Billabong (/ˈbɪləbɒŋ/, BIL-ə-bong) is a Wiradjuri word that is used for an oxbow lake, an isolated pond left behind after a river changes course. Billabongs are usually formed when the path of a creek or river changes, leaving the former branch with a dead end. Billabongs, reflecting the arid Australian climate in which these "dead rivers" are found, fill with water seasonally and are dry for a greater part of the year.
The etymology of the word "billabong" is 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", and possibly "bong" or "bung", meaning "dead". One source, however, claims that the term is of Scottish Gaelic origin.
Billabongs attained significance as they held water longer than parts of rivers and it was therefore important for people to name these areas.
References in Australian culture
Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, Under the shade of a coolibah tree, And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled, Who'll come a'waltzing Matilda with me
Banjo Paterson's popular folk song "Waltzing Matilda" is set alongside a billabong, while Mary Grant Bruce wrote a series of books, known as the "Billabong series", in which the adventures of the Linton family, who live at Billabong station during World War I— from around 1911 until the late 1920s—are depicted.
Both Australian Aboriginal and European artists use billabongs as subject matter in painting; for example, Aboriginal painter Lance Tjyllyungoo's watercolour painting "Trees at a billabong".
Billabong is the name of an Australian surfwear and skateboard brand.
^"Rivers Continuing in Time". Burarra Gathering. Wurdeja, Ji-malawa and Yilan Aboriginal Communities. 21 June 2006. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
^USGS [Annotated Definitions of Selected Geomorphic Terms and Related Terms of Hydrology, Sedimentology, Soil Science, and Ecology], USGS Open File Report 2008-1217.
^"billabong." The Macquarie Dictionary. South Yarra: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd., 2005. Credo Reference. Web. 19 January 2012.
^A. P. Elkin (June 1967). "Review of Australian English: An Historical Study of the Vocabulary, 1788-1898 by W. S. Ramson". Oceania (Oceania Publications, University of Sydney) 37 (4): 318–319. JSTOR40329620.
^"billabong". Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, LLC. 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
^Skilton, St J. The Survey of Scottish Gaelic in Australia and New Zealand, p. 300. Quote: A respondent to his survey said: "'Bill' = 'bile' = 'lip or mouth' and 'abong' is from 'abhainn' = 'river' with a parasitic 'G' added. A billabong probably has a mouth shape of sorts being at a bend in a river." University of Fribourg, Switzerland, June 2004. Last accessed 15 March 2008