The ultimate guide to Australian slang, written by an American living in Australia.
Australian slang is world-famous. It’s one of the few things I knew about Australia before actually coming here.
As someone who grew up far away from Australia and never knew anyone from here for most of my life, these were the things I always heard:
- Australia is full of unique and also deadly creatures
- Everyone surfs and is super chill
- The Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House are there (thanks Finding Nemo)
- Australians abbreviate every word they possibly can
Seriously, for the majority of my life, that was all I knew about Australia. And surely I’m not alone.
Now that I’ve lived here for about 3 years, I’ve learned that most of the stereotypes are true, to an extent.
Australia does have lots of deadly creatures but they’re pretty rare and mostly live in remote areas. So don’t think you’re going to find poisonous snakes or deadly spiders while sightseeing in Sydney.
Also, most Australians are really chill. That is true. Not everyone surfs, but most people do in certain areas.
In addition to the Reef and the Opera House, Australia is incredibly diverse. It is home to tropical rainforests, snowy mountains, sandy deserts, exotic islands, national parks, wine countries, and lots of iconic cities.
My bucket list of things to do in Australia keeps growing every day.
But the Aussie slang is EXACTLY how I pictured it. It is just as outrageous, entertaining, and sometimes confusing as you think it is.
Lots of people have suggested I write this article, so I’m finally doing it.
Read more about my experience living in Australia: PROS AND CONS OF LIVING IN AUSTRALIA
The Ultimate Guide To Australian Slang (From an American Perspective)
Here is my ultimate guide to Aussie slang.
I honestly learn new words all the time. This list could turn into a novel, but I’ll just list the most basic words that you hear often.
Also, I’m writing this from an American perspective because I am from the USA. So my translations will be to American English. I’ll list the Australian slang word first, then list the translation.
When Australians refer to places, such as cities or countries, this is what you’ll most likely hear.
Aus or Straya – Australia
The Big Smoke – Sydney
The Gong – Wollongong
Brissy – Brisbane
Melbs – Melbourne
Tassie – Tasmania
Indo – Indonesia
The next category of Australian slang is the most common and the easiest to pick up on.
Most words are simply just shortened. Here are some examples.
Choccy – chocolate
Boardies – board shorts
Wettie – wetsuit
Bottle-o – short for bottle shop, which means liquor store
Sanga or Sambo – sandwich
Sauso – sausage
Lappy – laptop
Brekky – breakfast
Rego – registration
Arvo – afternoon
Avo – Avocado
Petty – Petrol (Which we refer to as “gas” in America)
Maccas – McDonalds
Smoko – smoke break
Chrissie – Christmas
Flanno – flannel shirt
You get the gist of it. These shortened words are so integrated into Aussie culture that the original word barely exists.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard an Australian say the word “chocolate” or “breakfast”.
One time I saw an official document that asked for “rego” instead of “registration”. It literally said “rego” in writing.
I find this very fun to listen to.
Read next: Ultimate Guide to the Australian Working Holiday Visa (1st and 2nd years)
Australian Slang Words That Are Completely Different
This category of Aussie slang words is much more confusing for foreigners. Australians use entirely different words for certain things.
I will add, some of these slang words are also common in the UK or other English speaking countries. But compared to American English, these words are different.
For example, I still don’t know the difference between a sweater and a jumper and a cardigan and a sweatshirt. The USA, England, and Australia all seem to use them differently.
Anyway, here’s the list.
Capsicum – bell pepper
Coriander – cilantro
Runners or Joggers – sneakers
Jumper – sweater and/or sweatshirt or hoodie
Trackies or trackie dacks – sweatpants
Till – Cash Register
Bin – Trash Can
Thongs – flip flops
G-String – thong
Miso – short for “missus”, which means girlfriend
Chook – chicken
Chips or Chippies – French fries (Potato chips, or “crisps” as they say in the UK, are also called chips)
Cozzies or Swimmers– bathing suit
Lollies – all candy excluding chocolate, which is choccy
Esky – cooler
Bench – Counter
Ok, that last one STILL drives me crazy. Australians call a countertop a “bench”.
Imagine my confusion while working in a cafe and my boss is telling me to clean the bench. Then when I start cleaning the benches that you sit on, he says “no, the BENCH” and points to the COUNTER.
