Yarra Bays. Earlier maps maps mark the Bare Island headland as Yarra Point. Marked on early maps as Phillip Bay, Yarra Bay was thus named after Gov. Arthur Phillip who came ashore here on 24th January 1788 upon arrival with the First Fleet in search of the lush meadows Joseph Banks had spoken of. The name has since been adopted by the nearby suburb but dropped for the bay itself.

Yaralla Bay: name taken from the estate of Isaac Nicholls (1770-1819), who took up 600 acres in the area in 1797. The name is believed to be of Aboriginal origin.

Yatalah Creek: meaning not known, probably the Aboriginal name for the location.

Yennora: from an Aboriginal word meaning "to stroll".

Yowie Bay: from an Aboriginal word "yowie" or "ewie" meaning "echo".

Yurulbin Point: Aboriginal name for the location meaning Swift Running Water. Also known as Long Nose Point, which describes its shape. It is here that the Parramatta River converges with the waters of Sydney Harbour.

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