The following list of "Australian English" is courtesy of Lonely Planet Publications and cannot be reproduced without permission. For further information on Lonely Planet, visit their web site at: Lonely

Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet Publications copyright © 2005. Excerpt from Australia 13th edition.



Any visitor from abroad who thinks that Australian (that’s ‘Strine’) is simply a weird sounding variant of English is in for a surprise. For starters, many Australians don’t speak Australian at home – they speak Italian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Turkish or Greek. These languages then influence the way they speak English. The colloquial language may lose you in a strange maze of Australian words. The meaning of some words in Australia is completely different from that in other English-speaking countries – some commonly used words have been shortened almost beyond recognition, while others are derived from Aboriginal languages, or from the slang used by early convict settlers.There is a slight regional variation in the Australian accent, while the difference between city and country speech is mainly a matter of speed. Some of the most famed Aussie words are hardly heard at all –‘mates’ are more common than ‘cobbers’. If you want to pass for an Aussie, just try speaking slightly nasally, shortening any word of more than two syllables and then adding a vowel to the end of it, making anything you can into a diminutive and peppering your speech with expletives. Lonely Planet’s Australian Phrasebook is an introduction to both Australian English and some Aboriginal languages. The list that follows may also help.


ACT – Australian Capital Territory

Akubra – a type of hat found occasionally on farmers but mostly in souvenir shops

arvo – afternoon

ATM – Automated Teller Machine, public cash dispenser operated by banks

Aussie rules – Australian Rules football, a game resembling rugby, played by teams of 18

B&B – ‘bed and breakfast’ accommodation

back o’ Bourke – back of beyond, middle of nowhere

bail out – to leave

Banana Bender – resident of Queensland

barbie – barbecue (also ‘BBQ’)

barrack – cheer on team at sporting event, support

bastard – general form of address which can mean many things, from high praise or respect (‘He’s the bravest bastard I know!’) to dire insult (‘You bastard!’); avoid use if unsure

bathers – swimming costume (in Victoria)

battler – struggler, someone who tries hard

BBQ – barbecue (also ‘barbie’)

beaut, beauty, bewdie – great, fantastic

bevan – bogan (in Queensland)

bikies – motorcyclists

billabong – waterhole in a riverbed formed by waters receding in the Dry

billy – tin container used to boil water in the bush

bitumen – surfaced road

block, do your – lose your temper

bloke – man

blokey – exhibiting characteristics considered typically masculine

blowies, blow flies – large flies

blow-in – stranger

bludger – lazy person, one who refuses to work

blue – argument or fight

body board – half-sized surfboard

bogan – unsophisticated person

bonzer – great, ripper

boogie board – see body board

boomer – very big; a particularly large male kangaroo

boomerang – a curved, flat, wooden instrument used by Aborigines for hunting

booner – see bogan (in ACT)

booze bus – police van used for random breath testing for alcohol

bot – to scrounge or obtain by begging or borrowing (‘bot a cigarette’)

bottle shop – liquor shop, off-license

brekky – breakfast

Buckley’s – no chance at all

bull dust – fine, sometimes deep dust on outback roads; also bullshit

bullroarer – secret instrument often used in Aboriginal men’s initiation ceremonies; a long piece of wood on a string swung around the head to create an eerie roar

bunyip – mythical bush spirit

‘burbs – outer suburbs of a city

burl – have a try (‘give it a burl’)

bush tucker – native foods

bush, the – country, anywhere away from the city

bushbash – to force your way through pathless bush

bushranger – Australia’s equivalent of the outlaws of the American Wild West

bushwalking – hiking

BYO – ‘bring your own’; a restaurant licence permitting customers to drink grog they’ve purchased elsewhere

camp oven – large, cast-iron pot with lid, used for cooking on an open fire

cark it – to die

cask wine – wine packaged in a plastic bladder surrounded by a cardboard box (a great Australian invention)

catch ya later – goodbye, see you later

chiga – bogan (in Tasmania)

chocka – completely full, from ‘chock-a-block’

chook – chicken

chuck a U-ey – make a U-turn, turn a car around within a road

clap stick – percussion instrument used in Aboriginal societies, either sticks (one or two) or a pair of boomerangs

clobber – to hit; clothes

clout – to hit

cobber – (archaic) see mate

cocky – small-scale farmer

come good – turn out all right

cool drink – soft drink (in Western Australia)

coolamon – Aboriginal wooden carrying dish

corroboree – Aboriginal festival or gathering for ceremonial or spiritual reasons

counter meal – pub meal

cow cocky – small-scale cattle farmer

cozzie – swimming costume (in New South Wales)

crack a mental, crack the shits – lose one’s temper

crook – ill or substandard

Crow Eater – resident of South Australia

crikey – an exclamation of surprise, as in ‘crikey these shorts are tight!’

