Australian English Glossary from A to Zed
- Submitted by: David Stybr
- Submission Date: 14th Feb 2005
Much has been written about the differences between British English and American English. French French and Quebec French have a similar relationship. However, nothing quite matches Australian English for its lively colourful phrases. Some words and expressions are quite naturally taken from British slang. Some words have completely different meanings in Australia than in Anglophone countries north of the Equator. A number of commonly-used words have been shortened considerably. Other words are indigenous to Australia and derived from Aboriginal terms, such as 'boomerang' and 'kangaroo'. In general, however, the wonderful slang of Australian English is primarily because Australians take English as a game to be played, and they love to have fun with it. Some of the words and expressions are readily understandable but others can be incredibly obscure in their meanings and derivations.
In addition to the slang, Australian pronunciation can be peculiar. To the casual listener is sounds similar to Cockney pronunciation, but it differs in many ways. Australian speech also tends to be more contracted, with some sounds and even entire syllables omitted. Australian pronunciation has slight regional variations, and city speech tends to be faster than country speech. Some oversimplified rules of Australian speech are to speak slightly nasally, to contract any word of more than 2 syllables and to convert terms into diminutives wherever possible.
Most obvious in Australian speech are the 'I' sound for 'A' and 'Ah' for 'R'. These can best be illustrated with examples of pronunciations such as 'egg nishner' = 'air conditioner', 'G'dye, myte' = 'Good day, mate', 'Strine' = 'Australian', or 'Wyne chevva cold share' = 'Why don't you have a cold shower.' (American English has some similar examples, as in the phrase 'Jeet jet?' = 'Did you eat yet?') In general, the differences in Australian English are more amusing than irritating, despite the occasional confusion that may result. Give it a burl!
Strine (Australian) Glossary from A to Zed
Act: Pretending to be something you're not.
Alf: Stupid person.
Amber or Amber fluid: Beer.
Apple Eater: Resident of Tasmania.
Aussie (pronounced 'Ozzie'): Australian.
Avagoyermug: Traditional rallying call, often heard at cricket matches (contraction of 'Have a go, you mug!')
Award wage: Minimum pay rate.
Back of beyond: Far away in the outback.
Back of Bourke: The middle of nowhere.
Bag: Lady who is not particularly pleasant.
Bail out: Leave.
Bail up: Hold up, rob, earbash.
Banana Bender: Resident of Queensland.
Barbie (Barbecue): Like a cook out. Many people get together for a 'Barbie' in the warmer months. They are usually BYO (Bring your own) meat and drinks.
Barney: Fight or scuffle.
Barrack: To cheer on a team at a sporting event.
Bastard: General form of address which can mean practically anything from highest praise ('a good bastard') to worst insult ('a rotten bastard'). When in doubt, don't use it.
Bathers: Swimming costume (Victoria and South Australia).
Battler: Hard trier, struggler.
Beaut, beauty, bewdie: Very good. Excellent.
Belt up!: Shut up!
Bible basher: Minister, or any proselytising Christian.
Big mobs: Large amount, heaps.
Billabong: Water hole in a dry riverbed, or more correctly an ox-bow bend cut off in the dry season by receding waters.
Billy: Used for making tea in, usually over a campfire. The best billies are the old ones, which make better tea.
Bitumen: Surfaced road.
Black Stump: Out towards the horizon. A long way away.
Block: Block has a few meanings but the more Aussie one is your head.
Bloke: Person, usually a male.
Bloody: All-purpose intensifying adjective.
Blowies: Blow flies.
Bludge: Not doing anything or getting things from others.
Bludger: Lazy person.
Blue: A fight.
Bluey: A swag; or the nickname of someone with red hair.
Bonzer: Great, ripper.
Boomer: Very large; a particularly large male kangaroo.
Boomerang: Curved flat wooden instrument used by Aborigines for hunting. If your boomerang returns, it means you MISSED!
Booze: Alcohol, usually beer.
