Understanding Australian "Slang"

The Australian accent may not be a challenge to imitate or understand after living in Australia for a while, but the slang we use is a whole different story. Even those with an Australian heritage sometimes find themselves scratching their heads in confusion at some of the words uttered by their family and mates. As someone who has lived in Australia their whole life, I’ve identified three types of Australian slang.


Some Australian slang has become a stereotype for Australia and these terms were created with no reference to an original word. Some phrases include “Fair dinkum,” which is used to confirm something a friend has said or to assure someone that you are being genuine. Another is a word used commonly by the late Steve Irwin, “crikey,” which is Australian slang for “oh my god”. This type of slang is one of the more difficult types to understand for those outside of Australia as many might not understand the context or even what some of the words used mean. Believe me, you will not find the words “dinkum” or “crikey” in the Oxford Dictionary.


Another type of Australian slang involves changing words from their original forms to create different words altogether. The words were generated by Australians and are now well integrated into our vocabulary. Sometimes we don’t even realise we are using slang, as these words are so commonly used in everyday life.

Some examples include …

·         Bathers = Swimsuit

·         Bush = Countryside or forest

·         Ute = Pickup trucks

·         Nappies = Diapers

·         Petrol = Gasoline for a vehicle

·         Thongs = Flip flops


The other side of Australian slang isn’t as hard to understand as you might think. It really comes down to the fact that we shorten most of the words we use. So instead of saying the complete word, it is shortened down to only a snippet of its former self. This type of slang is most commonly used as it allows for people to understand what someone is talking about without too much thought into its meaning (it’s practically the same word). It’s all about connecting the dots as to what the word could be. Once you master this form of slang communication will become a lot easier.  

Some examples of this are…

·         G’day = Good day

·         Arvo = Afternoon

·         VB = Victoria Bitter (beer)

·         Defo = Definitely

·         Devo = Devastated

·         Tradie = Contractor or tradesman

·         Postie = Postman or Postwoman

·         Macca’s = McDonald's restaurants

·         Rego = Registration for a vehicle

·         Servo = Service station

·         Uni = University

·         Sunnies = Sunglasses


Australian slang is unlike any other in the world, ranging from words created from nothing to normal words being changed into completely new words. We even take everyday ordinary words and make them unique just by shortening the way they are spelt and pronounced. Incredible is it not?

Words by Mitchell Retallack


If you have any questions about this, or about any aspect of studying in Australia, please don’t hesitate to ask! Feel free to ask questions below in the comment section, or email us directly at hello@spiible.com. We are here to help!

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