Minya ‘Christmas’ Gamilaraaydha, Yuwaalaraaya?

New words

What is ‘Christmas’ (and ‘gift’) in GY

We are looking for words for ‘Christmas’, ‘gift/present’, and for other things people want to say at this time of the year. Some would like send Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay Christmas greetings and cards.

Below some discussion and possibilities. It would be great if you could post a comment about your preferences. We will try to send out something in a week, so good to send your comments soon.

Comments are probably best on Facebook (tinyurl.com/facebookgy) or to jgiacon@ozemail.com.au


Option 1.

Christmas has to do with Jesus Christ. Jesus  is Dhiidju in some current GY songs.

The suffix –Baa is common. It is not fully understood but meanings include ‘time of, place of’ (dhandarr ‘frost’, dhandarraa‘winter’; yaay ‘sun’, yaaybaa ‘summer’, gula ‘fork’, gulabaa ‘coolabah’ – something about it having forks; and see buurraabelow)

So we could have Dhiidjubaa.

Option 2.

In Italian ‘Chrismas’ is natale ~ the birth (cf nativity, natal) but the usual word for birth is la nascita.

In French ‘Chrismas’ is Noel, also to do with birth but the usual word for birth is la naissance.

In Yuwaalaraay Gamilaraay ‘be born’ is gaanga-y. This may be a euphemism, since talk about pregnancy and birth was often taboo in Indigenous languages.

We could follow the Italian/French pattern and have a special form of ‘birth’ gaangangindaay (which is my best guess of what the word would be). Maybe gaangadha, or gaadha, or …., or even gaangangindaay.

Then on the bus a German man told me their word is Weihnachten (Weih-nachten ~ holy-night), so another non-English pattern we could use. Too many options.

Option 3.

Another approach is suggested by buurraa ‘bora’. This comes from buurr ‘rope/string/belt’ and the –Baa suffix, which is –aaafter rr. Ridley (1875: p 156) has: The name “Bora” is derived from the “bor” or “boorr,” (buurr) the belt of manhood is there conferred upon the candidate.

The name of the event comes from a object which is prominent there. A star (mirii GR; guwabarray YR) is prominent in the Christmas story, so words for ‘Christmas’ could include them. Possibilities include: miriibaa, miriibidi, miriibidibaa … . A word derived from guwabarray would be very long. Moreover guwabarray is almost certainly made up of guwa ‘egg’ and –barray – meaning unknown, so adding more to this could, for a fluent speaker, create a strange combination.

Option X

There are generally thousands of possibilities for a new word.


English gift looks as if it is related to ‘give’, but ‘present’ has a similar meaning and is quite different. What do other languages do? Italian has regalo ‘gift’ and a quick google gives:

regale. “entertain splendidly,” 1650s, from French régaler “to entertain or feast,” from Old French regale, rigale, from gale “merriment,” from galer “make merry” (see gallant (adj.)). Influenced in Old French by se rigoler “amuse oneself, rejoice,” of unknown originItalian regalo is from French.

Again you could spend a long time coming up with a GR word; the ideal would be to find what other Aboriginal languages do. But by then it could be 2018.

Option 1.

Taking the idea that a gift/present is celebrating someone we could adapt yuga-li ‘celebrate’ (cf yugal ‘song’) and get yuga – or something similar.

Option 2.

We don’t have a pattern for forming nouns from RR class verbs like wuu-rri ‘give’. We could follow the L class pattern for RR verbs; LL class examples are: nhinga-li ‘sew’, nhingal ‘needle’; dhubi-li ‘spit (verb)’, dhubil – the stuff. If we did that in RR class we could form wuurr ‘gift’ from wuu-rri ‘give’.


Please tell us your preferences from the possible words above, or make another suggestion.

We hope to produce Christmas cards to download soon, so responses barraay/fast are gaba/good.

For ‘Christmas’

Miriibaa, Miriibidi, Miriibidibaa, Dhiidjubaa, GaangadhaGaadha, Gaangangindaay.or …

For ‘gift’

yuga, wuurr or …..

Happy Christmas:

gayaay/happy or X gaba/good.

Father Christmas

GY rarely has 2 nouns in a phrase (unlike English: water bottle, plastic bottle, fruit box), so my first hunch was to look for the appropriate form of X – the word for ‘Christmas’.

Bubaa X-gu ‘father of/for Christmas’; Bubaa X-Ga ‘father at Christmas’ seem possible. However they don’t feel right – and Italian, which generally does not have the English-style combination, does have Papa Natale. So we could use: Bubaa X, and hope it is not another instance of imposing an English pattern on GY.


  1. Yaama, just wanting to inquire if any Gospel, Christian or praise worship songs are in Gamilaaray/Yuwaalaraay language.
    Any older popular hymns have been translated into Gamilaaray/ Yuwaalaraay


  2. Yaama Lee, The only song I can think of at this state is Bubaa ngiyaningu ‘Our Father’. You can find it at: yuwaalaraay.com > early learners > Yugal. It is an old translation. We would probably do it differently these days, because we know more about the traditional language. Maaru yananga ‘go well’. John


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