Booze bus: Police van used for random breath testing for alcohol.
Bottle shop: Liquor shop.
Buckley's: No chance at all.
Bug (Moreton Bay bug): Small crab.
Bullamanka: Imaginary place even beyond back of Bourke, way beyond the black stump.
Bull dust: Fine and sometimes deep dust on outback roads. And a polite version of bullshit.
Bunyip: Mythical bush spirit, mainly associated with rivers, with an overtone of cuteness.
Burl: Have a try, as in 'give it a burl'.
Bush: Somewhere in the country or away from the city. Go bush means go back to the land.
Bushbash: Force one's way through pathless bush.
Bushranger: Outlaw, analogous to the outlaws of the American Wild West (some goodies, some baddies).
Bush tucker: Native foods, usually in the outback.
Butcher's: To look. Rhyming slang from 'butcher's hook'.
BYO: Bring Your Own (booze to a restaurant, meat to a barbecue, etc.)
Caaarn!: Traditional rallying cry at football games (contraction of 'Come on!').
Camp oven: Large, cast-iron pot with a lid, for cooking on an open fire.
Captain Cook: To have a look.
Cask: Wine box.
Chiko roll: Australian junk food.
Chuck: Chuck has a few meanings. It can mean to throw or to put in.
Chuck a U-ey: Make a U-turn.
Chunder: Vomit, drive the porcelain bus, kerbside quiche, pavement pizza, liquid laugh, rainbow sneeze, technicolour yawn.
Cleanskin: Unbranded cattle.
Clobber: Clothes; to hit.
Cobber: Mate (archaic).
Cocky: Small-scale farmer.
Come good: Turn out all right.
Compo: Compensation, such as workers' compensation.
Conk: To hit someone (archaic).
Cooee: Bush greeting.
Coolabah: Type of box eucalyptus tree.
Corroboree: Aboriginal meeting, with ceremonial dancing. Corroboree is also a ballet by Australian composer John Antill (1904-1986).
Counter meal, countery: Pub meal.
Cow: Also means anything that is difficult.
Cow cocky: Small-scale cattle farmer.
Cozzie: Swimming costume (New South Wales).
Crook: Ill, badly made, substandard.
Crow Eater: Resident of South Australia.
Cut lunch: Sandwiches.
Dag, daggy: Dirty lump of wool at the back end of a sheep, also an affectionate or mildly abusive term for a socially inept person.
Damper: Bush loaf made from flour and water cooked in a camp oven.
Dead horse: Tomato sauce.
Deli: Delicatessen. Milk bar in South Australia and Western Australia.
Dijeridu: Cylindrical musical instrument played usually by Aboriginal men.
Dillybag: Small bag to carry things.
Dinkie die: The whole truth.
Dinkum, fair dinkum: Genuine or honest.
Divvy van: Police divisional van.
Do your nana: Lose your rag, spit the dummy, lose your temper.
Dob In: To tell (an authority) on someone.
Donk: Car or boat engine.
Don't come the raw prawn: Don't try to fool me.
Down south: The rest of Australia, according to someone north of Brisbane, Queensland.
Drive the porcelain bus: Vomit.
Dry, the: Dry season in the north.
Drongo: Worthless or stupid person.
Duco: Car paint.
Dunny: Outdoor lavatory.
Dunny budgies: Blow flies.
Earbash: Non-stop talk.
Eastern states: The rest of Australia, according to someone in Western Australia.
Enzedder: New Zealander.
Esky: Large insulated box for keeping beer etc. cold, (short for Eskimo box).
Fair crack of the whip!: Fair go!
Fair dinkum: Genuine or honest.
Fair go: Give some a chance or an opportunity to do something.
Financial: To be flush with cash.
FJ: Most revered Holden car.
Flake: Shark meat, used in fish and chips.
Flaming: All-purpose intensifying adjective.
Flat out: As fast as possible.
Floater: Meat pie floating in pea soup, viewed by Australians either as a great delicacy or as a great emetic.
