Meaning of the words Aborigine, Aboriginal & Indigenous Australian What do the Words Aborigine, Aboriginal and Indigenous Mean?

The Definition of Aborigine, Aboriginals and Aboriginal

Aborigine Gathering in Australia

The word "Aborigines" is usually used to refer to the original native people of an area before the arrival of invading or colonizing people from elsewhere. It is derived from the Latin word aborīginēs which was used by the Romans to refer to the people who lived in Italy before they took over the area. It is derived from the Latin stem words ab+origine meaning 'from the beginning'.

The first known English usage of the word Aborigines was in the mid-1500s. Interestingly, the plural form 'Aborigines' appearing before the singular form 'Aborigine'.

By the 1600s the words Aborigines and aboriginal were first used in the English language to describe the first inhabitants of a place. It was also sometimes used more generally to include any living things, which meant plants and animals were also included in the definition. This means that there can be aboriginal plants and aboriginal animals too.

By the 1800s these words were firmly established as descriptions for the original native people of Australia. It was only in the 19th century that the singular form of the word, aborigine, first appeared. In Australia the words are usually capitalized as Aborigine, Aborigines, Aboriginals and Aboriginal.

The word 'aboriginal' now also used to describe these people is actually an adjective but is frequently used today as a proper noun in place of the correct word aborigine.

So there you have it. First used by the Romans to describe tribes that existed before they took over Italy; it was borrowed by the English to eventually be a description of the original native inhabitants of Australia.

Definitions of Indigenous

In more recent time the phrases Indigenous People or Indigenous Australians has been gaining favour. This may be due to the some people believing that the words aborigine and aboriginal were somehow degrading. (similar to the words "Negro' or "nigger" in reference to African Americans of the US).

The Oxford Dictionary (and most other dictionaries) define 'indigenous' as "originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native".

In 1972 the United Nations (UN) redefined the meaning of native inhabitants of a place. In the UN definition they used the term 'indigenous' in order to use non-offensive language and gave them special rights and protection under international law. The UN definition of indigenous is almost identical to the original definition of Aborigines.

indigenous communities, peoples, and nations are those that, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop, and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems.

What is the Correct Word to Describe Native Australians?

There is no correct answer to this question. Today the most politically correct usage is "Indigenous Australian", followed by "Native Australian", then "Aboriginals", and finally "Aborigines".

Related Article: Aborigines (Aboriginals) — The First Australians

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