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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Australian English (AusE, AuE, AusEng, en-AU[1]) is the form of the English language spoken in Australia.


Socio-historical linguistic context

Australian English began diverging from British English shortly after the foundation of the Australian penal colony of New South Wales in 1788. British convicts sent there, (including Cockneys from London[2]), came mostly from large English cities. They were joined by free settlers, military personnel and administrators, often with their families. However, a large part of the convict body were Irish, with at least 25% directly from Ireland[citation needed], and others indirectly via Britain. There were other populations of convicts from non-English speaking areas of Britain, such as the Welsh and Scots. English was not spoken,[citation needed] or was poorly spoken, by a large part of the convict population and the dominant English input was that of Cockney from South-East England.

In 1827 Peter Cunningham, in his book Two Years in New South Wales, reported that native-born white Australians of the time—known as "currency lads and lasses"[3]—spoke with a distinctive accent and vocabulary, with a strong Cockney influence. The transportation of convicts to Australia ended in 1868, but immigration of free settlers from Britain, Ireland and elsewhere continued.

The first of the Australian gold rushes, in the 1850s, began a much larger wave of immigration which would significantly influence the language. During the 1850s, when the UK was under economic hardship, about two per cent of its population emigrated to the Colony of New South Wales and the Colony of Victoria.[4]

Among the changes wrought by the gold rushes was "Americanisation" of the language—the introduction of words, spellings, terms, and usages from North American English. The words imported included some later considered to be typically Australian, such as dirt and digger.[5] Bonzer, which was once a common Australian slang word meaning "great", "superb" or "beautiful", is thought to have been a corruption of the American mining term bonanza,[6] which means a rich vein of gold or silver and is itself a loanword from Spanish. The influx of American military personnel in World War II brought further American influence; though most words were short-lived;[5] and only okay, you guys, and gee have persisted.[5]

Since the 1950s the American influence on language in Australia has mostly come from pop culture, the mass media (books, magazines and television programs), computer software and the internet. Some words, such as freeway and truck, have even been naturalised so completely that few Australians recognise their origin.[5]

One of the first writers to attempt renditions of Australian accents and vernacular was the novelist Joseph Furphy (a.k.a. Tom Collins), who wrote a popular account of rural New South Wales and Victoria during the 1880s, Such is Life (1903). C. J. Dennis wrote poems about working class life in Melbourne, such as The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke (1915), which was extremely popular and was made into a popular silent film (The Sentimental Bloke; 1919). John O'Grady's novel They're a Weird Mob has many examples of pseudo-phonetically written Australian speech in Sydney during the 1950s, such as "owyergoinmateorright?" ("How are you going, mate? All right?"). Thomas Keneally's novels set in Australia, particularly The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, frequently use vernacular such as "yair" for "yes" and "noth-think" for "nothing". Other books of note are "Let Stalk Strine" by Afferbeck Lauder – where "Strine" is "Australian" and "Afferbeck Lauder" is "alphabetical order" (the book is in alphabetical order) – and "How to be Normal in Australia" by Robert Treborlang[7].

British words such as mobile (phone) predominate in most cases. Some American and British variants exist side-by-side; in many cases – freeway and motorway, for instance – regional, social and ethnic variation within Australia typically defines word usage.[8]

Australian English is most similar to New Zealand English, due to their similar history and geographical proximity. Both use the expression different to (also encountered in British English, but not American) as well as different from.

Words of Irish origin are used, some of which are also common elsewhere in the Irish diaspora, such as bum for "backside" (Irish bun), tucker for "food", "provisions" (Irish tacar), as well as one or two native English words whose meaning have changed under Irish influence, such as paddock for "field", cf. Irish páirc, which has exactly the same meaning as the Australian paddock.

Australia adopted decimal currency in 1966 and the metric system in the 1970s. This, too has affected Australian English [9] [10].