Flog: Sell; steal.
Fossick: To hunt for gemstones.
From arsehole to breakfast: All over the place.
Furphy: A rumour or a false story.
Galah: Noisy parrot, thus noisy idiot.
Gander: Have a look.
Gaol: Australian and British variant spelling of 'jail'.
Garbo: Garbage collector.
G'day: A greeting. It is the Aussie way of saying good day.
Gibber or gibby: Aboriginal word for stony desert.
Give it away: Give up.
Going 'troppo': Going tropical; laid-back and fun-loving; insane.
Good oil: Accurate information.
Good possie: Advantageous position.
Good on ya!: Well done!
Grazier: Large-scale sheep or cattle farmer.
Grizzle: To complain.
Grog: General term for alcohol.
Grouse: Very good, unreal.
Gum Sucker: Resident of Victoria.
Gutzer: Some plans don't work out or to have an accident (to come a gutzer).
Hire: To rent, as 'to hire a car'.
His nibs: The boss.
Homestead: Residance of a station (ranch or farm) owner or manager.
Hooley: Wild party.
Hoon: Idiot, hooligan, yahoo.
Hooly-Dooly: An expression of surprise.
Hotel: Sometimes means only a pub.
How are ya?: Standard greeting.
HQ: Second most revered Holden car.
Hump: To carry.
Icy-pole: Frozen lolly water or ice cream on a stick.
In full feather: In fine health.
In yer boot!: An expression of disagreement (archaic).
It's a goer: Something that will definitely occur.
Jack-in-the-box: Person who can't sit still.
Jackaroo or Jillaroo: Trainee on a cattle station (ranch or farm).
Jingoes!: Exclamation of wonder.
Jocks: Men's or boys' underpants.
Joe Bloggs: The average citizen.
Joey: Baby kangaroo, still in the pouch.
Jumped-up: Full of self-importance; arrogant.
Kanga or kangaroo: Shoe.
Keen as mustard: Enthusiastic.
Kelpie: Sheep dog or cattle dog.
Kerb: Alternative Australian and British spelling of 'curb'.
Kerbside quiche: Vomit.
Kick: To share or join in.
Kick-in: to provide your share. The pot (kitty) is called the 'kick'.
Kip: Sleep or nap.
Kiwi: New Zealander.
Knackers: Testicles (also love spuds, nuts, nads).
Knock: To criticise.
Knocker: One who criticises.
Kombi: Multi-purpose van-like vehicle, often modified so the back seats were folded down to get a mattress in the back.
Koori: Aborigine (mostly south of the Murray River).
Lair: Layabout, hooligan.
Lairise: To behave in a vulgar, flamboyant manner.
Lamington: Sponge cake cut into squares, covered in chocolate and coconut.
Larrikin: Ruffian or hoodlum.
Lay-by: To put a deposit on an article so a shop will hold it.
Licensed: Legally permitted to sell alcoholic drinks.
Like a bandicoot on a burnt ridge: Lonely and vulnerable.
Liquid laugh: Vomit.
Lollies: Candy or sweets.
Loo: Lavatory or toilet.
Lot: The whole thing.
Lurk: Scheme (no negative connotation).
Ma Stater: Resident of New South Wales.
Mad: Crazy (seldom means anger).
Mallee: Remote bushland of Victoria.
Manchester: Household linen.
Mate: This usually means a friend but it can be used to talk about or to anyone - even a total stranger.
Matey with: Familiar or friendly with.
Matilda: The belongings of a swagman, wrapped in a blanket or bedroll.
Middy: 285 ml beer glass (New South Wales).
Milk bar: Corner general store.
Mob: Group of person or things (not necessarily unruly).
Mug: Either a fool or your face.
Naff: Ridiculous, useless.
Never-never: Desert region far away in the outback.
Nick: To steal.
Nick out: Go somewhere for short period of time.
Nit: Fool or idiot.
No hoper: Hopeless case.
No shortage of oscar: To be flush with money.
