Down-Under Dictionary

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Words and phrases you may encounter in Australia and New Zealand

Aboriginal — (adj.) relating to Australia’s indigenous people (note: “Aborigine” is an outdated term, and calling an Aboriginal person an “Abbo” is an insult)

Air-con — (n.) air conditioning

Ambo — (n.) ambulance; ambulance officer

Anzac — (n.) initially the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, but now a word meaning “soldier” in general, because of the courage and virtue of the volunteer Anzac soldiers who died at Gallipoli in WWI in 1915; Anzac Day is a public holiday in both Australia and New Zealand, observed on April 25 each year

Arvo — (n.) afternoon

Aussie — (adj.) Australian; (n.) an Australian person

Aussie rules — (n.) Australian rules football; a sport kind of like rugby, often played on a modified cricket ground; honestly, I still don’t understand the game or know how it differs from rugby, but don’t expect it to be anything like American football or regular football (aka. “soccer”)

Avo — (n.) avocado

Barbie — (n.) barbecue, either referring to the grill itself or the barbecue event as a whole

Barrack — (v.) to “root” for a team (NEVER say that you’re “rooting” for a team, because that means something entirely different…)

Bloody — (adv.) very; used to emphasize a point

Bogan — (n.) an uncultured person, “redneck”

Bottle-o — (n.) liquor store

Brekkie/Brekky — (n.) breakfast

Brissy — (n.) nickname for the Australian city of Brisbane

(the) Bush — (n.) the countryside; when you travel a couple hours inland from a big city, you’re in the bush

Cabbie — (n.) cab driver

Cark [it] — (v.) to break down, die; usually used with inanimate objects

Cheeky — (adj.) brazen or irreverent, usually in an endearing or amusing way

Chips — (n.) can either mean French fries or potato chips

Chuck a u-ey — (expression) make a u-turn

Ciggy — (n.) cigarette

C**t — (n.) ok, so most people know what this word means, but it’s included here because the connotation of the word is very different in Australia (and probably New Zealand, too) in that the word is far more common and less offensive; it can actually be used playfully with friends and even some family members; if someone calls you this word (and you haven’t done anything wrong), that’s a good thing — it means they consider you a friend

Defo — (adv.) definitely

Devo — (adj.) devastated

Dino — (n.) a university dining hall; cafeteria

Drongo — (n.) fool, idiot

Drop bear — (n.) a myth made up to scare tourists — it’s a koala photoshopped to look angry, and mischievous  Australians will tell you that they drop from the trees and attack you; don’t be fooled — they’re not real

Duzza/durry — (n.) cigarette

EFTPOS — (n.) “Electronic funds transfer at point of sale”; the electronic system for paying with cards in Australia and New Zealand; it works just like swiping your card anywhere else, but for the longest time I had no clue what people were talking about when they said “EFTPOS” so I thought others might want to know

Esky — (n.) cooler; ice box

Fair dinkum — (adv.) true, genuine; this phrase is used to emphasize these qualities

Fair go — (n.) a fair, reasonable chance

Fairy floss — (n.) cotton candy

Flybys — (n.) coupons

Footy — (n.) football (aka. “soccer”)

G’day — (greeting) ah, “g’day” — meaning “good day” — is the most stereotypical phrase in all of Australian culture; while foreigners often have the impression that Australians say “G’day” all the time (Thanks, Crocodile Dundee), it’s actually not a very common phrase among the younger generations in Australia; however, the greeting has stuck around in New Zealand, where you’re surprisingly more likely to hear it; as a rule of thumb, I’d recommend only saying it back after someone says it to you

Garbo — (n.) garbage collector

Gladdy — (n.) nickname for the Australian city of Gladstone

Gobsmacked — (adj.) surprised, amazed

Golden Gaytime — (n.) a particular ice cream bar brand

Gone walkabout — (expression) wandered off; lost

Good onya — (exclamation) “good on you”; well done

Goon — (n.) cask wine; often drank by the youth straight out of the silver goon bag that’s inside the box

Goorie — (n.) Aboriginal term for an Indigenous Australian

Grog — (n.) alcohol

Hair of the dog — (n.) having the “hair of the dog” means you’re using an alcoholic drink to cure a hangover

Heaps — (adv.) a lot

Hotel — (n.) sometimes actually a hotel, but oftentimes, an establishment called a “hotel” is a bar

Hungry Jack’s — (n.) the exclusive Australian franchise of Burger King; they sell pretty much all the same food (Whoppers, chicken fries, etc.)

