Last Updated: February 23, 2021
Understand Australian Slang and Colloquialisms
Australian English speakers differ immensely in their vocabulary and choice of words when compared to both British and American English. Formal Aussie vernacular is mostly similar to British English, with both being typically markedly different from American variants. But In some cases, Australian English may also align in meaning with its American counterpart as well, or in others, it’ll use words that have no semblance to both traditional British and US English. The following examples should illustrate it well:
- The word ‘fries’ in American and Australian mean the same thing, while the British instead use the word ‘chips’. ‘Chips’ in American or Australian usually is in reference to poker chips.
- The American word ‘flat’ is usually called an ‘apartment’ in the UK and Australia.
- You can get your prescription from a chemist or a pharmacy in the UK or Australia. In the Us, you visit a drug store.
- In the US or Australia, one might ask where the bathroom or restroom is, in the UK you will be directed towards the toilet or the loo.
- Casual footwear are called slippers in the US, thongs in Australia, and flip-flops in the UK.
However, colloquial or casual conversation in Australia is a different beast altogether, with international students sometimes finding it a daunting task to decipher the conversation happening around them.
Common Colloquially Used Terms
The following are common examples of Aussie colloquialisms and slang:
- G’day: It is a shortened fusion of the generic greeting “good day”.
- Mate: Casual reference to a friend or used as a common noun to refer to someone. Eg, “G’day, mate”
- Dinkum/Fair-dinkum: Often used in an exclamatory sense, it loosely translates to “really/honestly?”. For example, “He fair-dinkum ate that!”
- Ocker: Usually refers to an uncouth, uncultivated, or aggressively boorish Australian male, stereotypically Australian in speech and manner; or atypical or average Australian male. For example, “That Jim, he’s a proper ocker through and through.”
- Yonks: Refers to a long period of time. For example, “We haven’t met for yonks.”
- Noggin: A person’s head. For example, “The ball hit him right in the noggin”.
- Drongo: A stupid or incompetent person. For example, “That drongo won’t even know the difference between football and rugby”
- Furphy: Wild hearsay, or rumors that are widely believed even though they are likely to be false or absurd. Example,
- Chinwag: Refers to conversations of middling to longer lengths. Example. “I enjoyed a lengthy chinwag with Jim yesterday”
- Barbie: Refers to a barbecue. For example, “Let’s get a barbie going lads.”
- Gander: To look or glance at something. For example, “Take a gander at this huge fish I caught yesterday”
- Digger: An informal term used to refer to Australian and Kiwi soldiers. For example, “You going the diggers soon, eh?”
- Nuddy: Naked or nude. For example, “He ran to his room all nuddy.”
- Bloke: Typically used to refer to a man, might include females. For example, “He’s a great bloke, but he must quit drinking.”
- Arvo: Afternoon or early evening. For example, “Let’s get some beers and head to the beach in the arvo”
- Sheila: A girl or a woman. For example, “Tell the sheilas that we’ll be there in a few hours”
- Togs: Refers to clothes. For example, “Hey, pass me my togs.”
- Iffy: Something that is full of uncertainty or doubtful. For example, “Playing cricket seems to be iffy right now, what with the rain.”
- Bonzer: Excellent, of great quality. For example, “I’ve had a bonzer night at the casino”.
- Hooroo: Usually used similarly to ‘goodbye’. For example, “Hooroo and see you tomorrow”.
- Crickey” A term usually meant to describe surprise or an exclamation. For example, “Crickey, that dog nearly bit his hand off!”
Popular Phrases and Idioms
If you thought solitary Australian terms words were inscrutable and hard to understand, their very imaginative and colorful array of popular phrases is sure both to confound and delight. We have compiled the following list to make sure that you can follow any conversations that you may have during your stay in Australia:
- “Six of one, half a dozen of the other”: It is a phrase that indicates that your actions will have little chance to have a bearing on the outcome. Six of one and six of another always add up to twelve, which gives you a 50-50 chance at most.
- “Throw a shrimp on the barbie”: Literally, it means to put shrimps on a barbeque, but it is used more as an invitation for lunch (or any other meal, usually outdoors and during the day).
- “A dog’s breakfast”: Despite the obvious culinary connotations, it rather refers to a messy state of things, both physical and/or metaphorical.
- “A few stubbies short of a six-pack”: The six-pack, in this case, is a six-pack of beer, which is used to allude to the completeness, something that is whole. So a person who is a few stubbies short of a six-pack is being called witless or incompetent.
- “Wrap your laughing gear 'round that”: ‘Laughing gear’ here refers to your face/mouth, essentially parts that are used to laugh. There to wrap one laughing gear around something means to eat the aforementioned object.
While the lists in this article are sure to help you around your way through most casual social encounters in Australia, it is recommended to always be ready to learn and expand your knowledge of what is a rich and diverse culture and their language. This helps greatly in efforts to fit in and interact socially with the local population.