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Unknown, from pidgin, possibly from an Australian Aboriginal language, although it appears also to have moved from pidgin to Aboriginal.[1] Numerous derivations have been proposed.

  • Mr A. Meston of Brisbane, in the Sydney Bulletin of 18 April 1896, cited Aboriginal words jimba, jombock (also jombok), dombock and dumbog, all meaning "white mist preceding a shower," which a flock of sheep supposedly resembles.[2][3]
  • Charles Harpur in a handwritten footnote in his papers cites Aboriginal word junbuc or jimbuc (his handwriting is unclear), "a kind of kangaroo or wallaby", and states that the aborigines of the Hunter region call the sheep thus for the hairiness of one and the wooliness of the other.[2]
  • Also suggested is jumbock ("to communicate").[4]
  • An English derivation is suggested in a corruption of the phrase "jump up".[1]



jumbuck (plural jumbucks)

  1. (Australia) A sheep.
    • 1855, William Howitt, A Boy's Adventures in the Wilds of Australia: or, Herbert's Note-Book, page 128:
      Allan told them all that he thought necessary ; but, as he did not know what jumbucks were, he candidly said so.
      “Why, sheep, man, sheep! They are jumbucks in this country.”
    • 1895, Banjo Paterson (lyrics), “Waltzing Matilda”‎[1]:
      Down came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,
      Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee.
    • 1896, Henry Lawson, “Across the Straits”, in While the Billy Boils, Sydney, N.S.W.: Angus and Robertson [], OCLC 154280213, page 179:
      You may rip a sheep open whilst watching for the boss's boots or yarning to a pen-mate, and then when you have stuffed the works back into the animal, and put a stitch in the slit, and poked it somewhere with a tar-stick (it doesn′t matter much where) the jumbuck will be all right and just as lively as ever, and turn up next shearing without the ghost of a scratch on its skin.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Australian National Dictionary Centre » Australian words » Meanings and origins of Australian words and idioms » J
  2. 2.0 2.1 1966, Sidney J. Baker, The Australian Language, second edition.
  3. ^ 1968, Edward Ellis Morris, Austral English, page 224.
  4. ^ 1973, Richard D. Magoffin, Fair Dinkum Matilda, page 72 — One anthropologist who compiled a vocabulary of native languages listed the word jumbuck as a verb meaning to communicate, ask or speak. This being so, then because sheep in a mob are continuously bleating and since most Australian animals are mute, it was quite feasible for them to call these talkative animals jumbucks.