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The official language of Australia is English, yet the native tongue you hear spoken in the great southern land is unlikely to be what you’ve studied in textbooks.
Aussies speak a unique brand of English, with many colloquial phrases threaded through the vocabulary.
As an international student, it may be initially difficult to understand locals due to the popular use of slang.
Here are some things that every international student should be aware of when it comes to Australian slang = you’ll be speaking like a local in no time!
Aussies love to abbreviate words
Australians have a tendency to abbreviate words, often adding a different ending, therefore even the most fluent English=speaking international visitors can be left feeling confused.
Casual conversation is littered with common Aussie abbreviations and even menus can be deceiving.
First appearing as though they are in English but quickly becoming apparent that they too are filled with abbreviations only familiar to Australians.
Aussies especially like to add an ‘o’ or ‘y’ sound to the end of the abbreviated words.
Abbreviations with an ‘o’ ending
- Ambo = ambulance or ambulance driver.
- Arvo = afternoon.
- Avo = avocado (commonly used when referring to smashed avo, an Australian brunch staple).
- Bottle=o = bottle shop (liquor store).
- Devo = devastated.
- Garbo = garbage man (garbage truck driver).
- Servo = service station (gas/petrol station).
- Smoko = smoke break (break at work).
Abbreviations with a ‘y’ sound ending
- Barby= barbecue.
- Biccy = biscuit.
- Breaky = breakfast.
- Choccy = chocolate.
- Chrissy = Christmas.
- Exy = expensive.
- Facey = Facebook.
- Footy = Australian Rules Football (not soccer).
- Lappy = laptop.
- Lippy = lipstick.
- Mozzies = mosquitos.
- Mushies = mushrooms.
- Prezzie = present.
- Postie = postman.
- Pozzie = position.
- Tradie = tradesman.
Aussies regularly use a range of unique idioms
An idiom is a particular phrase or saying that is not intended to be taken literally and Australian English is full of them.
A few common examples of Australian unique idioms are:
- Don’t beat around the bush = Get to the point.
- You’re barking up the wrong tree = You’re asking the wrong person.
- I didn’t come down in the last shower = I’m not stupid.
- Looks like a dog’s breakfast = it looks like a mess.
Aussie slang is full of similes
Similes, a figure of speech where one thing is being compared to another thing, are common in many languages but Australian similes are especially unique and often used for dramatic effect.
It’s common for Aussie similes to refer to an Australian animal and there is no easy way to learn them, but you will slowly pick them up through conversations with locals!
Some common examples of Aussie similes include:
- Mad as a cut snake = very angry.
- Going off like a frog in a sock = going crazy, excited.
Aussies regularly use slang words and phrases
In addition to all of the above, one of the main reasons why Australians can be so difficult to understand is because they frequently use words and phrases that are not found in the English language.
These are extremely common and you will be sure to hear examples of these in everyday conversations.
Common examples of Aussie slang words and phrases:
- Bathers = swimsuit.
- Bingle = small car accident.
- Bloody = often used to exaggerate a point, eg. “It was bloody disgraceful!”.
- Blue = fight or argument, eg. He was in a blue.
- Bloody oath = yes, true, term of agreement.
- Bogan = a redneck.
- Booze bus = police check for drunk drivers.
- Carked it = died.
- Chockers = full.
- Chook = chicken.
- Crikey = a term of surprise.
- Crook = sick.
- Daggy = uncool.
- Deadset = completely true.
- Dodgy = not right.
- Flat out = really busy.
- Fully sick = cool.
- Give me a bell = call me.
- Hard yakka = hard work.
- Iffy = risky.
- Jaffle = toasted sandwich.
- Maccas = McDonalds.
- My shout = I’ll pay (often used when paying for a round of drinks or getting the bill).
- Not fussed = don’t care.
- Righto = okay.
- Rip off = something is too expensive.
- Ripper = really good.
- Rug up = dress in warm clothes.
- Runners = sneakers.
- She’ll be right = it will be fine.
- Spit the dummy = throwing a tantrum.
- Squiz = look.
- Sticky beak = look.
- ‘Straya = Australia.
- Stunned mullet = shocked, eg. She looked liked a stunned mullet.
- Sanger = sandwich.
- Sickie = day off work due to being sick (also used in the phrase “pulled a sickie”, meaning took a sick day without being sick).
- Slab = carton of beer.
- Snag = sausage.
- Spag bol = spaghetti Bolognese.
- Stoked = really happy.
- Stubby = bottle of beer.
- Ta = thank you.
- Tea = dinner (as well as the drink).
- Tee it up = will organise it.
- The Outback = remote, desert area of Australia.
- Thingy-ma-jig = term used when you can’t remember the name of mething.
- Thongs = Flip flops.
- Tucker = food.
- Uni = University.
- Woop woop = middle of nowhere.
- Zilch = nothing.
Aussies have nicknames for places
Australians love a good nickname and not just for people. Many places in Australia have slang names that are unknown to international visitors.
Some examples include:
- Brissie or Brisvegas = Brisbane.
- Freo = Fremantle (city in Western Australia).
- Melbs = Melbourne.
- The ‘G = The Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG.
- The ‘Gabba = Woolongabba Cricket Ground.
- The Gong = Wollongong (town in New South Wales).
- The Rock = Uluru (Australian tourist destination previously known as Ayers Rock).
- Tassie = Tasmania.
The language spoken in Australia is certainly not like the English spoken anywhere else.
With unique phrases, countless abbreviations and new vocabulary, Aussie slang is best learnt by interacting with locals (who are typically more than happy to explain the true meaning, although may struggle to hide their amusement as they do so!).
While it may be difficult to follow conversation at first, it won’t be long before you too are using slang and abbreviating your words!