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Anangu is a term for Australian Aborigine, based on a word found in a number of eastern varieties of the Pama–Nyungan Western Desert Language (WDL), more accurately spelled "Aṉangu" or "Arnangu" and pronounced with the stress on the first syllable: [ˈaɳaŋʊ].

The original meaning of the word was presumably "human being, person", "human body", but it is now used as an Aboriginal endonym used by WDL speaking people and rarely applied to non-Aboriginal people, and has come to be used also as an exonym used by non-Aboriginal Australians to refer to WDL speaking groups or individuals.

Distribution and spelling[edit]

The following table shows the main WDL dialects in which it is used (left column) along with the word spelled according to the orthography of that dialect (right column).

Pitjantjatjara, Pintupi-Luritja aṉangu
Southern (Titjikala) Luritja, Ngaanyatjarra, Ngaatjatjarra yarnangu
Yankunytjatjara yaṉangu

The reasons for the spelling variations are: some WDL dialects do not allow vowel-initial words—in these varieties the word begins with y; some orthographies use underlining (e.g. ṉ) to indicate a retroflex consonant, while others use a digraph (e.g. rn). Pitjantjatjara seems to be the best-known source for the word, but the underlining of the consonant is often ignored (or not understood) by English speakers, and is difficult to type, so the word is very commonly seen as anangu.

Other Australian Aboriginal self-designations[edit]

Other Western Desert Language dialects have different words with a similar meaning and range of uses. In the far west of the WDL (i.e. amongst Manyjilyjarra, Kartujarra, Putijarra and Warnman) the word martu is used, and in the central Western Desert (i.e. amongst the western Pintupi) the word purntu, although this seems to be rarely used now.[citation needed]

There are a number of other names from Australian Aboriginal languages commonly used to identify groups based on geography:

See also[edit]


  • Goddard, Cliff. (1992). Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara to English Dictionary. IAD Press, Alice Springs Australia. (ISBN 0-949659-64-9)
  • Glass, Amee and Dorothy Hackett. (2003). Ngaanyatjarra & Ngaatjatjarra to English Dictionary. IAD Press, Alice Springs Australia. (ISBN 1-86465-053-2)
  • Goddard, Cliff. (1985). A Grammar of Yankunytjatjara. IAD Press, Alice Springs Australia.
  • Eckert, Paul and Joyce Hudson. (1988). Wangka Wiru: A handbook for the Pitjantjatjara language learner. SACAE, Underdale SA. (ISBN 0-86803-230-1)
  • Hansen, KC & LE Hansen. (1992). Pintupi/Luritja Dictionary 3rd Edition. IAD Press, Alice Springs, Australia. (ISBN 0-949659-63-0)
  • Valiquette, Hilaire (ed.). (1993). A Basic Kukatja to English Dictionary. Luurnpa Catholic School, Balgo WA. (ISBN 0-646-12453-6)

External links[edit]