Skip navigation
The Australian National University

Meanings and origins of Australian words and idioms

This section contains a selection of Australian words, their meanings, and their etymologies.

All  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

X-ray

Used to designate a style of Aboriginal painting that originated in Western Arnhem Land (Northern Territory). The style is characterised by the depiction of internal as well as external organs of the subject, as if the artist is seeing it with X-ray vision. The first evidence of the term is found in the early 1940s.

1978 R. Edwards Aboriginal Art in Australia: The famous X-ray paintings have their home in the west. In them, the artist portrays not only the external features of the animal, human or spirit being he is painting, but also the spinal column, heart, lungs and other internal organs. It is a conventional way of showing that there is more to a living thing than external appearances.

1999 M. Mahood Crocodile Dreaming: Two big sea turtles and a dugong, X-ray style.

Updated: 21 February 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Centre Director / Page Contact:  Web Publisher