Maarubaa ‘thanks’ is garay gibubu/word of the week.

Traditional Aboriginal languages generally did not have a word for ‘thanks’ – or for ‘please, hello’ and many of the other everyday words needed in current society. Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay for a while used ‘gaba nginda’ ‘good you’ for thanks for a while, but gaba is used a lot, so a different word/phrase was looked for. The material below gives the background to adopting maarubaa nginda as ‘thank you’ to one person [use ngindaali for two people, ngindaay for more than two, ngindaayuu for ‘all of you’].

The abbreviated form is maarubaa. [Pronunciation: it is good to be aware of the two aa, i..e. long vowels. English speakers tend to shorten them.]

William Ridley was a missionary in the 1850s and made many of the earliest recordings of Gamilaraay. In Gurre Kamilaroi, his fairly basic translations of Bible passages, he uses maarubaa as ‘good’. The Sydney Morning Herald of 1855, available at, has his record of a journey from Brisbane, inland to Gamilaraay country. In it Ridley says:

20th August.—Left Surat, accompanied by two black policemen, whom Lieutenant Fulford kindly sent to attend me down the river, there being 70 miles without any inhabited station, where it is not considered safe to travel unprotected. We arrived early that day at Wiraburn, 15 miles below Surat, where a dozen aborigines having heard that a white man was coming who could speak their language, came up to the hut as soon as they saw me, and listened very attentively to my discourse.

Among this party was a greyheaded blind man. Although the lot of a blind savage might be deemed cheerless, this old man’s countenance, bright with smiles, seemed as if no evil passions or melancholy ever beclouded it. Both his own kindred and the white men at the station pay kind attention to his wants, and he is easily pleased. It happened that while I was near him he called to his people to guide him to their camp, and as no one of them noticed him, I took one end of the old spear which they use in leading him, and, handing him the other end, guided him thither. The old man laughed heartily, shouted to his friends to see the white stranger leading him, and warmly thanked me with his repeated “Murruba inda” (Good are you) [maarubaa nginda] for this little attention.

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