*Pronounce it ‘ockah’, please.
After years of living abroad — in Asia, Europe and the Middle East — and working exclusively for American companies, I thought I had a good understanding of what were the differences between Australian and American English.
But it was only when I moved to the US that I realised how many things I said that were purely Australian slang.
This is the list of Australian slang expressions I said in my time working in the US that nobody seemed to understand. They’re things I learned by trial and error.
Note: Some of these items of Australian slang are common to British and New Zealand English. They may have even come from one or the other. But I hereby claim them all in the name of Australia. If any Brits or Kiwis disagree with that, well, they can get stuffed!
In this glossary of Australian slang…
- Exclamations & standalone phrases: Crikey mikey. Suffer in yer jocks!
- Expressions and idioms: The difference between the “Dog’s bollocks” and a “Dog’s breakfast”
- Times: Are you reading this on your “smoko”?
- Describing things: Everything has gone pear-shaped…
- Desriptions of people and insults. You flaming galah!
- Various things and places: Is there a dunny in this servo?
- Essential Verbs: Quit bludging!
Australian Slang Exclamations & Phrases
These are phrases you can just say on their own.
- Avago!: “Have a go”. Actually usually “Avagoyermug!”, which is “have a go you mug”. Told to encourage someone. “Carn Mick, don’t just stand there looking like a stunned mullet, avagoyermug!”
- Bugger: Really just a pretty casual swear word. Don’t take it too seriously. Used in completely unimportant scenarios like “Bugger, my shirt’s inside out” or “Bugger, we’re out of raspberries”
- Carn: General exclamation used in sporting season. “Carn the blues!” or “Carn the saints” or “CARN YA BLOODY DRONGOS”
- Don’t come the raw prawn with me: Nobody says this very seriously any more but it’s an awesome expression. Don’t you try to pull one over me. Presumably serving a raw prawn was unacceptable in post-war, pre raw food diet times.
- Crikey mikey: Struth! Cripes! You get the idea (I hope)
- Far out!: Yeah I know, you think you know what this means, but you don’t! It is actually kind of a generic exclamation, like “jesus christ!” or “awesome!” or “Weird!”. E.g. “far out, did you see the SpaceX launch?” or “how much did you get for our car? 40 grand?? far out!”.
- Fark: How we swear in written form and make you make the sound in your head, forcing you to adjust for our accent.
- Get stuffed: Something you tell people when they’re dreamin’. “He wants how much as a sign-on bonus because that’s what Uber’s offering? How about this as a counter offer: he can get stuffed“
- How’re ya goin’?/ Ayagahn?: Also “how’re you travellin'”. Not a literal question. Means “How are you?” Pro tip: NEVER pronounced clearly. Pronounce this “how ya goin’?” or for 1,000,000 points, as a casual “mate, aya gahn!”. Standard response is “Yeah orright, how you goin’?”
- How’re you travellin’?: Means “How’re you goin” NOT a literal question. The answer is not by Uber, hoverboard, etc.
- No dramas: No worries
- No wuckers: Short for “no wuckin’ forries”. Don’t say this in polite company.
- Onya! or “Good onya!”: ‘Good on you’, said to congratulate someone. “Good onya mate! Heard ya got mentioned in Fortnight for being ‘most consistently dressed’ because of your massive hoodie collection”
- Pay (somebody) out: to take the piss, mickey etc. To make fun of someone. “I love me a meat pie while watching the footy and I don’t care if you pay me out for being a bogan”
- Suffer in yer jocks!: Basically “sucks to be you!”. Applicable regardless of undergarment
- Strewth: an exclamation, like “are you for real”. “The car’s on fire? Strewth!!” From “God’s Truth”.
- Ta or Taa: Thanks. “Here’s the slab of beer you wanted.” “Taa, mate!”
- Take the piss: To make fun of someone but can be used as a standalone expression. “What, Tanc quit because lunch moved to Berry beta? Are you takin’ the piss?”
- Turn it up!: Used to express disbelief at someone who’s telling porky pies. “Mate when I was 20 I could bench press 250 pounds” “Turn it up Turzo! Your arms look like string beans”
- You little ripper!: Great job! Used when you’re overjoyed at how well someone’s done something. “You brought me back watermelon from lunch?? You little rippah!”
Expressions and Idioms
You also use these Australian slang expressions stand-alone, but they are a little more dependent on conte
- All the gear… no idea: Someone who e.g. spends $1K on a surf board but can’t surf to save a life. Only works in an Australian accent.
