Meaning and origins of Australian words and idioms

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The term Coolibah is best known from the opening lines of Banjo Paterson's 1895 lyrics for the song Waltzing Matilda

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong under the shade of a coolibah tree...

May be an image of nature and tree

The word is a borrowing from Yuwaaliyaay and neighbouring Indigenous language of northern New South Wales.

In the earlier period, it was spelled in various ways including...

Coolabah, Coolobar, and Coolybah.

It is a term for any of several Eucalypts, especially the blue-leaved Eucalyptus microtheca found across central and northern Australia, a fibrous barked tree yielding a durable timber and occurring in seasonally flooded areas.

Coolibah is first recorded in the 1870s

1876 Sydney Morning Herald 9 August...

The country consists of open plains, with myall and coolabah

1995 Australian (Sydney) 16 September...

With it's dead coolibah trees, sunbleached cattle bones and screeching galahs, Howard Blackburn's back paddock could be anywhere in Australia's drought-ravaged grazing lands


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