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Planning a trip Down Under? Whether you are going to visit Australia for business or pleasure, it might help to brush up on your Australian English vocabulary.
English is the national language of Australia, fitting as the country used to be a British colony and is still a member of the Commonwealth. However, there are some differences in the English spoken in Australia compared to what’s spoken in the UK and even other majority English speaking countries like the USA.
Think of the Avengers, or specifically, the Avengers actors.
If you’ve seen an interview with Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans, you might have noticed that there was a difference between how the two speak.
Hemsworth is speaking Australian English, which has its own rules about pronunciation, grammar, and even its own distinct vocabulary.
If you have learned English as a second language, you should still be able to understand Australian English, but in order to really be able to communicate with native speakers, you need to familiarize yourself with Australian English vocabulary.
Hint: There's a PDF file waiting for you at the end of this article that you can download and print out!
Australian English history is shaped by the history of Australia. It is a mix of words taken from the Aboriginal people, words from British English, words from Irish English, and words from American English.
Australian English vocabulary has a lot of slang words and phrases that are a unique part of the vocabulary of an Australian English speaker. They may be words that were “made up” in Australia or just used differently in Australia then they would say in the UK or US.
The Aboriginals are a minority group in Australia now, but they used to be the only people in the continent before the arrival of the British.
There are almost 400 different Aboriginal languages, though many are not spoken by most of the population. They have, however, contributed to the Australian English vocabulary.
Most Aboriginal phrases in common use refer to the flora and fauna of the country as well as the environment.
Here are a few common examples:
|Billabong||a lake or pond created after a river has changed its course|
|Bombora||rapids if on a river, reef breaks if in the ocean|
|Dingo||yellow feral dog|
|Kangaroo||the hopping marsupial native to Australia|
|Koala||the fuzzy, teddy-bear like marsupial that tourists love getting a photo with|
|Wallaby||a smaller version of the kangaroo|
|Wombat||a stocky, ground-dwelling marsupial|
There is a distinctive type of accent that is thought of as “Australian” and one of the things that make it distinct is because of the way Australians pronounce things.
We will just take a quick look at some quirks of Australian pronunciation before we go on to give you an Australian English word list. It will help you understand the words when you hear them spoken.
Australian English is non-rhotic.
“R” sounds are dropped if they are found after a vowel and not followed with another vowel. So, “card” is “ca-d”.
“R” at the end of a word is pronounced like “ah”. So, “better” is “bett-ah”.
“I” is pronounced like “oi”
A soft “a”, such as what is in “cat”, is pronounced like “eh”
A hard “a”, such as what is in “mate”, is pronounced like “aye”
Words that end in “ing” get the “g” dripped. So “singing” is more like “singin”
Let’s take a quick look at some uniquely Australian English words that you might hear on your trip Down Under.
This is a generic term for beer in Australia. It usually means beer that is served cold or that is on-tap.
This is basically a shortened version of “Australian” and is a casual way to refer to anyone who is from Australia.
If someone tells you to grab your bathers, you’re probably going to the beach. This can refer to both men’s and women’s clothing.
This is a person who might be born disadvantaged but works hard to get ahead. It can also be used to refer to a courageous person.
This is basically short for “beauty” and Australians use both terms to mean something is amazing or excellent.
If you hear someone exclaim “bloody ripper”, they are saying something is “awesome” or cool.
This is a person who can’t be counted on to do their share of the work or do any work at all. It means someone who is lazy and doesn’t pull their weight.
These are two Australian terms that are similar to what’s known in American English as a “redneck”.
A bogan or yobbo, when used as a noun, refers to someone who is uncultured, vulgar, and maybe stupid and drunk.
The difference between the two terms is that the bogan can also be used as an adjective. So, you can describe something as “low-class” by calling it “boggie”.
This is a shop where you can buy alcohol.
In Australia, the purchase of alcohol is a bit restricted. You can’t get it in a supermarket; you need to go to the bottle shop.
Bottle shops often have strict opening times depending on what state in Australia you are in, so stock up!
These are what you call men’s board shorts in Australia.
Australians have a lot of slang terms that refer to a job that someone holds. In this case, a brickie is a builder, specifically a skilled bricklayer.
