Wednesday, 26 June 2013


Billabong, Creek, River, Crocodiles, Kakadu National Park Billabong, Northern Territory, Australia
A billabong at the Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia
(photos by Alberto Otero Garcia)


Noun. Australian. Mid-19th century.
[Aboriginal Billibang Bell River, from billa water, bang channel dry except after rain.]

A branch of a river, forming a blind channel, backwater, or stagnant pool.

In Australia, sometimes a river or creek will change course. When it does, a body of water might get left behind, a body that is no longer flowing but stagnant; this, ladies and gentlemen, is a billabong. True, it's probably not going to be a particularly useful word for everyday conversation, but it is a singularly charming and quintessentially Australian word. Therefore, I like it: billabong.

Creek, Crocodile, River, Outback, Wild
"Kakadu-du-du, push pineapple, shake a tree ..."


  1. I spent 5 years in Oz before coming to Canada.
    A billabong can also be a waterhole or a place to drink.

    I now have the urge to sing Waltzing Matilda!

    Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong...

    1. When you say 'a place to drink', do you mean it's a term for a pub too?

    2. I never heard it used as a pub.
      Though there are many pubs called the Billabong!

  2. You know I enjoy a bit of Wikipedia by now and, interestingly, they say that the Etymology of the word: " disputed. The word is most likely derived from the indigenous Wiradjuri term "bilabaŋ", which means "a watercourse that runs only after rain" and is derived from "bila", meaning "river",[3] and possibly "bong" or "bung", meaning "dead".[4][5] One source, however, claims that the term is of Scottish Gaelic origin.[6]"

    Interesting enough to make the corks on your hat sway a little...

    1. I read about the debate while researching this. However, several major dictionaries (Merriam-Webster, Collins, and of course the OED, for example) were all in approximate agreement, with no mention of debate. Therefore, my money would be on the OED in this one : o )

  3. There is a brand of clothing I know of called Billabong. I wonder if they know the true meaning of the word.

    1. I read about Billabong International when looking this up, Kara - I think they've experienced quite a lot of financial turbulence : o /

    2. Periods of stagnation at least by the sounds of it...