Further Evidence in the Early Use of ‘bushranger’



The early use of bushranger in Australia has occasioned debate. The word is obviously closely linked with the verb, to range, and this note attempts a brief survey of the terminology used to describe those who, in the early days of the colony, 'had recourse to the woods'. The evidence produced supports the thesis that a bushranger was, in the first instance, one 'who lived in and was familiar with the bush',4 and that, because of the proportionally large number of marauders amongst such rangers, it was not long before the word took on a new meaning. The evidence suggests that this may have been less a term of denigration deriving its force from most bushrangers being 'predatory convicts' than one in which there was an element of bravado, of pride in an ability to subsist in an unfamiliar and inhospitable environment, and something of the camaraderie of the English and American military use of ranger.

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Published 1 May 1972 in Volume 5 No. 3. Subjects: Australian English, Bushrangers, Language.

Cite as: Fielding, Jean and W. S. Ramson. ‘Further Evidence in the Early Use of ‘bushranger’.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 5, no. 3, 1972, doi: 10.20314/als.2d74f936d5.