Language and Culture

Aussie slang – a pocket guide

Arriving to a new and different country can be endlessly exciting, but also absolutely terrifying. For people coming from a non-English background, there is a massive language barrier that needs to be crossed. Not only in terms of learning new words and phrases, but also stepping way out of your comfort zone and dealing with tricky situations, resulting in the occasional game of miming or charades. As for me, having travelled all my life, I thought I had the English language in the palm of my hand… Oh boy was I wrong. And I learnt that the hard way.

To give you an example of why a pocket guide to the Australian language may come in handy for all newcomers, I’ll share a lil’ story with you first. There was one tiny word that caused me to boil with confusion and frustration: THONGS!

An Australian bloke approached me at surf camp in Seven Mile Beach, NSW (my second day in Australia), accusing me of stealing his thongs. Being European, I thought he was enquiring about my underwear. I mean, whatever floats your boat, if you wanna wear thongs (g-string) that’s absolutely fine by me.. but I have CERTAINLY not mistaken my underwear for yours, na-ah. He was asking, I was denying. 5 minutes in, we were getting nowhere and he was getting quite frustrated with me.

In my entire life of travelling, through 20-something countries, I had never ever heard anyone refer to the word THONGS as anything but a pair of women’s underwear – a g-string! Feeling dumb as a doornail for not realising my shoes were twice the size of my feet, I took off the size 45 black FLIPFLOPS (don’t know about the rest of Europe but in Norway we call them flip-flops), and handed them back to the gentleman. He thanked, smiled and walked away.

Language barrier: crossed. Cultural barrier: crossed. Prospects for future friendship: highly unlikely…

Chilling at Surf Camp with my friend... without thongs obviously

Chilling at Surf Camp with my friend… without thongs obviously

Aaanyways. After living in Australia for almost three years, and sharing a home with two Australian blokes for two of them, I have somewhat broadened my vocabulary of Aussie terms and expressions. Therefore, with any further ado, I give you a quick pocket guide to a handful of the most common Aussie expressions (ok not all the most common ones, considering they would be heavily censored):


Joey = baby kangaroo in kangaroo mum’s pouch
Roo = kangaroo
Croc = crocodile
Mozzie = mosquito
Maggie = magpie (black devil bird that swoops down on your head with zero good intentions)


Brekkie = breakfast
Afternoon tea = meal in the afternoon, usually before dinner. (you can imagine my face visiting my boyfie’s grandparents, accepting said tea … just to be served anything BUT tea. Say wuut?)
Smoko = break during work usually including a cigarette and something to eat or drink
Anzac biscuits = traditional biscuits, used to be sent with soldiers into the battlefields during WW1
Avo = avocado
Hungry Jacks = Burger King for any Europeans out there
Barbie = barbecue
Lemonade = Sprite

Is this aussie slang for something, or is it actually a DEEP FRIED MARS BAR?!

Is this Aussie slang for something, or is it actually a DEEP FRIED MARS BAR?!

Avo/arvo = afternoon (to be confused with avocado)
Fortnight = 14 days
Sickie = “sickday” – a day off work usually not related to actually being sick

Selection of random words:

G’day = this one doesn’t need explaining, unless you’ve lived under a rock your entire life
Yeah nah = No
Nah yeah = yes (sometimes, sometimes not, who knows)
Ta = thank you
Sheila = woman
Bloke = man
Sook = a crybaby, someone who whinges a lot

Darb = cigarette
Tellie/telly = television
Push-bike = bicycle
Servo = petrol/gas station
Zebra crossing = pedestrian crossing (pretty nifty word actually)
Boot = trunk of a car (I used to think this referred to a boot as in a type of shoe, silly me)
Chemist = pharmacy / drug store
Tip truck = garbage truck

Crack a fruity = go insane, go crazy, flip out
Give a bell = to call someone
U’e =  a U-turn with your car
Sorts = person(s) being of good sorts, e.g. funny, pretty, likeable, etc.
Nackered = being exhausted or really tired
Onya = short for “good on you”
Sus = suspicious

Fair Dinkum = ??????? (three years in and it is still a mystery to me)

And remember, if you’re ever in doubt, just cut the word in half and put an “ie” at the end and you got yourself an Aussie slang word. Also, if you ever stuff up, remember that that is how good experiences, life lessons and funny memories are made! I will never forget my ordeal with the surf camp, the poor guy and a silly pair of flip-flops. Oops, sorry – thongs, I mean.

You’re welcome.
Yours truly, Emilie ?

Have you ever needed to cross a language barrier in order to get your point across? Share with us in the comments!

Disclaimer: Emilie will not be held reliable for any silly situations readers may find themselves in trying to use these words. Sorry peeps. Any wrong words or mistakes may be taken up with my boyfriend and his mates (because I blame them for everything). 

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  • Naseebullah
    January 23, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    I want to enroll for my Master degree at an Australian university.

    • Lara
      January 27, 2016 at 10:50 am

      Hi Naseebullah – you can search our degree finder for a Masters program that suits your interests 🙂

  • Destiny
    November 3, 2017 at 2:09 am

    Fair dinkum means I’ll give an example of that word. ( hey sharon me mums out of the hospital today) yea fair dinkum mate in other words it’s another way to say thats good