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7 corrections, most recently by InstituteOfAustralianCulture - Show corrections


Sir, — Seeing a letter in your paper this morning, asking who was supposed to have given Australia its name, I beg to forward   you the following information on the subject.

— As early as the sixteenth century there was a belief in a Terra Australis (to which was often added the epithet, incognita, lite-  

rally "southern land,") which was believed to be land lying round, and stretching out-

wards from the South Pole. In "Proceedings   of the Royal Geographical Society of Austral-

asia," Sydney, January, 1892, is printed a paper read at the Geographical Congress at Berne, by E. Delmar Morgan, on the "Early Discovery of Australia." This paper is il-  

lustrated by maps taken from Nordenskiold's  

Atlas." In a map by Orontius Finaeus, a       French cosmogropher of Provence, dated 1531,

the Terra Australis is shown as "Terra Aus- tralis recenter inventa, sed nondum plene cognita." In Ortelius' map, 1570, it appears   as "Terra Australis nondum cognita." In   Gerard Mercator's map, 1587, as "Terra Aus-  

tralis" simply. In 1606 the Spaniard Fer- nandez de Quiros gave the name of Terra Australis del Espiritu Santo to land which he thought formed part of the Great Southland. It is, in fact, one of the New Hebrides.

The word "Australian" is older than "Aus-   tralia." The name Australia was adapted from the Latin name Terra Australis. The earliest suggestion of the word is credited to Flinders, who certainly thought that he was inventing the name, which was in the year 1814. Twenty-one years earlier, how- ever, the word is found, and the passage containing it is the first known use of the word in print. Shaw may thus be regarded as its inventor. Acording to its title page, the book quoted is by two authors, the zoology by Shaw, and the botany by Smith. The bot- any, however, was not published. Of the two names — Australia and Australasia — sug- gested in the opening of the quotation, to take the place of New Holland, Shaw evi- dently favoured Australia, while Smith in the "Transactions of the Linnaean Society,"     vol. iv., p. 213 (1798), uses Australasia for the continent several times. Neither name, however, passed then into general use. In 1814 Robert Brown, the botanist, speaks of "Terra Australia," not of "Australia." Aus-   tralia was reinvented by Flinders.

Quotation for "Terra Australis" :—  

1621. — R. Burton, "Anatomy of Melancholy," edition 1854, p. 56: "For the site, if you will needs urge me to it, I am not fully resolved, it may be in Terra Australis incognita, there is room enough, for of my knowledge neither that hungry Spaniard, nor Mercurius Britan- nicus have yet discovered half of it."

Quotations for "Australia" :—

1793. — G. Shaw and J. E. Smith, "Zoology and Botany of New Holland," p. 2: "The vast island, or rather continent, of Australia, Aus- tralasia, or New Holland, which has so lately attracted the particular attention of European navigators and naturalists." . . .

1814. — M. Flinders' "Voyage to Terra Aus- tralis," introduction, p. 3, and footnote: "I have .... ventured upon the readoption of the original Terra Australis, and of this term I shall hereafter make use, when speak- ing of New Holland, and New South Wales, in a collective sense." Footnote: "Had I permitted myself any innovation upon the ori-

ginal term, it would have been to convert   it into Australia, as being more agreeable to

the ear, and an assimilation to the names of  

the other great portions of the earth."

1883. — G. W. Rusden, "History of Austra- lia," vol, 1, p. 64: "It is pleasant to reflect that the name Australia was selected by the gallant Flinders; though, with his customary modesty, he suggested rather than adopted


You will see that I have gone into the ar- ticle rather fully, from the time of its first being called "Terra Australis." However, it makes it clear how this land came to be

called Australia.

I am, etc.,    


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