A Quick Guide To Australian Slang


International Language A quick guide to Australian Slang (1)

I received a comment from Jesslyn, who asked after I mentioned eating a Choc Top a the cinema what it was, and even though I try to make the terminology I use fairly international, I thought it would be good to share a glossary of terms so that my Australianisms don’t confuse (plus a whole lot of other Australian idioms for fun)!

choc top – ice cream treat available at the cinema, usually vanilla ice-cream in a flat bottom cone covered in a hard chocolate topping shell.

arvo – afternoon

barbie – BBQ

bathers – swimmers, swimming costume

bludger – someone who doesn’t work and relys on social security payments

bogan – someone without class, chav

buckley’s – no chance

bum bag – fanny pack

cactus – broken

chemist – pharmacy or drugstore

chewie – Chewing gum

coathanger – Sydney Harbour Bridge (not that I’ll be using it in this way on this blog)

dag – term of endearment, but for a kind of nerdy act or person

duds – clothes

grundies – underpants (rhyming slang from Reg Grundy who was a tv producer)

g-string — thong

jug – electric kettle

jumper – sweater

jumper, pullover — sweater

knock – Negative

lift – elevator

lolly – candy/sweets

mozzy — mosquito

nappy – diaper

nuddy – naked

pants – trousers (not underwear)

piker – someone who cancels all the time or leaves early from social situations

polo – Golf Shirt

prawn – Shrimp

purse – Pocketbook

shonky – dodgy, bad quality

singlet – undershirt/vest

skivvy – long necked (turtle necked) tight jersey long sleeve top

stockings – nylons

sunnies – sunglasses

thongs – flip flops (not underwear)

togs – swimmers

trackies – track suit/sweat suit

wardrobe — closet

whinge — complain

Is there any word I’ve used that you’ve wondered what it meant?


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  • These translations are good. I guess if you speak and use an odd word, I´d have difficulties. The word "arvo", is it commonly used, a total new one for me?

  • Whaaat! I am shocked to hear about polo. In Canada it's like in the US, a golf shirt. Which way do you use it, Imogen?

    – tall & slim anon

  • THANKS! And I was right – a tasty treat we can't get at the movies here. At least not at any theater near me!
    "Shonky" What a great word!!

  • Great list, Imogen. Also, what about 'skivvy' (which means maid/servant in the UK) but means high-necked long-sleeved top here …

  • Metscan – yes we use Arvo all the time – like "see you in the arvo"

    Mary – Polo – yes we call polo shirts the same as you, but we have a polo jumper which is like a turtleneck jumper.

    Jesslyn – there are heaps more great descriptive words in the Australian/English dictionary!

    Tiffany – great – I'll add in skivvy!

  • "Is there any word I've used that you've wondered what it meant?"

    Yeah – "H Shape." And "8 Shape."

    But you've done a great job of explaining what those mean, too, so I'm not confused any more. (Now I'm just craving a Choc Top!)

  • Great! I'll be emailing this list to some of my US friends. I once came unstuck when I said on an email list that I was putting on a jumper because it was cold. To them "jumper" meant what we would call a pinafore — over there you have to say "sweater" (And of course what my English grandmother used to call a pinafore is what we would call an apron!)

    But "grundies"? Must be a Melbourne word, I've never heard that here in Sydney! 🙂

  • Skivvy: that's funny, 'cause "skivvies" in the US was a military slang word for underwear. It may have started out as what your "skivvy" means but came to be used for mens' undergarments only.

    Lots of words for underwear aren't there…

  • What about swimwear .. in Australia we say cossies, swimmers, budgie smugglers (men's swimmers), or even Speedos … are they foreign words in other places?

  • Thanks for this fascinating post, Imogen. I love linguistics and work origins and am memorizing these great new words! Many are the same as in the UK, like jumper but some are unique to Oz.

    …and Budgie smugglers…lololol!!!

  • Thanks for the list of words. These are so interesting to know. Now I can understand more of my Australian friends better than before.

  • These are fun. You wrote ‘carbie’, but I know you meant to write ‘barbie’. Then you described it as a BBQ or barbeque. Here in the U.S., at least the parts I’m familiar with, a barbeque would be called a grill, that appliance on which you cook foods outdoors. And ‘to barbeque’ would mean to cook meats in a particular method involving smoking and long cooking, producing famously-delicious barbequed beef or pork in places like Kansas City, and throughout the South, particularly Texas.

  • Hi guys. I’m from Sydney and have heard of grundies, but it’s true we don’t use it much here (as far as I know). Great posts by the way! ☺️

  • Onya Immy, you’re a dinkum sheila. Lol
    In Queensland we call hand luggage or school bags “ports”. Not crazy. Its short for portmanteau.

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