- Bags not me!: To claim you don’t have to do something. Kind of the opposite of ‘dibs’. Like “Who’s gonna fix up all the circular references on this google sheet?” “Bags not me!!” You can also ‘Bags’ something. This is now exactly like ‘dibs’.
- Back o’ Bourke: Very far away. “Of course you’re not gonna get an Uber out here in the back o’ Bourke!” Presumably Bourke is really far away (definitely from anywhere in downtown SF)
- Burl (to give a): To give a go. “No idea how to do this but whatever, I’ll give it a burl”
- Bob’s your uncle: (British) Everything will work out. “Need a new laptop? Mate just file an IT JIRA and Bob’s your uncle”
- Can’t be stuffed: Couldn’t be bothered. “I’d write a shorter email but I can’t be stuffed”
- Cark it: To break down. “Let’s grab a cuppa outside, the coffee machine has carked it”
- Coalface: The frontline of an operation, where the rubber hits the road. “You guys work at the coalface, you should know.” I’m shocked this isn’t American. Don’t Americans have coal?
- Chuck a sickie: Go surfing instead of going to work after a feeble call in to the boss.
- Crack the shits: Get stroppy, annoyed. “I nicked Turzo’s computer and he cracked the shits”
- Dog’s bollocks: Something awesome. “This Fage yoghurt is the dog’s bollocks”
- Dog’s breakfast: Something really messy or superficially disorganised. ‘Man, this excel model that some Australian made is a bit of a dog’s breakfast’
- Doesn’t know whether it’s Arthur or Martha: A confusing situation or person, e.g. the conflicting meanings of expressions involving dogs.
- Dog and bone: The phone. Rhyming slang. “Strewth! I’ve got Chris on the ol’ dog and bone here and he reckons the Hub is on fire”
- Fair shake: Be fair, don’t short-change something. Short for ‘Fair shake of the sauce bottle’
- Faffing about: To waste time, to flap one’s wings. “Bloody hell, I spent a whole morning faffing about trying to figure out how to get this working.”
- Fang it: To go really fast/floor it. “How’re you gonna get across all those potholes? Just fang it?”
- Flat out: Extremely busy. “Hey can we cancel this meeting, I’m flat out.” Also great is “flat out like a lizard drinking” but nobody says that except ironically because it sounds hilarious.
- Good value: People who are pretty good. “Mate Shawn’s a bit of a nob but he’s orright, he’s good value.”
- Go off sick: To go off, e.g. “man he just grabbed those drumsticks and went off sick”. A bit old, used mostly ironically
- Hard Yakka: Hard work. Like “elbow grease”. “They moved the kitchen again? How far do I have to go now for lunch??” “Harden up mate, since when are you afraid of a bit of hard yakka”
- Have a punt: Take a stab, have a go. Different to the American usage of punt, which seems more definite.
- Heaps: Loads. “Heaps of Aussies here, but somehow only one kiwi” “Still one too many”
- Keen as mustard: Super keen, i.e. enthusiastic. “Mate, get him involved in this project, he’s keen as mustard.” Named after Keen’s Mustard.
- On the piss: To get drunk. “We’ve got a week of training, by which I mean we have a week of going on the piss”
- Shout: To pay for a round of beer or coffee. “Don’t worry about this, it’s my shout”
- Sweet as: Very good. “You brought chips? Sweet as”
- Too hard basket: The metaphorical basket into which anything that is too difficult/that you want to delay is thrown. A.k.a. the ’round file’
- Takin’ the mickey: Making fun. “Is this for real or are you takin’ the mickey?”
- Under the pump: Totally flat out with work. “Mate I’d love to help with your deck meeting but I’m under the pump preparing for my preso”. Also see: flat out, preso.
- Up to pussy’s bow: Full up, eaten as much as you could possibly eat. “Crikey, those pork buns looked good at Yum Cha, but I’m up to pussy’s bow.”
Australians use various slang expressions and abbreviations to express times of the day, or dates.
- Arvo: Afternoon. “See ya s’arvo”. This is self evident.
- Donkey’s ears: Rhyming slang for ‘years’. “Where’s Jimbo, I haven’t seen that bloke in donkey’s ears”
- Sparrow’s Fart: The crack of dawn; really early in the morning. “Jeez, I had to get up at sparrow’s fart this morning to catch my flight to Bali.”
- Smoko: A quick break, historically for a cigarette but these days just a break for anything. You can just say “Smoko?”
