back-formation from aborigines
, plural, borrowed from Latin Aborīginēs
, a pre-Roman people of Latium
The Latin name was variously interpreted by ancient authors, though modern etymologies tend to claim that the word is a parasynthetic derivative from the phrase ab origine, "from the beginning/first appearance." This would make sense if the word was formed as a generic name for "first inhabitants," though earlier Latin sources (Cato, Varro) treated it as the name of a specific people. According to Serviusʼs commentary on the Aeneid, Virgil intended "Aboriginum reges" in the line "aliique ab origine reges/Martiaque ob patriam pugnando uolnera passi" (Aeneid 7.180) ["others kings by birth, who suffered battle wounds fighting for their country"], " … sed est metro prohibitus" ["but the meter prohibits it"]. The lexical antiquarian Sextus Pompeius Festus, on the other hand, suggests a connection with aberrāre, "to wander off," as does the Origo gentis Romanae (late 4th century a.d.), which also proffers Greek óros, "mountain." None of these etymologies seem probable.