15 Australian Slang Words to Help You Speak Like a Local

Snags on the barbie
Snags on the barbie | © Christopher Craig / Flickr
Tom Smith

Australian – pronounced ‘Strayan’ or ‘Strine’ in the local tongue – is a majestic language; a distant cousin of the Queen’s English that has developed by baking in the outback sun for the last couple of centuries. Learn these 15 phrases and you’ll seamlessly blend in with the locals, from ripper larrikins to bogan nuffies and everyone in between.

G’day (guh-day) / Hello

The words ‘good’ and ‘day’ jammed together to form Australia’s most common greeting. Often accompanied by an utterance of ‘howzitgarn’: the expression ‘how’s it going?’ mashed into one indistinct yet uniquely Australian drawl.

Aussie lifesavers laughing

Fair dinkum (fair dink-um) / Genuine

An article of unknown origin, although ‘dinkum’ is thought to derive from a phrase in the English Midlands meaning ‘work’ or a Chinese expression from the Gold Rush era meaning ‘true gold’. Today, this two-word adjective underlines authenticity, stresses veracity and adds emphasis, for example ‘This weather is fair dinkum unbelievable’ or ‘The English cricket team is fair dinkum hopeless’.

U-ey (you-wee) / U-turn

Apparently pronouncing words in their entirety is too much effort for Australians, so they embrace every opportunity for a contraction, such as this abbreviation of the common term for performing a 180-degree turn while driving. The noun is only ever paired with the verb ‘chuck’, as in ‘Hey mate, chuck a U-ey’.

Bottle-o (bot-low) / Off-licence, liquor store

The universal Australian abbreviation of ‘bottle shop’, a purveyor of alcoholic beverages; what a Pom (Englishman) would call an off-licence or a Yank (American) would call a liquor store. The place where Australians pick up their grog, piss, turps, coldies, frothies, stubbies, tinnies and slabs. Yes, Australian-English is a rich, colourful dialect when it comes to alcohol.

Australian beers

Esky (ess-key) / Ice chest

A portable, insulated receptacle used to cool grog, piss, turps, coldies, frothies, stubbies, tinnies and slabs, with the assistance of a bag of ice picked up from the servo (service station, or gas/petrol station). The esky also doubles as a makeshift a seat, dinner table, or wicket for a game of backyard cricket.

Chockers (chock-ahs) / Full

Also ‘chock-a-block’or ‘chock-full’, originally naval slang during World War II. These days the term means extremely full, as in ‘Sydney’s roads are fair dinkum chockers’ or ‘We can’t fit any more stubbies in the esky, it’s totally chockers’.

Barbie (bar-bee) / Barbecue

The label given to both the appliance that sizzles snags (sausages), as well as the time-honoured social gathering chock-a-block full of merriment and revelry. Unrelated to the blonde-haired children’s doll of the same name, and contrary to popular belief, rarely used in the same sentence as the word ‘shrimp‘.

Prawns on the barbie

Munted (mun-ted) / Drunk

A colourful adjective used to describe a state of inebriation when someone has indulged in one too many frothies, also known as being pissed, legless, blind, or as full as the back of a plumber’s ute. Munted also means something (or someone) that is unpleasant on the eye; ugly.

Arvo (arr-voh) / Afternoon

Another classically Australian diminutive that refers to the best time of day to pop down to the bottle-o, pick up some grog to stick in the esky, slip some snags on the barbie, then get fair dinkum munted.

Pash (pash) / Kiss

An indelicate description of kissing passionately, hence the name. Pashing typically leads to two things: pash rash (red marks around the lips caused by excessive kissing), and/or rooting (the crass Australian term for the birds and the bees).

Couple preparing to pash

Bogan (bow-gun) / Redneck

Britain has chavs, the United States has rednecks, and Australia has bogans. Often spotted in their traditional dress – flannelette shirt, footy shorts and thongs – with a cigarette in one hand, a bourbon in the other, with a mullet shading the tattoos on their neck.

Larrikin (la-rick-un) / Maverick

The embodiment of Australia’s national character, best defined by the country’s pre-eminent historian Manning Clark as ‘larger than life, sceptical, iconoclastic, egalitarian yet suffering fools badly, and, above all, defiant’. A fair dinkum Aussie.

Nuffy (nuff-ee) / Idiot

Everyone wants to be a larrikin, but no one wants to be a nuffy, a term that refers to someone whose IQ lies in the vicinity of their shoe size. Also known as a nuff nuff, mick mock, spud, mug, boof head, drongo, dipstick or galah.

Well-known bogan nuffy, One Nation politician Pauline Hanson

Deadly (ded-lee) / Great

A term chiefly used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people meaning awesome or wicked. Other Australian (and perhaps slightly more bogan) colloquialisms that express the same sentiment include ripper, bonza, grouse and heaps good.

Bugger (bug-gah) / Various

The most versatile word in the Australian vernacular. Can be used as a noun to mean thing (e.g. ‘Slippery little bugger’) or nothing (‘This grog cost bugger all’), as a verb to mean ruin (‘You had one job and you buggered it up’) or waste time (‘I buggered around all arvo’), as an adjective to mean tired (‘I’m buggered after work’), as an imperative to mean get lost (‘Bugger off’), or as a mildly profane exclamation (‘Bugger!’).

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