Variation and changes

Three main varieties of Australian English are spoken according to linguists: Broad, General and Cultivated.[11] They are part of a continuum, reflecting variations in accent. They often, but not always, reflect the social class or educational background of the speaker.[12]

Broad Australian English is recognisable and familiar to English speakers around the world because it is used to identify Australian characters in non-Australian films and television programs. Examples are television/film personalities Steve Irwin, and Paul Hogan. Slang terms Ocker, for a speaker, and Strine, a shortening of the word Australian for the dialect, are used in Australia.

The majority of Australians speak with the General Australian accent. This predominates among modern Australian films and television programs and is used by, for example, Eric Bana, Dannii Minogue, and Hugh Jackman.

Cultivated Australian English has some similarities to British Received Pronunciation, and is often mistaken for it. Cultivated Australian English is spoken by some within Australian society, for example Cyril Ritchard and Judy Davis.

There are no strong variations in accent and pronunciation across different states and territories. Regional differences in pronunciation and vocabulary are small in comparison to those of the British and American English, and Australian pronunciation is determined less by region than by social, cultural and educational influences. In Tasmania, words such as "dance" and "grant" are usually heard with the older pronunciation of these words, using [æ], whereas in South Australia, [aː] is more common. Other regions of Australia show different patterns of pronunciation of words with this vowel sound.[13]


Australian monophthongs
Australian diphthongs

Australian English is a non-rhotic accent and it is similar to the other Southern Hemisphere accents (New Zealand English and South African English).[14] Like most dialects of English it is distinguished primarily by its vowel phonology.[15]

The vowels of Australian English can be divided into two categories: long and short vowels. The short vowels, consisting only of monophthongs, mostly correspond to the lax vowels used in analyses of Received Pronunciation. The long vowels, consisting of both monophthongs and diphthongs, mostly correspond to its tense vowels and centring diphthongs. Unlike most varieties of English, it has a phonemic length distinction: that is, certain vowels differ only by length.

The following linguistic features of Australian English are generally employed by people with lower standards of education and socio-economic background, and those with higher economic and/or educational standards speak in a manner which does not compress, shorten or remove these features.[citation needed]

  • Many speakers have also coalesced /dj/, /sj/ and /tj/ into /dʒ/, /ʃ/ and /tʃ/, producing standard pronunciations such as /tʃʉːn/ for tune.
  • The flapping of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ to alveolar tap [ɾ] before unstressed vowels (as in butter, party) and syllabic /l/ (bottle), as well as at the end of a word or morpheme before any vowel (what else, whatever). Thus, for most speakers, pairs such as ladder/latter, metal/medal, and coating/coding are pronounced identically.[citation needed] This is a quality that it shares with American English.
  • Both intervocalic /nt/ and /n/ may be realised as [n] or [ɾ̃], another trait which it shares with American English; it can make winter and winner homophones. Interesting will sound like inner-resting. Most areas in which /nt/ is reduced to /n/, it is accompanied further by nasalisation of simple post-vocalic /n/, so that V/nt/ and V/n/ remain phonemically distinct. In such cases, the preceding vowel becomes nasalised, and is followed in cases where the former /nt/ was present, by a distinct /n/. This stop-absorption by the preceding nasal /n/ does not occur when the second syllable is stressed, as in entails.[citation needed]


Australian English has many words that some consider unique to the language. One of the best known is outback, meaning a remote, sparsely populated area. Another is The Bush, meaning either a native forest or a country area in general. 'Bush' is a word of Dutch origin: 'Bosch'. However, both terms have been widely used in many English-speaking countries. Early settlers from England brought other similar words, phrases and usages to Australia. Many words used frequently by country Australians are, or were, also used in all or part of England, with variations in meaning. For example, creek in Australia, as in North America, means a stream or small river, whereas in the UK it means a small watercourse flowing into the sea; paddock in Australia means field, whereas in the UK it means a small enclosure for livestock; bush or scrub in Australia, as in North America, means a wooded area, whereas 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 (for example, Cockney, Scouse, Glaswegian and Geordie) use the word mate.