- Two shakes: Short for “two shakes of a lambs tail”, i.e. a very short period of time. “Hey you ready for our meeting?” “Yep, I’ll be there in two shakes”
- Yonks: A long time. “I haven’t seen him in yonks”
These are slang adjectives that Australians use.
- Bonza: Amazing. “This Vegemite sandwich is pretty bonza”
- Cactus: Broken. Adjective. “We need to get going but the car’s cactus”
- Dodgy: sketchy, janky. Also shortened to “dodge”. “The tenderloin is a bit dodge”
- Fluoro: Fluorescent, like the colour of 80s exercise gear. “I’m wearing fluoro tomorrow guys” “Wot”
- Naff: Lame or passé. “Bloody hell, how was I supposed to know it was considered naff to tag all my selfies on Instagram with #fitfam”
- On special: On sale. “Where’d you get that jumper? She’s a beauty!” “Got it at Target mate. Only five bucks, on special!” “Crikey!”
- Pear shaped: Broken down/collapsed or gone bad somehow. “Steve quit and the whole project went pear shaped”
- Pearler: (pronounced “pearlah”) Something really good. “You’ve told a few good one-liners lately but that one was a bloody pearler!”
- Shambolic: In disorder/disarray. British. “The Marketing Tech Ops Product Strategy team is a little shambolic these days, eh Gus”
Descriptions of people/insults
These are Australian slang words to describe people.
- Bogan: Someone a bit uncouth, probably wears singlets and shorts. “Bev’s orright even if he’s a bit of a bogan”. Not necessarily derogatory, people can own being a bogan and we’ve had our share of bogan prime ministers.
- Chipper: in good spirits. “You seem chipper, had yer coffee already?”
- Chuffed: Satisfied, happy. “You seem chuffed. Were there heaps of berries this morning for once?”
- Crook: Sick. “You feelin’ a bit crook?”
- C*nt: I never used this, because it’s pretty rude. But people are going to use it around you, and you should know what it means.
- Dag: Someone who has no taste, or likes to wear old clothes. “You going out dressed like that ya dag?” or “What’s with the daggy jumper?”
- Derro: Really sketchy, lacking class. Derivative of “Derelict”. E.g. “Don’t just wear your tracky-dacks to work ya bloody derro”. Or “This dunny’s pretty derro, can we find a Maccas?”
- Drongo: Foolish person. “Don’t be such a bloody drongo”
- Flamin’ galah: Silly person. “Drive for Uber? Don’t be such a flamin’ galah!” also see: Drongo
- Kiwi: A New Zealander. “Why is every other barista in Melbourne a Kiwi these days” (this is no longer the case since I first voiced this concern)
- Knackered: To be tired. “Mate I’m totally knackered, I can’t do this deck now, I reckon I’m just gonna bail”
- Larrikin: Someone who thumbs his nose at authority. Best embodied by the apocryphal legend of John Simpson and his donkey, a soldier disobeyed his commanding officer and did not report to duty, instead using his donkey to fetch wounded soldiers from the fields of Gallipoli under heavy fire until he himself was mowed down.
- Nigel: A lonely person with no friends. “What’re you doing sitting on the back being a nigel?” Also can be “nige’in out”. or “being a nige”. “I was a bit of a nigel in high school”. I don’t know who this Nigel is but he apparently sucks compared to all my awesome friends named Nigel.
- Nong: Silly / foolish person. “What’ve you done now, ya nong”
- Nous (to have/use): (pronounced like “house”) Intelligence, quick-wittedness, intuition. “Use yer nous and figure it out”.
- Ocker: (mandatorily pronounced “ockah”). Super Australian. “I forget how to speak standard English around 8pm and suddenly get super ocker”
- Peckish: Hungry. “I ate heaps of vegan tenders at lunch today but for some reason I’m still feeling peckish”
- Piker: Someone who pikes, or bails. “Trust you to bail at the last minute. Bloody piker”
- Povvo: a poor person. Short for “poverty”. Usually used in a derogatory manner. “Oh my god, Becca is so povvo, she only has two TVs in the house.”
- Ranga: A derogatory but outmoded (and reclaimed) term to refer to redheads. Short for ‘Orang utan’. OK it’s still a bit derogatory. But we love ’em (and have a lot of ’em). “She’s OK… if you can trust a bloody ranga”
- Sticky beak: to pry into affairs that don’t concern you. “What are you doing snooping around my preso? Stay out of it ya sticky beak!”
