Finding the meaning of an Aboriginal word

A guide which steps you through the process of finding the English meaning of an Aboriginal word.


The Australian Manuscript Collection at the State Library of Victoria holds various letters, diaries and unpublished records related to Aboriginal languages. Phone (03) 8664 7009 for enquiries or email. Some of the collection includes:

Aboriginal languages for the rest of Australia

Word list

The index to the word list connects to locations on the Curr's map (linked below) and the full text of the word lists included in The Australian race: its origin, languages, customs.

E.M. Curr. Continental Australia: showing the routes by which the Aboriginal race spread itself throughout the continent,1887. Curr squatted in northern Victoria and produced this work from writings on his experiences living amongst Aboriginal people, together with responses to surveys he circulated.

Local history files

The library also holds a collection of local history files which are manilla folders containing ephemeral material such as newspaper articles, brochures and some auction brochures.

Some Aboriginal Language files are included in the subject files.

Order these files at an information desk at the Library, or phone 8664 7009.

Some Walmajarri words

Earth = nguwa

Fire = warlu

Water = ngapa

Star = wirl

Source: Walmajarri - English dictionary with English finder list (North Western Australia)

State Library Victoria


The Library is closed from December 25 to January 3. From January 4 2021 we will be partially open to pre-booked and walk-up visitors and our Ask A Librarian service will resume for assistance with your research inquiries online and over the phone.

First languages

'First Languages Australia is working toward a future where Aboriginal language communities and Torres Strait Islander language communities have full command of their languages and can use them as much as they wish to.'