Welcome to the Dictionary of Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney is a website about the history of Sydney – its urban myths, characters, political players, writers, dreamers, intellectuals, sports people, criminals – anyone and everything that contributes to Sydney’s story.

From the Hawkesbury River in the north, Port Hacking in the south, the Blue Mountains in the west and the Pacific coast in the east, our aim is to gather as much information as possible about all aspects of Sydney’s history including its natural features, built forms, structures, significant events, artefacts, organisations, places and people.

Our purpose

The Dictionary preserves and publishes historical and cultural information about Sydney for the broadest possible audience, whether residents or visitors, students or researchers, or people just interested in Sydney.

The Dictionary enters into projects with like-minded entities and individuals that can enrich our understanding and appreciation of Sydney in areas such as:

  • History and heritage
  • Reconciliation
  • Community expression and identity
  • Academia and education
  • Local, state and federal government
  • Digital technology and multimedia
  • Arts and creative industries
  • Civic pride and public interest.

The Dictionary is updated periodically throughout the year to accommodate new content.

Our organisation

The Dictionary of Sydney is an independent, not-for-profit organisation. Our major government partner is the City of Sydney.

Conceived in 2004, the Dictionary of Sydney grew out of an Australian Research Council project supported by the University of Sydney in partnership with University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), State Library of New South Wales and State Records, with the City of Sydney as industry partner.

Launched in November 2009, the website is just one window into the history of Sydney that we are building. In 2014 we launched our first mobile app for smart phones and tablets. We have three new tours in development, with two due for release in the second half of 2016.


The Dictionary has community partnerships with many of Sydney’s leading cultural institutions and universities such as State Records NSW, State Library of New South Wales, History Council of NSW, Powerhouse Museum, University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney.

Our 2015 projects were sponsored by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; Liverpool Council, Maritime Museums of Australia, NSW Department of Environment and Heritage, Oral History NSW, Royal Australian Historical Society and Sydney Mechanics School of the Arts. For a full list of our supporters, click here.

Our contributors

At the heart of the Dictionary is the dedicated scholarship of more than 300 volunteer authors who give their work to the project. They range from eminent professors and professional historians to local experts and enthusiasts of all kinds. A full list of authors published to date can be found here.

The Dictionary has agreements with a range of institutions and individuals that allow us to use material from their collections in the Dictionary. Without them, it would be a far less interesting and exciting project. A full list of these institutions and collections can be found here.

Detail from MS Hill's 1888 map 'The City of Sydney',  a birds-eye view over the city looking to the south and west across Darling Harbour. http://dictionaryofsydney.org/image/97526

Major Government sponsor                              Community partnerships

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