- Stunned mullet: Being still and totally useless. “Carn Bill, quit standing around like a stunned mullet and get to washing those cars!”
- Sheila: woman. “Heaps of sheilas here”
- Stroppy: a bit annoyed. “You seem a bit stroppy, haven’t you had your cuppa”
- Spat the dummy: to lose one’s composure. “Man, XYZ really spat the dummy in last night’s Presidential debate”. I think you know who I mean.
- Spewin’: annoyed: ‘Someone deleted a whole worksheet from his book. He was spewin”
- Stoked: excited. “Man I’m super stoked about the weekend… although tbh all I’m gonna do is sleep”. Also used: stokesville, although that’s a bit naff (see above)
- Troppo: Crazy. From the north, tropical heat historically sending people bonkers. “What’s up with Daryl? Bloke’s gone troppo lately!”
- Yobbo: See ‘bogan’. “Southwest Airlines would be OK if the passengers weren’t a bunch of yobbos”
Finally, here’s a long list of Australian slang words for just things and places.
- Acca Dacca: What we call AC/DC, which we invented.
- Avo: Avocado. “Crikey don’t tell me it’s only 10am and we’re out of avos already?”
- Barbie: Barbecue. “Come over after work, we’ll chuck a few prawns on the barbie” (Australians don’t say “shrimp”. Shrimp are small, prawns are huge; we eat prawns.)
- Bevvy: Drink, beverage. “Up for a bevvy after we knock off?” (Note: I loved how our drink machines at our old company were branded “Bevi”.)
- Bikkie: Cookie. Short for “Biscuit”, which we call a scone. We call a scone a scone, but say it differently and it’s not a scone anyway.
- Billabong: A watering hole. Used infrequently, but you have to be able to croon the phrase “Once a jolly swagman, down by the billabong…”
- Boot: Trunk
- Brolly: Umbrella
- Bubbler: a water fountain that serves non-bubbly water. Like a ‘bubbling brook’ I guess.
- Bucks night: Bachelor party. Because we’re a bit poetic sometimes. Also known as a stag party.
- Budgie smuggler: Male swimwear. A budgie (Budgerigar) is a small bird, about the size of a sparrow.
- Buggy: A golf cart (which we also call a golf… buggy). Not like American buggies which usually are attached to horses.
- Capsicum: Pepper
- Chewy: Chewing gum
- Chinwag: A conversation. “Let’s book a giant meeting room and have a chinwag”
- Chips: Fries. Also chips. You’ll figure it out
- Chook: Chicken. Pronounced like “book”, not like “food”, ya nong
- Cordial: Pronounced “corjal”. Basically “flavoured sugary water made from concentrate”, as the flight attendant explained to a confused American guest. “Fancy a bit of cordial?” said nobody to me since I was five (except last month on a plane, where I over heard it)
- Corro: Correspondence. “I’ll forward you the corro a bit later”
- Cuppa: A cup (of tea/coffee). “Grab a cuppa?”
- CV: Curriculum Vitae. Aka a résumé. Look, how is Latin any worse than French?
- Dole (“The dole”): Unemployment benefits. “Got a job yet or still on the dole?”
- Doona: A comforter. I admit they’re comfortable, but they’re doonas.
- Dunny: Toilet
- Esky: Cooler. Kiwis call them ‘chilly bins’, which we often misappropriate because it sounds ridiculous.
- Fairy bread: Plain white bread lathered in butter or margarine and sprinkled with ‘hundreds and thousands’, which are colourful sprinkles that are sweet or something. I dunno. It’s delicious if you’re under 12 years old, and probably as an adult if presented in hipster format for $7 a slice.
- Fairy floss: Cotton candy. Apparently, we like all variations of things with fairies. “You haven’t lived until you’ve tried Persian Fairy Floss, or Persian whatever you call it.”
- Flying fox: This has the super boring name of ‘zip line’ in America, classic American naming things after precisely what they do.
- Footy: The football. All forms of football (except soccer. Nobody relevant calls that football)
- Full stop: A period, end of sentence. This is a much better way of saying it. You’re bloody welcome.
- Girl’s germs: Cooties. “Ew, girl’s germs!”
- Glossary: A list of words. Apparently nobody says this?
- Goss: Gossip. “I’ve got some good goss”
- Jocks: generic term for mail underwear.
- Lift: Elevator. Don’t make jokes about the Lift ETAs being too slow or else you’ll be trapped awkwardly for the remainder.
- Maccas: McDonald’s.
