Australian Slang: 25 Essential Words and Phrases

I previously wrote about the unique pronunciation of Australians. Today I’m going to take a look at words or phrases that will confuse the hell out of you.

1. fairdinkum. I’m not kidding, this is a word. It means ‘authentic’. For example, “was $3.49 really the price of that mango?” “Fairdinkum!”
2. far out. This is not only said by surfers but middle-aged people, too. (Actually those two categories are not mutually exclusive, but you get the point.) This phrase has nothing to do with swimming or life-saving, as in, “did you get to that surfer before the shark?” “no, he was too far out” = incorrect. “Far Out” is said when you really can’t believe something.
3. shocking. This is not usually a good thing. It is something that disgusts you.
4. shits me to tears.  *Slightly* on the vulgar side, this is a literal term which you can probably work out for yourself…but maybe only use it amongst friends.
5. cracker. This is not a racial slur on white people in Australia as it is elsewhere. ‘Down under’ this refers to a good joke that made you ‘crack up’.
6. nice as. I once tried to reprimand a student for saying this as I thought he was swearing, but no…this is a phrase that probably comes form “good as gold”, except it’s been short-formed like most Australian terms! Now you can say “good as” “nice as” “fair as” “true as”…go ahead, try it!
7. came good. This means something went well, and yes, it is ungrammatical but don’t be a snob.
8. how’r’ya’going. This is not an inquiry as to your method of travel. It is synonymous with North American “how are you doin’”.
9. fine. Rarely used for anything other than a ‘description’ (!) of the weather, this vague term is widely accepted and means that it is not going to rain, and hence the weather will be fine. Slightly comforting, don’t get your knickers in twist, mate.
10. how are you travelling. Also not necessarily used for transportation purposes.
11. mateship. Has nothing to do with sailboats or yacht crews. It is the Australian term for ‘friendship’ (a word they almost never use).
12. tosser. Actually this is a bit of a tricky one. Don’t use it around children. IT really does refer to the sexual habit of masturbation (*sigh) but it is usually used to describe yuppies…*ouch.
13. wagging. Has nothing to do with tails or dogs in fact. It means to ‘skip class’ or ‘play hooky’. If you use any other term you will be stared at with cross eyes.
14. pigeon hole. This is a teacher’s mailbox in a staff room. If you use anything other than ‘pigeon hole’ you will be stared at and ignored, or told off.
15.  bin. Avoid the use of the word garbage at all costs especially if you are trying to get children to throw something out, as you are giving them good reason to ignore you. You throw ‘rubbish’ out in the ‘bin’ in Australia.
16. rubber. Much *safer* (tee-hee) than its usual school yard definition in Canada, this refers to an eraser
17. textas. Technically this should be spelt ‘texters’ but hey, you’ll never hear an ‘r’ pronounced in Australia so what’s the point. These are ‘markers’.
18. satday. Correct the children when they say this. They mean the same day as the one that comes after Friday, they are just forgetting the middle syllable.
19. nought. ‘zero’, I’m not a ‘maths’ teacher (they will correct you if you say ‘math’ but apparently ‘zero’ is not in fashion or correct.
20. ‘tea’. This is the equivalent of dinner in Canada. It is a full meal usually of ‘meat and three veg’, but more informal…you invite your friends around to ‘tea’ (it’s kind of like ‘country talk’) but you invite your guests to dinner.
21. ‘supper’ will leave you hungry. It is not a full meal, usually just wine and stand-around snacks (the kind of thing you have after you have had a quick dinner earlier in the night somewhere else).
22. ‘plate’. Hoo-hoo…tricky, very tricky. Ok, if someone invites you around and tells you to ‘bring a plate’, much the chagrin of many a Canuck this does not mean show up with a piece of china. It means bring a dish full of food as the nightly meal is going to be a potluck affair.
23. ‘mate.’ I put this in here because ‘yes, you’ve heard it’, but you really must understand how much to use it and how to use it. This is not as easy as it looks. Canadians usually come over tacking it on to “G’day” and they think they are ‘in the know’ but they look like ‘tossers’ (see #12). This is a term very close to Australians’ hearts. It means “friend”, “man” and “best buddy” all at once. So maybe just hold off until you ‘cotton on’ (a.k.a. ‘catch on’) to that one.
24. ‘footy’. If you are in Melbourne, this means AFL (Australian Football League–a.k.a. “Aussie Rules” to those who do not watch it…so watch your use of this because not watching footy is something you do not want to admit in a Victorian’s company. If you are in NSW, this could refer to rugby. And if you are elsewhere it could even refer to ‘football’ or ‘soccer’. It’s very contentious, but just go with ‘footy’ if you are talking about AFL and ‘soccer’ if you are talking about ‘football’ and if anyone tries to ‘hang shit’ on you (i.e. ‘make fun’ of you) tell them you are for Melbourne, ‘barrack’ for The Saints and they can ‘get stuffed’.
25. ‘Take the piss out of…’. To make fun of something.
PS. Do NOT use the word “root” or wear any “Roots” clothing. It is slang for having casual sex. That is, you do not “root” for a football club, or you are sleeping with all of their players. You ‘barrack’ for a football club. I’d avoid “cheer”, too, because you sound like a ‘wanker’ (another term to avoid around kids—see #12). (It’s insane but just see how much you use ‘root’ when you are having your first football conversation and trying to be polite (=opposite effect!)!

PPS. The most effective ‘maths’ teachers in Melbourne will ‘do sums’ revolving around footy scores with their students on Monday morning—because all of the kids will have spent the weekend watching the games!