The origins of other words are not as clear or are disputed. Dinkum (or "fair dinkum") can mean "true", "is that true?" or "this is the truth!” among other things, depending on context and inflection. It is often claimed that dinkum dates back to the Australian goldrushes of the 1850s, and that it is derived from the Cantonese (or Hokkien) ding kam, meaning, "top gold". But scholars give greater credence to the conjecture that it originated from the extinct East Midlands dialect in England, where dinkum (or dincum) meant "hard work" or "fair work", which was also the original meaning in Australian English.[16] The derivative dinky-di means 'true' or devoted: a 'dinky-di Aussie' is a 'true Australian'. However, this expression is limited to describing objects or actions that are characteristically Australian. The words dinkum or dinky-di and phrases like true blue are widely purported to be typical Australian sayings, even though they are more commonly used in jest or parody than as authentic slang.

Similarly, g'day, a stereotypical Australian greeting, is no longer synonymous with "good day" in other varieties of English and is never used as an expression for "farewell", as "good day" is in other countries. It is simply used as a greeting.

A few words of Australian origin are now used in other parts of the Anglosphere as well; among these are first past the post, to finalise, brownout, and the colloquialisms uni "university" and <part> short of a <whole> meaning stupid or crazy, (e.g. "a few bricks short of a load" or "a sandwich short of a picnic".)[17]

Influence of Australian Aboriginal languages

Some elements of Aboriginal languages have been adopted by Australian English – mainly as names for places, flora and fauna (for example dingo). Beyond that, little has been adopted into the wider language, except for some localised terms and slang. Some examples are cooee and Hard yakka. The former is used as a high-pitched call, for attracting attention, (pronounced /kʉː.iː/) which travels long distances. Cooee is also 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 there is the word bung, meaning broken or pretending to be hurt. A failed piece of equipment may be described as having bunged up or as "on the bung" or "gone bung". A person pretending to be hurt is said to be "bunging it on". A hurt person could say, "I've got a bung knee".

Although didgeridoo, referring to a well-known wooden musical instrument, is often thought of as an Aboriginal word, it is now believed to be an onomatopoeic word invented by English speakers. It has also been suggested that it may have an Irish derivation because the word dúdaire means "pipe player" in Irish Gaelic, and dúdaire dubh [du:dɪrʲɪ du:] means 'black pipe player'.[18] Many towns or suburbs of Australia are also have been influenced or named after Aboriginal words. The most well known example is the capital, Canberra named after a local language word meaning "meeting place".


Australian spelling is usually the same as British spelling, with only a few exceptions. As in British spelling, the 'u' is retained in words such as honour and favour, and words such as realise and authorise are more commonly spelt with the -ise ending than with -ize. The Macquarie Dictionary is generally used by publishers, schools, universities and governments as the standard spelling reference. Well-known differences from British spelling include 'program' which is more common than programme.[19][20][21]

'Gaol' is the standard spelling, although 'Jail' is also sometimes seen.

There was a widely held belief in Australia that controversies over spelling resulted from the "Americanisation" of Australian English; the influence of American English in the late 20th century, but the debate over spelling is much older. For example, a pamphlet entitled The So-Called "American Spelling", published in Sydney some time before 1901, argued that "there is no valid etymological reason for the preservation of the u in such words as honor, labor, etc.",[20] alluding to older British spellings which also used the -or ending. The pamphlet also claimed that "the tendency of people in Australasia is to excise the u, and one of the Sydney morning papers habitually does this, while the other generally follows the older form." Newspapers are not always a reliable guide to community preference and usage,[22] as they are often more concerned about saving space.[23] By way of example, circa 2007 Melbourne newspaper The Age finally changed its longstanding policy of omitting the u, in response to continuing complaints from its readers.[24] One of the two major political parties is the Australian Labor Party, spelt without a 'u', although this was chosen for reasons of symbolism, rather than because it was the ordinary form used.