This is used to describe Melbourne and Sydney usually.
In some parts of Australia, there are public drinking fountains. These may be referred to as “the bubbler”.
This is what Australian’s use to refer to a specific type of male swimwear. Use your imagination to figure out what they are referring to here.
A slang term for someone who works in carpentry.
Yes, Australians will say “crikey” if they are amazed by something. It can also mean that they are surprised.
This is a slang term for a particular job, that of those who take away the trash.
Australians began using this term around the time of the First World War. It was meant to refer to how during the war, Australian soldiers would dig trenches.
Dinkum or “fair dinkum” are phrases that translate to “truth” or “speaking the truth.” It also means “authentic” or genuine.
This is a phrase that you can use when you mean “really”.
This is used to call someone stupid or call them out for acting stupid.
If you need to go to the bathroom or comfort room, ask where the “dunny” is.
This refers to portable coolers, the type you can take on picnics or to the beach, which keeps food and drinks cool.
When someone says “fair go” they are saying the situation is fair or that they are accepting it.
A stubby is a small bottle of beer, so if someone is a bottle short of a full pack of beer, they are not all there so just “a little stupid”.
Similar to being short a stubbie, being short a sandwich, means just a bit stupid.
If you hear the phrase “fully sick” in Australia, it’s basically a way to say “This is great!” It can be used to describe a situation or an object.
When you say you’re going to “take a gander” at something, you are going over to take a look.
This is basically a shortened version of the greeting “good day”. This is the most common way to say “hello” or greet someone in Australia.
When you hear this, someone is telling you to “try it”.
You can use heaps when you mean very in Australia. It’s most commonly used in the phrase “heaps good.” So, if you really like something, you can say that it was “heaps good”.
This is an Australian English phrase that is used to say goodbye or to take your leave.
This is a term that refers to agricultural workers.
If you are living or working in Australia, you want to hear an Australian call you their “mate.” While mate is usually meant to mean “romantic partner”, it’s more a general term for someone you have a good relationship with in Australia.
It can also be used as a casual greeting or acknowledgment. If you pass a stranger on the street and you make eye contact, they might say “mate” as a casual greeting.
This is probably one of the most recognized Australian slang phrases in the world. Basically, it means that nothing is wrong and everything is okay or “Great!”
This is an irreverent but rather affectionate way to refer to a mother and father.
The Outback refers to areas in Australia that are remote and sparsely-populated.
This is a slang term from the country of Australia.
This is Australian slang for someone from Britain.
Instead of calling them “sneakers” like the Americans or trainers like the Poms (see above), Australians call them runners.
In Australia, thongs are not underwear but rather footwear. You’ll probably see a lot of Australians wearing “thongs” on their feet at the beach.
If you hear an Australian say “too easy” they are basically saying that there are no problems.
This means gas station or service station. Somewhere you can buy gas and which often has a store on the premises where you can buy snacks and drinks.
This is a cute Australian term for an electrician. It’s a reference to the fact that they work with electricity.
If a child is upset – crying and maybe lying on the ground kicking – in Australia, that is known as “spitting the dummy”. If an adult is reacting in anger to something, they can also be “spitting the dummy.”
This is an exclamation of surprise in Australia.
This is a shortened version of “suspicious”, so it refers to someone who you don’t think is trustworthy. It can also be used to refer to an object or even a situation that is a bit iffy.
As we mentioned earlier, a stubbie is a beer bottle.
This means beer that comes in a can.
This is a slang term for a truck driver
When an Australian say’s that something is “true blue” they mean that it is “the real thing”. It’s an especially flattering term to use when describing someone as you are saying that they are genuine and honest.
If you speak English, there is a good chance that you will understand the Australian’s speaking English. However, if you really want to be fluent in Australian English, you need to work with a native language speaker.
If you have an online tutor who speaks Australian English, they can help you improve your pronunciation and your understanding of these Australian English words.
This will surely help you make and keep friends in Australia!
Do you want to have the list on your computer and print it out?
Get your copy of Australian English words here
Bathers, battler, beaut, dinkum, digger, dunny
Australian English uses ise, isi and isa, as in organise, organising and organisation
No worries is an Australian phrase that means Don't worry
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