Jandals — (n.) “Jesus sandals”; a New Zealander term for flip-flops

Joey — (n.) baby kangaroo

Keen — (adj.) eager

Kia ora — (greeting) “hello” in New Zealand Maori

Kiwi — (n.) a person from New Zealand; it’s not offensive at all — the term “Kiwi” is used with pride and endearment; the name comes from the native kiwi bird, the national animal of New Zealand

Lollies — (n.) sweets, candy

Macca’s — (n.) McDonald’s; this isn’t just slang — the official McDonald’s Australia website even uses the term to refer to itself

Maggot — (adj.) drunk; (n.) despicable person

Maori — (n.) the indigenous people of New Zealand

Marae — (n.) a meeting house in New Zealand Maori communities; often a central location in the village

Mate — (n.) a friend; can have different meanings as an address, depending on the tone, though

Me — (pron.) my

Mozzie — (n.) mosquito

Nah, yeah — (exclamation) yes; informal

Oath — (adv.) see “fair dinkum”

Outback — (n.) the desert bush, deep inland

Oz — (n.) Australia

PayWave — (n.) the ability to pay simply by waving your card over the machine; cards in Australia and New Zealand do this, but a lot of international cards (including American ones) don’t; if you see a cashier waving your card in front of the machine and they look perplexed because nothing is happening, tell them your card doesn’t do payWave

Petrol — (n.) gasoline; don’t ever say you’re “getting gas”, or else people will think you’re farting

Piss farting around — (v.) wasting time

Piss up — (n.) an event containing alcohol

Pissed — (adj.) drunk; OR, angry

Pissing down — (expression) raining heavily

Pokies — (n.) slot machines

Postie — (n.) postman

Prawn — (n.) a shrimp; do NOT say, “Throw a shrimp on the barbie” under any circumstances because Australians use the word “prawn” instead

Roo — (n.) kangaroo

Root — (v.) to have sexual intercourse; do NOT saying that you’re “rooting” for a team

Sammie/sammo/sambo — (n.) sandwich

Sausage sizzle — (n.) a barbecue-like gathering where people eat grilled sausages

Seedy — (adj.) physically out of it, as when hungover; OR, sleazy

Servo — (n.) petrol (gas) station

She’ll be right — (expression) everything will be alright

Sheila — (n.) woman; more common among the older generations

Sickie — (n.) a sick day from school or work, because of real or faked illness

Skoin on — (exclamation) “What’s going on?”

Skol — (v.) to “chug” or “down” a drink really quickly

Snag — (n.) a sausage; often served on white sandwich bread with “tomato sauce” (ketchup)

Sos — (expression) “sorry”; informal

Spag bol — (n.) slang for “spaghetti bolognese”

Sparky — (n.) electrician

Spew — (n. or v.) vomit

Straya — (n.) Australia

Stubbie — (n.) a short beer bottle

Sus — (adj.) suspicious

Sweet as — (exclamation) sweet, awesome; Australians add the “as” to give emphasis

Sunday sesh — (n.) social gathering of friends on a Sunday, usually involves drinking lots of alcohol

Tassie — (n.) nickname for the Australian island state of Tasmania

Tea — (n.) a snack or light lunch — doesn’t necessarily entail drinking tea; more common among the older generations

Tena koe — (greeting) “hello” in New Zealand Maori; less formal than “kia ora”

Thickshake — (n.) a milkshake; if you order a “milkshake”, you might get something thinner/more watery than what you really wanted

Thongs — (n.) sandals, flip-flops (NOT underwear — a fellow American friend was very alarmed when his lab supervisor at the university said she had to take off her thongs before beginning an experiment. She meant that she needed to wear closed-toed shoes.)

Tomato sauce — (n.) ketchup

Togs — (n.) swim trunks

Trackie/tracky/trakky dacks — (n.) tracksuit pants; sweatpants

Tradie — (n.) a tradesman; many specific tradesmen have their own nicknames, too (see: “ambo”, “garbo”, “sparky”, “truckie”)

Trolley — (n.) shopping cart

Truckie — (n.) truck driver

Uni — (n.) university; don’t say “college” to refer to a university, since they’re not the same thing (a college can only grant certificates or diplomas, not degrees)

Ute — (n.) utility vehicle; pick-up truck

VB — (n.) Victoria Bitter beer

Wanker — (n.) a person who is obnoxious and annoying, and/or self-indulgent and self-centered

Whinge — (v.) to whine or complain

Woolies — (n.) short for Woolworths, one of the two main grocery store chains that dominate Australia

Yeah, nah — (exclamation) no; informal

Yobbo/yob — (n.) an unrefined, uncultured; slobbish person; a hooligan

Yous — (pron.) plural of “you”

Zed — (n.) the letter “Z”; really, most of the English-speaking world pronounces it this way except for Americans

This is an ever-expanding list. Know any useful and/or funny Down-Under words or phrases that we missed? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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