Diminutives are commonly used and are often used to indicate familiarity. Some common examples are arvo (afternoon), brekky (breakfast) and barbie (barbecue).

This may also be done with people's names to create nicknames (other English speaking countries create similar diminutives). For example, "Gazza" from Gary.

Incomplete comparisons are sometimes used, such as "sweet as".

Litotes, such as "not bad", "not much" and "you're not wrong", are sometimes used.

Many idiomatic phrases and words once common in Australian English are now stereotypes and caricatured exaggerations, and have disappeared from everyday use. Such outdated and occasionally parodied terms include strewth, you beaut and crikey, though many of these terms are still commonplace in rural areas such as the Wimmera.

Waltzing Matilda written by bush poet Banjo Paterson contains many obsolete Australian words and phrases that appeal to a rural ideal and are understood by Australians even though they are not in common usage outside the song. One example is the title, which means travelling, particularly with a swag.

See also


  1. ^ en-AU is the language code for Australian English , as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).
  2. ^ Moore, B 2008, Speaking our language: the story of Australian English, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, p. 69.
  3. ^ Hughes, Robert. The Fatal Shore. London: Harvill (1986).
  4. ^ Geoffrey Blainey, 1993, The Rush That Never Ended (4th ed.) Melbourne University Press
  5. ^ a b c d Bell, R. Americanization and Australia. UNSW Press (1998).
  6. ^ Robert J. Menner, "The Australian Language" American Speech, Vol. 21, No. 2 (April 1946), pp. 120
  7. ^ Treborlang, Robert. How to be Normal in Australia: A Practical Guide to the Uncharted Territory of Antipodean Relationships. Major Mitchell Press, Sydney (1987).
  8. ^ Oliver, Mackay and Rochecouste. 'The Acquisition of Colloquial Terms by Western Australian Primary School Children from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds' in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 24:5 (2003), 413–430.
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Cambridge History of the English Language: 1776–1997 , By Richard M. Hogg, Suzanne Romaine, Norman Francis Blake, Roger Lass, R. W. Burchfield, page 30
  11. ^ Robert Mannell, "Impressionistic Studies of Australian English Phonetics"
  12. ^ Australia's unique and evolving sound Edition 34, 2007 (23 August 2007) – The Macquarie Globe
  13. ^ Crystal, D. (1995). Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. Cambridge University Press.
  14. ^ Trudgill, Peter and Jean Hannah. (2002). International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English, 4th ed. London: Arnold. ISBN 0-340-80834-9, p. 4.
  15. ^ Harrington, J., F. Cox, and Z. Evans (1997). "An acoustic phonetic study of broad, general, and cultivated Australian English vowels". Australian Journal of Linguistics 17: 155–84. doi:10.1080/07268609708599550. 
  16. ^ Frederick Ludowyk, 1998, "Aussie Words: The Dinkum Oil On Dinkum; Where Does It Come From?" (0zWords, Australian National Dictionary Centre). Access date: 5 November 2007.
  17. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary. [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]
  18. ^ Dymphna Lonergan, 2002, "Aussie Words: Didgeridoo; An Irish Sound In Australia" (0zWords, Australian National Dictionary Centre). Access date: 5 November 2007.
  19. ^ Peters, Pam. (1986) "Spelling principles", In: Peters, Pam, ed., Style in Australia: Current Practices in Spelling, Punctuation, Hyphenation, Capitalisation, etc.,
  20. ^ a b The So Called "American Spelling." Its Consistency Examined. pre-1901 pamphlet, Sydney, E. J. Forbes. Quoted by Annie Potts in this article
  21. ^ Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers of Australian Government Publications, Third Edition, Revised by John Pitson, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1978, page 10, "In general, follow the spellings given in the latest edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary.
  22. ^ "A bevan by any other name could be a bogan"; Don Woolford; The Age; 27 March 2002:

    Given a choice between "colour" and "color", 95 per cent chose the former, surprising given that many newspapers drop the "u".