cut lunch – sandwiches

dag – dirty lump of wool at a sheep’s rear; also an affectionate or mildly abusive term for a socially inept person

daks – trousers

damper – bush loaf made from flour and water, often cooked in a camp oven

dead horse – tomato sauce

dead set – true, dinkum

deli – milk bar (in South Australia and Western Australia); also delicatessen

didgeridoo – wind instrument made from a hollow piece of wood, traditionally played by Aboriginal men

digger – (archaic, from Australian and New Zealand soldiers in WWI) see mate

dill – idiot

dilly bag – Aboriginal carry bag

dinkum – honest, genuine

dinky-di – the real thing

dip out – to miss out or fail

dob in – to inform on someone

donga – small, transportable building widely used in the outback

Dreamtime – complex concept that forms the basis of Aboriginal spirituality, incorporating the creation of the world and the spiritual energies operating around us; ‘Dreaming’ is often the preferred term as it avoids the association with time

drongo – worthless or stupid person

dropbear – imaginary Australian bush creature

Dry, the – dry season in northern Australia (April to October)

duco – car paint

dunny – outdoor lavatory

earbash – to talk nonstop

eftpos – Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale; widespread service that lets you use your bank card (credit or debit) to pay for services or purchases, and often withdraw cash

Esky – large insulated box for keeping food and drinks cold

fair dinkum – see dinkum

fair go! – give us a break!

flag fall – minimum charge for hiring a taxi

flake – shark meat

flat out – very busy or fast

flog – sell; steal

football, footy – for Mexicans, Crow Eaters, Taswegians and Sand Gropers: Aussie Rules. For Banana Benders and Cockroaches: rugby league. Almost never soccer.

fossick – hunt for gems or semiprecious stones

freshie – freshwater crocodile (usually harmless, unless provoked); new tinny of beer

furphy – rumour or false story

galah – noisy parrot, thus noisy idiot

game – brave

gander – to look (‘have a gander’)

g’day – good day, traditional Australian greeting

gibber – Aboriginal word for a stone or rock, hence gibber plain or desert

give it away – give up

good on ya! – well done!

grazier – large-scale sheep or cattle farmer

grog – general term for alcoholic drinks

grouse – very good

hicksville – derogatory term usually employed by urbanites to describe a country town

homestead – residence of a station owner or manager

hoon – idiot, hooligan

how are ya? – standard greeting (expected answer: ‘Good, thanks, how are you?’)

humbug – the begging of cigarettes and drinks

icy pole – frozen lollipop, ice lolly

iffy – dodgy, questionable

indie – independent music

jackaroo – male trainee on an outback station

jillaroo – female trainee on an outback station

jocks – men’s underpants

journo – journalist

jumped-up – self-important, arrogant

kali – jumbo-sized boomerang

karri – Australian eucalyptus tree

kick the bucket – to die

kiwi – New Zealander

knacker – testicle

knackered – broken, tired

knock – to criticise, deride

knocker – one who knocks; woman’s breast

Kombi – a classic (hippies’) type of van made by Volkswagon

Koories – Aboriginal people of southeastern Australia

Kooris – Aboriginal people of NSW

lair – layabout, ruffian

lamington – square of sponge cake covered in chocolate icing and desiccated coconut

larrikin – hooligan, mischievous youth

lay-by – to put a deposit on an article so the shop will hold it for you

lemon – faulty product, a dud

little ripper – extremely good thing; see also ripper

lob in – drop in (to see someone)

lollies – sweets, candy

loo – toilet

lurk – scheme

marron – large freshwater crayfish

mate – general term of familiarity, correctly pronounced ‘maaaaate’

Mexicans – Victorians

milk bar – small shop selling milk and other basic provisions; see also deli

mobile phone – cell phone

Moreton Bay bug – small, edible crustacean

mozzies – mosquitoes

Murri – collective term used to identify Aborigines from Queensland

nature strip – strip of land where trees and bushes are grown alongside a road

never-never – remote country in the outback

no-hoper – hopeless case

no worries! – no problems! That’s OK!

