21 Essential Australian Expressions
From bogans to brollies, here are the best Australian expressions, so you'll never be lost for words Down Under.
Illustrations by Noam Weiner
A debate has been bubbling in Australian politics over a proposed citizenship test. What exactly should be in it? In order to qualify as Australian, do you need to understand the rules of cricket, or be able to describe the benefits of Vegemite, or know the name of the Prime Minister? (Yes, no, and he’ll probably be sacked soon anyway).
A better test would be whether you can speak ‘Strayan, aka Australian, and this article will help you do just that. It’s pretty simple really — there are only a couple of rules to remember. First, abbreviate everything you can: football is footy, and you watch it on the telly. Second, swearing improves everything. Got it? Good. Let’s get cracking.
EXPRESSIONS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW
"Good on ya!"
Meaning: well done, good stuff
A general term of appreciation to be directed at people who’ve done something well, like buying another round of drinks or cooking dinner. Add “mate" or “love" onto the end for extra points.
You little ripper / You little beauty
Meaning: that’s terrific, how excellent
Typically roared at the TV upon seeing that your horse has won the race, or finding out that your last meeting of the day has been cancelled.
To crack onto somebody
Meaning: to try to kiss someone; to try to pick someone up
“She’s been cracking onto him all night," is how you might use this one. Expect to hear it in pubs and at barbies (barbecues). If two people pash - that’s Aussie for kissing passionately — then the operation is generally considered a success. If not…
Having a whinge
The rejected party may end up in a corner nursing an alcoholic beverage and “having a whinge" (or a sook). You can whinge about anything, really — the weather or your boss are always good targets — but Australians like to consider themselves fairly happy-go-lucky people, so this particular insult is typically flung at the following group below…
Meaning: derogatory word for a British person
A Pom, often a Whinging Pom (sometimes also Pommy or Pome), is a British person. Although it was thought to be an acronym of Prisoner Of Mother England, etymologists now believe this to be false. Much more likely is that it came from “pomegranate," an adaptation of Jimmy Grant which was, in turn, Australian rhyming slang for immigrant. This may have been down to the color English people turn under the harsh antipodean sun.
It’s chockers in here
Meaning: it’s crowded in here
The full word is “chockablock", which is clearly one syllable too many. "Jeez, it’s chockers in here," is as Australian as a meat pie. (i.e. very Australian!)
FOOD AND DRINK
Crack open a tinny
Meaning: open a can of beer
Australian — sorry, ‘Strayan — expressions to do with alcohol are many and varied. A tinny is a can, while a stubby is a little bottle. You’ll need to put them in an esky (a cooler) when you go camping or picnicking. It goes without saying that you’ll then need to buy a slab, i.e. a crate/case, so there’s enough for everyone. You can buy everything from the bottle-o down the road.
Just practice this sentence: "Hey, could you just pop down to the bottle-o and pick up a couple of slabs? And chuck one in the esky. Good on ya!"
Meaning: to throw up
“Jacko had a couple too many and he couldn’t quite make it to the dunny — ended up chundering all over the living room." (Dunny = outdoor toilet).
Australian barbecues are more than just a meal: they are a statement of purpose and a way of life. Many things can be thrown on the barbie: prawns, snags (sausages), steaks, hamburgers, kebabs, veggie skewers, fish, etc. Tofu is acceptable, although many Australians regard vegetarians with slight bemusement.
Beverages include as many tinnies or stubbies as you like, plus champers (champagne) and of course Cab-Sav (cabernet sauvignon). We’re a cultured lot.
SHORT AND SWEET (O, WHAT A WONDERFUL WORD)
“Saw Tommo down the pub this arvo, he must’ve been chucking a sickie" (pretending to be ill to skip work).
Although prohibitively expensive, ciggies — also known as durries or darts — are still around.
“Mate, these mozzies are killing me."
Australian breakfasts tend to be large and heart attack-inducing, including eggs, bacon, avo (avocado), beans, sausages, toast, etc.
Chuck on some tracky dacks
Meaning: put on some tracksuit pants
Tracky dacks are excellent for wearing around the house. In fact, if you’re at home and you’re not wearing any, do yourself a favor and go chuck on a pair.
Honestly, almost any word can be shortened in Australia, and most are. Don’t just take my word for it…
TERMS OF ENDEARMENT / ABUSE
Meaning: idiot, arrogant person, (lit) masterbator
This list would not be complete without wanker, a general word for the kind of people who think they’re better than everyone else, such as overdressed yuppies or hipster showoffs. Classic usage: “What a wanker." Tosser is also acceptable.
If the word originally came from Britain, it’s unmistakably Australian now. Many books have been written about the concept of "mateship." It extends far beyond your friends, and is a no-risk way to address a stranger, regardless of their age or gender: “Hey mate…"
Meaning: lazy person
Long before J.K. Rowling decided it was the name of a Quiddich ball, we were using bludger to describe the kind of people who never leave their couches. It’s been specifically adapted as a term of abuse for those who are considered welfare cheats, or dole bludgers.
Meaning: an uneducated person, often from a low-income family; similar to a chav in Britain
Bogans are… well, bogans. They may also be westies (people who live in the west); they probably wear tracky dacks in public; they are definitely not down with the latest craft beers. You may also hear about Cubs, who are Cashed Up Bogans. It’s not very polite, but can be quite endearing too.
AMERICAN TOURISTS BEWARE
To be pissed
Meaning: to be drunk
On her first visit to America, a friend of mine was horrified to hear a friend say “My grandma was driving down the road and man, she was so pissed." In Australia pissed means drunk. Pissed off means angry.
We do occasionally have to stifle a giggle when Americans talk about how sore their fannies are.
Meaning: flip flops; sandals
What you are thinking about is a g-string, but Down Under thongs go on your feet, and are an important part of the national ‘Strayan dress code.
- Ute — a pickup truck
- Sunnies — sunglasses
- Budgie smugglers — Speedos, a rather revealing kind of swimming costume
- Brolly — umbrella
- (to have a) bun in the oven — to be pregnant or preggers