Because koalas don’t drink often due to the high water content of eucalyptus, their common name derives from the Dharug “gula”, meaning “no water”.

The word koala comes from the Dharug gula, meaning no water.

It was at one time thought, since the animals were not observed to come down from trees often, that they were able to survive without drinking. The leaves of the eucalyptus tree have a high water content, so the koala does not need to drink often. But the notion that they do not need to drink water at all was shown to be a myth.

Although the vowel u was originally written in the English orthography as oo (in spellings such as coola or koolah), it was changed to oa, possibly in error.

Adopted by white settlers, koala became one of several hundred Aboriginal loan words in Australian English, where it has also commonly been used in the alternative form koala bear, because of the koala’s supposed resemblance to a bear. It is also one of several Aboriginal words that made it into International English, alongside didgeridoo and kangaroo.

Image | ©️ Nathan Rupert, Some Rights Reserved, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Sources | (Dixon, Moore, Ramson, & Thomas, 2006; Jackson, 2007; Leitner & Sieloff, 1998; NSW Government, 2018; The Wikimedia Foundation, 2020)


Learn More About the Koala



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