Apparently a bench that you sit on is also called a bench?????
So Australian is sometimes confusing.
Other Australian Slang Phrases
These are some other common phrases and words that Australians use.
Ice block or icy pole – popsicle
Lady beetle – lady bug
Flat out – really busy
Chokkas, short for chock a block – meaning super crowded, very full, jammed, etc.
Bloody Oath or F*ckin Oath – sort of like a “hell yeah!”, can also be shortened to just “oath”
Bogan – A super Australian person generally from a small town, sort of like the Aussie version of a redneck
Budgie Smugglers – A brand of tiny men’s swim trunks, like Speedos
Fair – mall/shopping center
I’m going to elaborate on that last one because it still confuses me.
In America, a mall is a big shopping center and a fair is like a carnival.
In Australia, a fair is a big shopping center and a mall is the strip of shops in a town center.
So the big Miranda shopping center near me, which I would call a mall, the Aussies call “Miranda Fair”.
And people say “Cronulla mall” when referring to the main street of the town Cronulla.
So again, this can be confusing when you live here.
But most slang words are just fun and entertaining. I love when people say “Bloody Oath”.
“Lady Beetles” might just be the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.
Click here to read about my experience living and working in the Daintree Rainforest in QLD
Other Random Differences in Language and Culture
Here are a few other language differences I’ve noticed in Australia.
Scissors Paper Rock
In America, we say “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot” and you throw your hand signal on “Shoot”.
In Australia, they say “Scissors, Paper, Rock”. The timing and rhythm of the words are all different, and they throw their hand signal on “Rock”.
In the few times I’ve played this game here, I’ve had to adapt to the Aussie way.
Happy Birthday Song
Ok, the Happy Birthday song is the same in Australia.
However, Australians alway chant “Hip hip HORRAY” 3 times after the song. ALWAYS.
Iced coffee in America is a cup of ice, milk, and coffee.
If you ask for an “iced coffee” in Australia, you’ll get a normal iced coffee but with a scoop of ice cream and lots of whipped cream on top.
Overall, the names for coffee drinks in Australia are super different and take a while to adjust to.
Words Pronounced Differently
Some words are the same in American and Australian English, but they are pronounced differently (aside from just the normal differences in accent).
Australians tend to pronounce most of these words like they do in the UK.
I don’t really know how to spell differences in pronunciation for words like “aluminum” and “oregano”, but they are very different here.
Other examples include:
Herb: Australians and English people do pronounce the “H” at the beginning. In America we don’t. To be honest, I think we’re wrong on that one. Why is the “H” silent? It doesn’t make sense. I say it the Australian/English way now because it sounds better.
Scone: Alternatively, I think Australians are very wrong on this one. They say “Scon” as if there is no “e” on the end. I get laughed at for saying “scone”, and I don’t get it.
I can’t think of any other examples right now. But in general, it is amazing living in a country that speaks your language, but with a twist.
I can usually understand everything, but the accents and the slang keep things interesting.
Read about my experience working as a fruit picker in Australia here!
So that concludes my guide to Australian slang!
I hope this article was fun to read!
It’s definitely fun hearing these words every day. The slang is honestly one of my favorite things about living in Australia.
If you’re planning on traveling to Australia, here are some quick travel tips:
- Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights! June – September is generally when flight prices will be the lowest.
- Everyone needs a visa to enter Australia. Visit the Australian Immigration website to apply for a visitor visa.
- Consider doing a work exchange in Australia! You can live with locals, try something new, and save money on accommodation. Read my Guide To Work Exchange for more ideas.
- Australia is an expensive country. If you’re not working for your accommodation, you’ll save the most money by staying in hostels.
For more Australia travel inspiration, check out these articles:
1 Week In Sydney: Itinerary For The Outdoorsy Traveler
10 Amazing Things To Do In Tropical North Queensland
East Coast Australia Road Trip Guide (Noosa to Sydney)
22 Fun Things To Do In Brisbane
NSW South Coast Road Trip Guide
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2 thoughts on “Australian Slang: The Ultimate Guide (From An American’s Perspective)”
To see even more of Australia. Ride your push bike from Sydney to Perth, spending a day or so in all the country towns. This way you can see what makes them tick.
Super cool idea!