  23. ^ The Serial Comma.
  24. ^ Reported in the pages of The Age at the time. Precise date T.B.C. Compare also with Webster in Australia by James McElvenny: "[...] the Age newspaper used the reformed spellings up to the end of the 1990s."
  • Mitchell, Alexander G., 1995, The Story of Australian English, Sydney: Dictionary Research Centre.

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Australian slang article)

From Wikitravel

This article is a travel topic.

Australian slang is informal language used in Australia.

This guide should be viewed as an informal and fun introduction to some Australian idiosyncrasies, rather than a guide on how to communicate.

Increasing globalisation and a move away from rural living has seen Australian English adopt a lot of American terms while at the same time romanticising words commonly associated with the bush. Australians mostly view their slang as being uniquely Australian and an integral part of their culture. Judging by the amount of Australian slang books available on the shelves, it remains of interest to travellers too.

Many parts of Australian slang have their origins outside Australia, particularly in England and Ireland. Don't be surprised if many terms seem familiar. However, don't assume that similar slang expressions have the same meaning to Australians as they might in other countries. An attempt to use some Australian slang will likely be viewed as an attempt to mock, rather than as a genuine attempt to speak the local dialect. It's better to use the guide to interpret Steve Irwin's TV shows.

English speaking travellers are best advised just to speak clearly, as most Australians are used to a variety of accents. However, it can never hurt to say "G'day, How are ya goin'" to an Aussie. You can also ask for your chips to take-away, rather than fries to go.

How are ya goin' 
How are you?
Not bad mate 
Fine, thank you.
Cheers mate 
Thank you.
No worries / No drama 
You're welcome (in response to thank you)
Excuse me (may be regarded as uncouth by some people)
You're right 
That is okay (in response to sorry)
See ya later  
Hoo roo 
Take it easy 
commonly used to convey an exaggerated view of time, eg "I haven't seen you in yonks".
Red hair. Virgin planes are red in Australia and are therefore Virgin Blue.
Red haired
Damn - a common expression of disappointment, not offensive to most.
an idiot or a fool
Grab a feed 
Get something to eat
A small glass (usually for beer) used in New South Wales.
A small glass (usually for beer) used elsewhere.
A large glass (usually for beer) used in New South Wales.
Fast food also used instead of "to go" when ordering food.
drunk (as opposed to annoyed)
To scrounge off a friend, as in scab a feed.
To be lazy, or to scab, as in bludge a feed.
Anybody at all, only commonly used by males - especially when you forget their name.
Australian - prounounced Ozzy.
Plural of you - pronounced Yooz. Only used by "bogans" (see below).
Male friend.
Complete bastard 
Good male friend.
An uneducated person; (similar to the British 'chav') favoured expression outside of Sydney to describe Westies.
A person from the western suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne.
Smackhead, as in, a heroin addict
A crude, uncultured Aussie. Often applied to Queenslanders.
The bush
areas outside of major cities and towns.
The outback
the deserts of inland Australia
I reckon 
I agree!
Too right!
I agree!
Bloody oath!
I agree!
Full on
Comprehensive, heavy going, intimidating.
Take the piss
Make fun of someone or to trick them.
To piss in someone's pocket
To be servile or overly complimentary to someone.
Morning tea/A break during the working day to smoke a cigarette.
To go berko
To go crazy.
To be spewing
To vomit/ to be upset about something.
Trash Can
Dead set
A utility vehicle with a large tray on the back for equipment, often used on farms. Similar to a vehicle known as a pickup truck in American English, but more often a (before- or after-market) modification of a car chassis rather than being based on that of a light truck.
Trunk Of Car.
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun

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Australian English


Australian English

  1. The form of the English language used in Australia

Simple English

Australian English is the kind of English language used in Australia.