No worries!: Everything will be fine!
Noise off: Speak loudly.
North Island: Mainland Australia, according to someone in Tasmania.
Northern summer: Summer in the Northern Hemisphere.
Nulla-nulla: Wooden club used by Aborigines.
Num-nums: Tasty food.
Ocker: Uncultivated or boorish Australian.
Off-sider: Assistant or partner.
On a good lurk: To have a good job.
Outback: The bush, or uncivilised uninhabited region.
Oy!: An ocker's call; hey!
Owyergoin: How are you going? Often used with 'G'day' and 'Mate'.
OYO: On your own (flat or apartment).
Oz: Australia, as in Oz-tralia.
Packed out: Filled to capacity.
Packet: Large some of money, an envelope.
Paddock: Field or meadow.
Pally: On friendly terms with.
Paper yabber: Letter.
Pastoralist: Large-scale grazier.
Pavement pizza: Vomit.
Pavlova: Traditional Australian meringue and cream dessert, names after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
Perve: To gaze with lust, purview.
Pester: Annoy or bother someone.
Pinch: To arrest.
Pineapple, rough end of: Stick, sharp end of; misfortune.
Piss: Alcohol, usually beer.
Piss turn, piss up: Boozy party.
Piss weak: No good, gutless.
Pissed off: Annoyed.
Pivot on: Consider.
Plant the foot (to the floorboards): Drive fast.
Plonk: Cheap wine (contemptuous contraction of 'vin blanc').
Poddy dodger: Cattle rustler. Poddy calves are milk-fed but not by a cow.
Poker machine, pokies: Slot machine or fruit machine but with playing card pips. Found in clubs mainly in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Pom or Pommy: English person.
Pot: 285 ml glass of beer (Victoria and Queensland).
Prang: Accident or crash.
Proprietary (Pty.): Company (Co.).
Pub: Any hotel. A favourite meeting place of many Australians.
Push: Group or gang of people, such as shearers.
Putt-putt: Any small vehicle.
Q: Thank you (mumbled).
QANTAS: Acronym for Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service.
Quack: Doctor, especially if not very good.
Quick smart: In a hurry.
Quids: A lot of money.
Rainbow sneeze: Vomit.
Rapt: Delighted, enraptured.
Ratbag: Someone who does not behave properly.
Raw Prawn: A lie or a con job.
Razoo: Fictitious coin, as 'I haven't a brass razoo'.
Reckon!: You bet! Absolutely!
Rego: Registration, as in car rego.
Ridgy-didge: Original, genuine.
Ringer: Fast sheep shearer.
Road train: Multi-trailered semi truck. Legal only in Northern Territory.
Roo bar: Metal rod on front of vehicles to protect against kangaroo strikes.
Root: Have sexual intercourse.
Ropable: Very ill-tempered or angry.
RS: Lousy (rat shit).
Rubbish: To tease, as in 'to rubbish'.
Rug up: Dress for warmth.
Sack: To dismiss from a job.
Salvo: Member of the Salvation Army.
Sandgroper: Resident of Western Australia; sand-burrowing desert insect.
Scallops: Fried potato cakes (Queensland and New South Wales), shellfish (elsewhere).
Scheme: System or method (no negative connotation).
School: Group of drinkers, each of whom buys a round.
Schooner: Large beer glass (New South Wales, South Australia).
Screamer: Noisy drunk.
Scrub: Can be the same as the bush or it can mean areas in the country without many trees.
Sea wasp: Deadly box jellyfish.
Sealed road: Surfaced road.
See you in the soup: See you around.
Semitrailer: Articulated truck.
Septic: Disparaging term for an American ('septic tank' rhymes with 'Yank').
Session: Lengthy period of heavy drinking.
Sheila: Female or woman.
Shellacking: Complete defeat.
She'll be right!: Everything will be fine!
Shivoo: Rowdy party (archaic).
Shoot Through: To leave or disappear in a hurry.
Shout: Pay for someone else, particularly a round of drinks.
