Toowoomba City Library's Local History Library
476 Ruthven Street, Toowoomba QLD 4350
Phone +61 7 4638 7766
There are many theories regarding the naming of Toowoomba. The theories known are summarised below. For further information please refer to the sources at the end of this brochure.
When Toowoomba was first discovered, it was known as the 'Drayton Swamp' and was often referred to as 'The Swamp'. It is believed that Aborigines trying to say 'The Swamp' pronounced a word sounding link 'Tawampa', which easily becomes Toowoomba.
A second version features a letter to the Toowoomba City Council from Stelle Rudd claiming that his father told him that in 1848 he first saw Toowoomba and in 1849, attached to JC Burnett, he assisted to lay it out. He believed that it was derived from the native name of 'Toogoom' because of the reeds that grew here.
A third version and a widely accepted theory of the use of Toowoomba's name comes from Mrs Alford, wife of James Alford, on of the first businessmen in both Drayton and Toowoomba. It is believed that Mrs Alford asked the natives what they called the area. The replied 'Woomba Woomba' meaning 'the springs and the water underneath'. The Alford's realised that two woombas would not be a suitable name for their house and store but by using TOO which is also a type of plural it would become Toowoomba.
In 1875 W.H. Groom wrote an account of Toowoomba, stating the name 'Toowoomba' derived from an Aboriginal word meaning 'great in the future' however he gave no source to this information.
The fifth theory came from a botanist by the name of Archibald Meston. In 1895 Meston wrote a book titled "A Geographical History of Queensland", which included his explanation of the name "Toowoomba".
"Toowoom" or "Choowom" was the local blacks' name for a small native melon (Cucumus pubescens) which grew plentifully on the site of the township. The terminal "ba" is equal to the adverb "There", so the whole word means "melons there", and to an Aboriginal it meant "the place where the melon grows".
This melon still exists and can be found growing in the Balonne and Warrego areas as well areas closer to Toowoomba however there is no evidence that the melons grew in or near the Toowoomba swamps.
The sixth version came from a man called Enoggera Charlie who wrote his story in the Sydney Morning History. He claimed when he was looking for work as a tar boy, he had camped overnight near the Toowoomba Swamp. Questioning an old shepherd sage of the naming of the Toowoomba Swamps he was informed that near the junction of the East and West Swamp there was a log with the inscription informing tramps the way to a well-known homestead where there was a certainty to rations. The inscription read 'To Woombrah'.
At around the same time that Enoggera Charlie wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald another man by the name of Ardlaw Lawrence put forward his theory. He suggested that the name Toowoomba may be an Anglicised version of the 'Boowoomga' which meant 'thunder' in the dialect of the Upper Burnett and Gayndah tribes. However he could give no reason for the name being transferred to the Darling Downs.
Writing in a pamphlet in 1899, George Essex Evans wrote that the name Toowoomba meant 'meeting of the waters' however this was again written without authentication.
Controversy surrounds the various theories of the naming of Toowoomba. Opinions vary and verifying the theories is difficult with some theories having little if any written evidence ti support them. In the final analysis though, Toowoomba became "Toowoomba" regardless of which theory is correct.