People from Britain and Ireland first came to live in Australia in 1788. They brought many different kinds of English with them. These different kinds of English began to mix and change. The new comers soon began to speak with their own distinctive accent and vocabulary.

More and more people came to Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many people came looking for gold. Some came from Britain and Ireland. Others came from non-English speaking countries. Australian English continued to grow and change.

Australian English has also been influenced by American English. During the Second World War there were many American soldiers staying in Australia. American television shows and music have been popular in Australia since the 1950s.


The Australian and New Zealand accents are very similar. The Australian accent is also similar to accents from the South-East of Britain.

In Australian English the /r/ sound can only occur before a vowel. Many words which sound different in other accents sound the same in Australian English. Some examples are:

  • caught and court
  • raw and roar
  • aunt and aren't
  • formally and formerly

Some Australian English vowels sound different to vowels of other kinds of English. For example, the vowel in day starts with a very open mouth. This makes the Australian day sound close to the die of most British or American people.

Australian English has some vowels not used in some other kinds of English. For example, the words bad and lad do not rhyme because bad has a long vowel and lad has a short one. Also, cot does not sound like caught and bother does not rhyme with father.

As with American English the /t/ sound can sometimes sound like a /d/ sound. This usually happens between vowels. So, for example,

  • waiter can sound like wader
  • betting can sound like bedding
  • got it can sound like god it
  • thirteen can sound like thuddeen

Also in the Australian accent a /t/ sound plus the sound of you comes out sounding like chew and a /d/ sound plus the sound of you comes out sounding like Jew. Here are some examples of things which sound the same.

  • Tuesday and choose day
  • lightyear and lie cheer
  • due and Jew
  • dune and June

Australians pronounce wh and w the same. Some examples are:

  • which and witch
  • whether and weather
  • whales and Wales


Australians use many words that other English speakers do not use. The famous Australian greeting, for example, is G'day!. A native forest is called the bush and central Australia is called the outback.

Many words were brought to Australia from Britain and Ireland. For example, mate meaning "friend" which is still used in Britain. Some of these words have changed in meaning.

A few words have come from Australian Aboriginal languages. These are mainly names for animals, plants and places. Some examples are dingo and kangaroo.

Sometimes we do not know where a word came from. For example, dinkum or fair dinkum means "true", "is that true?", "this is the truth". But nobody know where the word is from: some say the word comes from Chinese, others say the word comes from England.


Australian spelling is generally very similar to British spelling. In words like organise, realise, both -ise and -ize are accepted, as in British English, but, -ise is preferred. In words like colour, favourite, -our is the norm, but some proper names such as the Labor party and Victor Harbor are spelled with -or. Program and jail, on the other hand, are more common than programme and gaol.

Kinds of Australian English

Most linguists (scientists who study language) split Australian English up into three main kinds. These are Broad, General, and Cultivated Australian English.

Broad Australian English sounds very strongly Australian, when compared to other kinds of English. Dame Edna Everage speaks Broad Australian English.

General Australian English is the middle ground. It is used by most Australians, and can be heard in Australian-made films and television programs. Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman speak General Australian English.

Cultivated Australian English is close to British English. Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush speak Cultivated Australian English.

The Australian accent does not change much across the country. However, some small differences include how the letter 'a' sounds like in the words castle, dance, chance, advance, etc. Some use the vowel in calm others use the vowel in mat or mad. Another regional difference is the pronunciation of 'e' sounds especially followed by 'l', such as Melbourne, helped, cellist, with Victorians pronouncing this 'e' like the 'a' sound in alchemy or chalice.

However, there are differences in the words Australians use in different parts of the country. For example, footy means "football" in NSW and Queensland, but "Australian rules football" in Victoria. In NSW, a swimming costume is called a cossie or swimmers, in Queensland it is called togs, but it's called bathers in most other states.

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