bunyip aristocracy



From bunyip (mythical Australian monster; impostor) + aristocracy.
Coined in 1853 by Australian journalist and politician Daniel Deniehy (1828-1865) satirising a proposal of William Wentworth for a hereditary peerage in the then colony of New South Wales.[1] At the time, bunyip was Sydney underworld slang for an impostor or con-man, a sense Deniehy may have been aware of, but which was “obviously” unknown to Wentworth.[2]


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bunyip aristocracy (uncountable)

  1. (Australia, derogatory) A peerage (hypothetical or proposed) in Australia; the new (in the colonial era) landed rich aspiring to aristocracy; snobbish Australian conservatives.
    • 1853, Daniel Deniehy, A heritage befitting the dignity of free men, speech at the Victoria Theatre in Pitt St, Sydney, 15 August 1853, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald the following day, reprinted 2009, Pamela Robson, Great Australian Speeches, unnumbered page,
      Here we all know the common water mole was transferred into the duck-billed platypus, and in some distant emulation of this degeneration, I suppose we are to be favoured with a bunyip aristocracy.
    • 1987, Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore, 2010, page 331,
      In any case, no one held exclusive rights on ambition or greed. It was William Charles Wentworth, the Emancipists′ trumpet, who in 1852, came round to lobby with James Macarthur for the creation of a hereditary colonial noblesse, the "bunyip aristocracy," which, fortunately, the Crown saw no reason to create.

Usage notesEdit

Mainly used in the context of Wentworth's proposal and Deniehy's speech. Occasionally used in New South Wales politics by Labor MPs referring to their Liberal Party opponents.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Bunyip Aristocracy", entry in 1970, Bill Wannan, Australian Folklore, Lansdowne Press, 1979, →ISBN.
  2. ^ 1999, Graham Seal, The Lingo: Listening to Australian English, University of New South Wales Press, →ISBN, page 16.