official language spoken by Australian's, or our version of it...
often difficult for others to understand.
Considering the variety of
accents, & our tendency to use [euphemism's] words in many situations, the phrases shown here on this site should help most visitors to
Australia, and give you a few laughs along the way - as well, something
Many works giving an overview of Australian English have been published; many of these are humour books designed for tourists or as novelties.
One of the first was Karl Lentzner's Dictionary of the Slang-English of Australia and of Some Mixed Languages in 1892. The first dictionary based on historical principles that covered Australian English was E. E. Morris's Austral English: A Dictionary of Australasian Words, Phrases and Usages (1898).
In 1976 the Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary was published. In 1981, the more comprehensive Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English was published, after 10 years of research and planning. Updated editions have been published since and the Macquarie Dictionary is widely regarded as authoritative.
Various publishers have also produced "phrase books" to assist visitors. These books reflect a highly exaggerated and often outdated style of Australian colloquialisms and they should generally be regarded as amusements rather than accurate usage guides.
History and Origins
Australian English incorporates many terms that Australians consider to be unique to their country. One of the
best known of these is outback which means a "remote, sparsely-populated area". Another is
Jackaroo, a type of agricultural worker.
Many such words, phrases or usages originated with British and Irish convicts transported to Australia in
1788 to 1868. And many words which are still used frequently by rural Australians are also used in all or part of England, with variations in meaning.
For example: a creek in Australia (as in North America), is any "stream or small river", whereas in England it's a small watercourse flowing into the sea;
paddock is the Australian word for "field"  while in England it's a small enclosure for livestock.
(as in North America) or
scrub mean "wooded areas" or "country areas in general" in Australia, while in England they are commonly used only in proper names (such as Shepherd's Bush and Wormwood Scrubs). Australian English and several British English dialects (e.g. Cockney, Scouse, Geordie) use the word
mate to mean a friend, rather than the conventional meaning of "a spouse", although this usage has also become common in some other varieties of English.
The origins of other terms are not as clear, or are disputed.
Dinkum or fair dinkum means "true", "the truth", "speaking the truth", "authentic" and related meanings, depending on context and inflection. It is often claimed that dinkum was derived from the Cantonese (or Hokkien) ding kam, meaning "top gold" or "deposit", during the Australian
gold rushes of the 1850's.
This, however, is chronologically improbable since dinkum is first recorded in the
1890's. Scholars give greater credence to the notion that it originated with a now-extinct dialect word from the East Midlands in England, where dinkum (or dincum) meant "hard work" or "fair work", which was also the original meaning in Australian
English. The derivation dinky-di means a 'true' or devoted Australian.
The words dinkum or
dinky-di and phrases like true blue are widely purported to be typical Australian sayings, however these sayings are more commonly used in jest or parody rather than as an authentic way of speaking. These sayings are however used authentically in North Queensland.
Similarly, g'day, a stereotypical Australian greeting, is no longer synonymous with "good day" in other varieties of English (it can be used at night time) and is never used as an expression for "farewell", as "good day" is in other countries.
colloquialism ... for "woman", is derived from the Irish girls' name
"Bludger" – someone who is lazy – is derived from the British slang term of the same name referring to a pimp.
Words of Australian Aboriginal origin
Some elements of Aboriginal languages have been incorporated into Australian English, mainly as names for flora and fauna (for example
dingo, kangaroo). Beyond that, few terms have been adopted into the wider language, except for some localised terms, or slang.
Some examples are Cooee and
Hard yakka. The former is a high-pitched call, which travels long distances and is used to attract attention. Cooee has also become a notional distance: if he's within
Cooee, we'll spot him. Hard yakka means hard work and is derived from yakka, from the Yagara/Jagara language once spoken in the Brisbane region.
Also from the Brisbane region comes the word
bung meaning broken. A failed piece of equipment might be described as having
bunged up or referred to as "on the bung" or
"gone bung". Bung is also used to describe an individual who is pretending to be hurt; such individual is said to be
"bunging it on". However, at the same time, the word bung can also be used to describe someone who actually is injured, as in
"he's still got a bung leg".