Travelling to a foreign country can be daunting, particularly if everyone around you is speaking a different language.
One particularly difficult thing about travelling to Brisbane, Australia is that you can speak English with perfect fluency- even as a first language- and still find yourself in situations where you have no idea what someone is trying to tell you.
Some of the most stereotypical Australian slang words have declined in usage. But there are a number of other words and phrases in Australia that are so widely spoken, Australians themselves fail to realise that they are speaking in slang.
Australian slang has a mixed origin and some of the most widely used words derive from British slang or Aboriginal languages.
Here is a guide to some of the every-day Australian words, phrases and abbreviations along with examples of ways to use them.
A short list of places and things you are likely to hear about while you’re in Australia.
This abbreviation can be hard to understand when it is slurred into a sentence. ‘This arvo’ can often sound like ‘The sarvo.’
- “I’m going for a drive this ”
- “Are you working Monday arvo?”
Bloke: Male/man. Particularly someone whose name you don’t know.
- “I went for a walk yesterday arvo and I ran into the bloke who works at the corner shop.”
Lollie: Confectionary. Equivalent of ‘sweets’ or ‘candy’.
“My teeth hurt from eating too many lollies.”
Mate: A friendly term often used to denote friendship. This word can also be used between strangers in a casual setting.
Avoid using ‘mate’ in formal situations, particularly when addressing your boss or professor.
– “Emily and I have been best mates since high-school.”
- “Hey mate, do you know where train station is?”
- “Yeah mate, it’s just over next to the lollie”
Mozzie– A mosquito.
- “I got swarmed my mozzie’s at my mate’s place the other day.”
A thrift-store or shop selling secondhand goods. Short for ‘opportunity shop.’
“I found a great pair of boots for five bucks at the op-shop.”
Pub: A bar, restaurant or both. This word describes establishments that serve food and meals, some of which also provide accommodation. Most pubs have designated areas for families with children, while the bar and casino area are 18+.
- “I went to the pub to get a drink with my friends and I ran into John and Emily. They were having dinner with her kids.”
Sanga: A sandwich.
- “The pub near my place does the best toasted cheese sanga.”
Spag- bol: Spaghetti Bolognaise.
- “My parents cook spag- bol every time I visit them.
Servo: Fuel station/garage. Short for ‘service station’, this word can also refer to the small convenient store combined with the gas-filling facilities.
- “I need to stop for petrol. Do you want to grab a sanga from the servo?”
Smoko: A short break from work taken mid-morning. Similar to morning tea.
- “I went to the shop across the road on my smoko to get a coffee.”
Squiz: A quick look.
- “I had a squizz at the new op-shop on my smoko.”
In some states, ‘cossie’ is used.
- “My new place has a swimming pool so bring your togs.”
“I need to buy some new cossies before we go to the pool.”
Thongs: Open-toe backless sandals. Flip-flops.
“I’ve packed a pair of thongs in case we go to the beach.”
Adjectives and Adverbs
These are informal ways of describing things and people around you.
- “The sunset was bloody gorgeous!”
Bodgie: Bad quality. Inferior or fake.
- “I told you that used car was bodgie. The window tint is peeling and the left indicator is broken.”
Crook: Sick or unwell.
- “I woke up crook this morning so I called my boss to say I won’t be coming in.”
Deadly: An Aboriginal slang word meaning ‘fantastic’ or ‘great.’
- Wow, that comedian put on a deadly
Devo: Dissapointed. This is an abbreviation of “devastated”, but is normally used to exaggerate the misfortune.
- “I’m so devo I was too crook to go to the party.”
Heaps good: Very good. Most common in South Australia.
- “Did you see that heaps good band at the pub the other day?”
Knackered: Tired, exhausted.
- “I’m so knackered after doing a night shift. I think I need a nap later this arvo.”
Stoked: Very pleased.
- “I was stoked when I saw my son’s report card.”
Actions and activities in Australian slang.
Cark it: To die or to stop functioning.
- “I took my pet bird to the vet… I think she’s going to cark it”
- “My old CD player just carked it the other day.”
Crack onto: To express romantic interest, sometimes unwanted.
- “Don’t invite John. He’ll crack onto all your friends.”
Go off: 1. To be enjoyable or to attract a crowd.
– “This party is really going to go off.”
- To express anger.
– “My housemate goes off at me if I forget to turn the light off.”
Note: The difference between these usages can usually be determined by the context.
Reckon: To think, assume or consider as being. Sometimes this word is used simply to affirm what somebody else is saying.
– “I reckon it’s going to rain today.”
– “It was freezing cold when I woke up this morning!”
“ I reckon!”
Rock up: Arrive somewhere, particularly at an unexpected time.
– “You can’t rock up to my house at 3am.”
– “What time do you reckon Jo will rock up to the party?”
Shout: To buy something for someone in a social setting. This often implies taking turns.
- “You bought the movie tickets, so I’ll shout us dinner.”
Greetings and Fairwells
G’day: Abbreviation of “Good day.”
How’s it going?/ How you doing?: How are you going? Common responses include ‘Good’ ‘Yeah, not bad’ or ‘Alright’ if you’re not doing too well. Most people who use this greeting are not expecting a detailed answer.
Have a good one: Have a good day/night/weekend.
- “See you next week.”
“Yeah, have a good one.”
Take it easy: Often used when saying goodbye to someone.
- “See ya later. Take it easy”
These expressions are widely understood in Australia.
Bring a plate: Often in regards to a picnic or gathering, this phrase does not mean that the host has a shortage of tableware. Rather, it is a suggestion for guests to each bring a plate or platter of food to share.
- “If we tell all the guests to bring a plate then we won’t have to stress about catering for everyone.”
Dead set: Absoloutley sure or serious.
- “My parents were dead set against me getting a tattoo.”
Not my cup of tea: Not my preference or interest, though not necessarily bad.
- “I can see that the guitarist has talent, but the music style just is not my cup of tea.”
No worries: Confirmation, forgiveness or welcome.
- “Sorry I’m late.”
– “Thanks for driving me to the airport!”
“Oh, no worries at all!”
Tall Poppy Syndrome: This phrase describes the perceived social phenomenon of criticising or ‘bringing down’ others who are successful and high-profile.
- “I think Jo has a case of tall poppy syndrome– she seems to hate every Australian artist who does well overseas.”
Being able to pick up on these words and phrases will improve your ability to understand those around you.
However, many people who have lived in Australia there whole life continue to learn new slang words as they travel to new places and meet different people.
If you are struggling to understand something, it is often a good idea to ask. Chances are, the person you are talking to does not realise that the term they are using is colloquial.
But whatever part of the country you visit, the slang featured in this article is a vital starting point. Becoming familiar with these every-day slang words and phrases will make it easier to communicate with others.