PPPS. Get a scarf, get a football club and move to Melbourne!

13 Comments to Australian Slang: 25 Essential Words and Phrases

  1. […] previously teaching 25 Essential Australian Words and Phrases, I felt it was only fair to show you the language of academia in Australia as […]

  2. Alysha says:

    Let’s not forget Pub LingO :

    “Pot” = half the size of a pint of beer

    “Hot Chips” = French Fries (they will stare at you)

  3. Claire says:

    Loved this article! Many familiar phrases, but also cleared up a few I was too embarassed to asked about. Written so well — cracker!

  4. Fleur says:

    Loved these definitions although some were a bit “iffy” ( “dodgy”, not quite right) Not sure if I would use “fairdinkum” to describe the price of a mango. It is more of a surprised comment on the authenticity of the comment.
    A few others that may have bypassed you are – “bun fight” ususally referring to a activity that ended in chaos. Another one close to my heart – “No worries” directly refers to something being “not a problem” , “happy to oblige”, “thank you for your praise” etc. This is used as often as possible for any situation.

    Fleur – A Fairdinkum Aussie

  5. Alysha says:

    Here’s a video if you want to know what aboganis (they also explain sheila).

    synonyms for bogan: Yobo; redneck;

    PS: a sheila is actually the term for a female kangaroo. It’s a very slang and I think derogatory way to refer to a woman.

  6. Alysha says:

    Thongs are NOT G-String Underwear in Australia.

    What Canadians call “flip-flops” (sandals) are known as “thongs” in Australia.

    It makes for a few awkward (or moments that bring you closer to someone!) in conversation if you don’t know this. Which is what happened to me…

    When I’d only been here a few months, an Aussie friend was relaying a very cold experience she had in Canada, when she went to a hockey game in “just my thongs”.

    Trying not to be judgmental I simply said, “Oh…that must have been really cold on your bottom.”

    Imagine my embarrassment when this 55 year old respectable woman, looked at me as if I had just said something inappropriate!

    “My bottom?! I spent the whole game with my feet in my purse.”

    As for the word for G-String Underwear? I have no idea, we simply don’t talk about it.

  7. Thebaw says:

    5. cracker. This is not a racial slur on white people in Australia as it is elsewhere. ‘Down under’ this refers to a good joke that made you ‘crack up’.

    Elsewhere? Such as Canada, the US and errr…..errrrrr…….

  8. Alysha says:

    Hello Thebaw,

    welcome to our site.

    I’m not sure I fully understand your comment, so please let me know if I’ve misinterpreted it. But here is what I think you’re saying…

    I think you are suggesting that “cracker” is only a North American term.

    But it sounds like you are criticizing something at the same time–is it:

    A) my seemingly narrow interpretation of “elsewhere” –does this come across as egocentric, do I sound as though I am suggesting Canada and the US are the only “elsewhere”? That isn’t what I meant. I am of the opinion that given the predominance of even American movies (at the very least) the term “cracker” is now well known beyond North America.


    B) Are you more familiar than I with the history of the term “cracker”? If so, please share what you are really thinking about this comment!

    Thanks for visiting and for the engaging comment.


  9. Ali says:

    ‘stuffed up’ = messed up. I made the mistake of asking a student with a cold if they were stuffed up. They asked me what it meant in Canada and then explained that I asked if their nose was messed up/ugly.

  10. monster says:

    ‘get stuffed’ = an impolite and emphatic ‘No, thank you’ in response to a proposition, or ‘No way, wanker’ in response to a preposterous comment.

    + (specifically in Melbourne) ‘Connie’ = tram conductor (now extinct) or ticket inspector (very much alive).

  11. Alysha says:

    haha, I have never used “get stuffed” like that, I thought it was way more rude than even an ‘impolite’ ‘no thank you’–very eloquently phrased! Thank you!

    Boy, are those ticket checkers ever alive and well. I wonder what percentage of the ticket price they earn?

  12. Sara says:

    It actually is Texta – Texta is a brand name, like Crayola.

    Lunch order – most schools have a canteen where the students can purchase a hot lunch in advance in the mornings. Lunch order money is collected in brown paper bags and delivered to the canteen usually around 9 am there are lunch order monitors in most classrooms.

    Rubbish – is garbage or trash, and goes in the bin (garbage or trash can)

    The Roll – attendance for the classroom

    My one, or Your one – will often be said instead of “mine: or “yours”

    Bickie – short for biscuit, ,meaning cookie

    Pips – said instead of pits, like orange pits, or peach pits

    Tea – often used to describe dinner unless it is called “morning tea” in which case that’s a coffee break in the morning time.

  13. Alysha says:

    @ Sara, Yes, you are right about “Texta” — I’ve since learned this. I still can’t pronounce it correctly though, so my Year 12s and I have an understanding that they can call it what they want and they’ll know what I mean when I say “marker” with 2 very strong “r” sounds.

    I found “Tea” really confusing when I first moved here — in fact there is a whole dinner etiquette thing at Australian Parties that I’ll post on next week.

    Thanks for your post, Sara!

    @ Wayno — thanks for your post — you’ve hit on a number of Aussie terms. For example your name, typically Aussie nick name to add an “o” on the end. Or an “azza”!

    Aussies also always want to say “Canadia” (instead of Canada) not sure why, I think it is easier for them to say and it’s a cross between “Canadian” and “Canada”. Since living here though, to my shock and horror, I have caught myself nearly saying it at times!

    Not sure all of our readers will agree with you on your p.o.v. about all Americans–but I’m sure everyone will love your natural use of nearly all slang!

    Thanks for reading! Alysha

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