- Mozzies: Mosquitos, but cuter
- Nick: condition. ‘Dude this car isn’t in very good nick. How is it even working?’ OR to steal. ‘Barry nicked my bloody lawnmower yesterday”
- Oz: Australia. “Where ya garn for the break? Back to Oz?” (Note: nobody says “downunder” except Americans, similar to how nobody says “San Fran” outside SF.)
- Petrol: Gas. “Is there a petrol station around here?” See servo… I often say “petrol station” when I’m trying not to say “servo”.
- Possum: Opossum. I am pretty sure these are the same thing (or at least 84% the same thing). Also I’m told opossum is pronounced possum, which is ostupid!
- Power point: Wall socket
- Preso: A presentation, or Power Point, but not a wall socket
- Reso: Reservation. “Good bloody luck getting a reso at that restaurant on Friday night!”
- Sanger: Sandwich. “I could totally smash a Vegemite and cheese sanger”
- Scroggin: Sounds gross but this is just trail mix.
- Slab: A case of beer. “I’ll be over at 4 and I’m bringing a slab of VB”
- Snags: Sausages. “Chuck another coupla snags on the barbie, Gus!”
- Spagbol: Spaghetti Bolognese, classin’ it up
- Soft drink: Soda
- Servo: Short for service station, aka a petrol station or whatever it’s supposed to be called.
- Swimmers: Swimming costume or whatever. “Pack yer swimmers, we’re goin’ to Torquay!” (I thought I was being intelligible by not calling them “cozzies” or “togs”.)
- Telly: Television. “Carn Merv, couldja turn the telly down?” “But the footy’s on luv!”
- Tinnie: A can of beer or a small metallic boat. You can also have a tinnie in a tinnie.
- Tracky-dacks: Sweatpants. A variation of ‘track pants’ or ‘track suit’
- Treechange: Like a seachange, this is a migration to another part of the country but rather than to the ocean to some place with lots of trees, like the bush in Oz, or Oregon.
- Uni: College. “Where d’ya go to uni? Monash? Where the hell is that”
- Woop-woop: Really far. ‘The SF Hub is great but why’s it in bloody woop-woop’
- Zebra crossing: Pedestrian crossing. “Zebra” sounds so much cooler! American ones are so pedestrian (– quip from the American I told this to)
Australian Slang Verbs
You use these Australian slang verbs as below.
- Bludge: To slack off, lounge around. You can also be a “dole bludger”, which is to slack off without a job, collecting unemployment benefits.
- Bomb: To cannonball into the pool. No kind of bombing is permitted in pools.
- Keen: Enthusiastic. “I’m super keen to get started but I’ve got to do this three month road trip around the US, can I start in 2018”
- Lark (to have a lark): To have a bit of fun. “You serious or havin’ a lark?”
- Queuing up: lining up. Non-developers have queues too.
- Reckon: To think. “I reckon we could pull it off.” or “Whaddaya reckon?” I think this is American English but like when I say “Fortnight” it makes me sound like I’m one of the Knights of the Round Table.
- Rock up: To go somewhere unceremoniously. “You gonna pre-book or just rock up?”
- Shoot through: To leave. “She didn’t stick around did she? Got to two years and then shot through”
- Skull: To chug. “Of course that protein shake was gross… you’re not supposed to chug it”
- Smash: To eat quickly OR beat someone. Different to how the kids use it. “Man I could smash a ham and cheese croissant!” or for the second use, “we raced… I totally smashed him.” (has caused a few looks of confusion). N.b. the colloquial US usage is gross.
- Spruik: To sell, promote. Pronounced ‘sprook’. “Instagram, these days isn’t that just bots spruiking stuff to other bots?”
- Pash: To kiss, in a not workplace-appropriate way. “I saw Mick and Sheryl pashing in the corridor! They got called up on it by HR”
- Pissing down: Raining heavily. “Man it’s pissing down! … For bloody once anyway”
- Trawl: To comb through something. “Let me trawl through the data for a while to see if anything weird is there”. (Actually realised this is American, but a surprising number of people write it as “troll”)
- Wag: Play hooky. “I wagged English for a straight semester and still got a B.”
- Whinge: Whine. “Aww we were out of steak for lunch and you had to make do with smoked duck? Go on, have a whinge”
I hope you found this guide to Australian slang useful. Obviously, there are heaps more expressions I could have put in, but this is an accurate record of what I actually used.
If you found this useful, send me thanks, ya goose!