noodle – to fossick through discarded dirt for opal missed by the miner

Noongar – collective term used to identify Aborigines from Western Australia

NSW – New South Wales

NT – Northern Territory

Nunga – collective term used to identify Aborigines from South Australia

ocker – uncultivated or boorish Australian; a knocker or derider

oi oi oi – the second stanza of the traditional Australian ballad that starts ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’

off-sider – assistant, partner

outback – remote part of the bush, back o’ Bourke

paddock – fenced area of land, usually intended for livestock

PADI – Professional Association of Diving Instructors

pastoralist – large-scale grazier

pavlova – traditional Australian meringue, fruit and cream dessert, named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova

pay out – to make fun of, deride

perve – to gaze with lust

pie floater – meat pie served in green pea soup; a South Australian favourite

piker – someone who doesn’t pull their weight, or chickens out

piss – beer

piss turn, piss up – boozy party

piss weak – no good, gutless

pissed – drunk

pissed off – annoyed

plonk – cheap wine

pokies – poker machines

Pom – English person

postie – mailperson

pot – large beer glass (in Victoria); beer gut; to sink a billiard ball

Queenslander – high-set weatherboard house, noted for its wide veranda

quokka – small wallaby

rapt – delighted, enraptured

rarrk – cross-hatching designs used in Arnhem Land paintings and body art

ratbag – friendly term of abuse

ratshit – lousy

reckon! – you bet! absolutely!

rego – (car) registration

rellie – (family) relative

ridgy-didge – original, genuine

ring-in – substitute or outsider

rip – a strong ocean current or undertow

ripper – good; see also little ripper

road train – semitrailer truck towing several trailers

root – to have sexual intercourse

rooted – tired, broken

ropable – very bad-tempered or angry

RS – see ratshit

RSL – Returned Servicemen’s League or community venue operated by same

SA – South Australia

saltie – saltwater crocodile (the dangerous one)

Salvo – member of the Salvation Army

Sand Groper – resident of Western Australia

sanger – sandwich

scallops – fried potato cakes (in Queensland and New South Wales); shellfish

schooner – large beer glass (in New South Wales and South Australia)

scrub – see bush

sea wasp – (deadly) box jellyfish

sealed road – bitumen road

session – lengthy period of heavy drinking

shanks’s pony – to travel on foot

shark biscuit – inexperienced surfer

sheila – woman

she’ll be right – no problems, no worries

shellacking – comprehensive defeat

shonky – unreliable

shoot through – to leave in a hurry

shout – to buy a round of drinks (‘Your shout!’)

sickie – day off work ill (or malingering)

skimpy – scantily clad female bar person

slab – two dozen stubbies or tinnies

smoko – tea break

snag – sausage

sparrow’s fart – dawn

spindoola – money

station – large farm

stickybeak – nosy person

stinger – (deadly) box jellyfish

stolen generations – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from their families during the government’s policy of assimilation

story – tale from the Dreamtime that taps into the concepts of legend, myth, tradition and the law; carries much more weight than an ordinary historical account

strides – trousers, daks

stroppy – bad-tempered

Stubbies – popular brand of men’s work shorts

stubby – 375mL bottle of beer

sundowner – alcoholic drink consumed at sunset

surf’n’turf – a slab of steak topped with seafood, usually served in pubs

swag – canvas-covered bed roll used in the outback; a large amount

take the piss – friendly derision

tall poppies – achievers (knockers like to cut them down)

tea – evening meal

thingo – thing, whatchamacallit, doovelacki, thingamajig

thongs – flip-flops, an ocker’s idea of formal footwear

tinny – 375mL can of beer; small, aluminium fishing dinghy (in the Northern Territory)

tjukurpa – Aboriginal law, religion and custom

togs – swimming costume (in Queensland and Victoria)

too right! – absolutely!

Top End – northern part of the Northern Territory

true blue – dinkum

tucker – food

two-pot screamer – person unable to hold their drink

two-up – traditional heads-or-tails coin gambling game

unsealed road – dirt road

ute – utility; pick-up truck

WA – Western Australia

wag – to skip school or work

walkabout – lengthy solitary walk

weatherboard – timber cladding on a house

Wet, the – rainy season in the north (November to March)

whinge – to complain, moan

whoop-whoop – outback, miles from anywhere

wobbly – disturbing, unpredictable behaviour

woomera – stick used by Aborigines to propel spears

wowser – someone who doesn’t believe in having fun, spoilsport, teetotaller

yabbie – small freshwater crayfish

yakka – work

yobbo – uncouth, aggressive person

yonks – a long time

youse – plural form of ‘you’ (pronounced ‘yooze’), used by the grammatically challenged


Copyright © 2005 Lonely Planet Publications. Excerpt from Australia 13th edition.



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