Shove off!: Go away!
Shirty: To get upset or angry.
Sickie: Day off work ill, or malingering.
Silk shirt on a pig: Something wasted.
Sink the boot: Go in hard.
Skite: To boast.
Slab: 24 cans (tinnies) of beer, shrink-wrapped as a unit.
Slog: Hard work.
Smoko: Smoke or tea break.
Sport: More general way to refer to someone rather than a mate.
Spunky: Good-looking, attractive as in 'what a spunk'.
Square off: Apologise and make reparations.
Square up: Prepare to fight (as in boxing).
Squatter: Large landowner who originally occupied land as a tenant of the government.
Squattocracy: Australian 'old money' folk, who made their fortunes by being first on the scene and grabbing the land.
Station: Large farm or ranch.
Sticky beak: Nosy person.
Stinger: Deadly box jellyfish.
Strewth!: It's the truth! An exclamation, often of surprise.
Strides: Daks, trousers.
Strine: Australian slang ('Australian' spoken in strine).
Stubby: 375 ml bottle of beer.
Surfy: Surfing fanatic.
Swag: Canvas-covered bedroll used in the outback.
Swagman: Vagabond, rural tramp.
Swimmers: Swimming costume (Queensland, Victoria).
Take away food: Take-out food.
Tall poppies: Achievers, often a disparaging term.
Taswegian: Resident of Tasmania (patterned after 'Norwegian').
Tea: evening meal.
Technicolour yawn: Vomit.
Tee up: Organise or arrange.
Telly: The television.
Thingo: Thing, whatchamacallit, whomajigger, hooza meebob, doo velacki, thingamajig.
This arvo: This afternoon.
Thongs: Rubber sandals, flip-flops
Tinny: Can of beer. Also a small aluminium fishing dinghy (Northern Territory).
Togs: Swimming costume (Queensland, Victoria).
Too right!: Absolutely!
Top End: Northern part of the Northern Territory.
Top Ender: Resident of the Northern Territory.
Trucky: Truck driver.
True blue: Dinkum.
Tucker: Food. Australian schools call their canteens a 'tuckshop'.
Twit: Fool or idiot.
Two-pot screamer: Someone who can't hold his liquor.
Two-up: Traditional Australian heads/tails gambling game, played with 2 coins.
Tyre: Australian and British spelling of 'tire'.
Up a gumtree: In a quandary.
Up north: New South Wales and Queensland, according to someone in Victoria.
Ute: Utility truck or vehicle.
Vee-dub: Volkswagon car.
Vegemite: Popular vegetable extract used as sandwich spread.
Velvet: Highly profitable or advantageous.
Wag: To skip school or work.
Walkabout: Lengthy walk away from it all.
Wallaby track, on the: To wander from place to place in search of work (archaic).
Waltz Matilda: To carry a swag.
Weatherboard: Wooden house.
Wet, the: Rainy season in northern Australia.
West Island: Australia, to a New Zealander.
Whinge: Complain and carry on unnecessarily.
Whomajigger: Term for person or thing whose actual name one can't remember.
Willy-nilly: Small dust twister. Also, without thought.
Wobbly: Disturbing, unpredictable behaviour, as in 'throw a wobbly'.
Woomera: Stick used by Aborigines to throw spears.
Wowser: Spoilsport or puritan.
XXXX: Fourex, a favorite brand of Queensland beer.
Yabbie: Small freshwater crayfish.
Yahoo: Noisy and unruly person.
Yahooing: Boisterous behaviour.
Yakka, yakker: Hard work, an Aboriginal term
Yankee shout: A round of drinks in which everyone pays his own. Yank tank: An American car.
Yobbo: Uncouth, aggressive person.
Yonks: Ages, a long time.
Youse: Plural of you (by the grammatically challenged).
Zebra crossing: Broad-striped pedestrian roadway crossing.
Zed: Australian and British pronunciation of 'Z'.
Zeds: Pertaining to sleep (zzz).