Lost in Translation: A Guide to Aussie Slang

Lida Lech University of New South Wales, Australia


May 8, 2017

Even though Australia’s main language is English, their love for slang, phrases, and abbreviated words sometimes makes it sound like an entirely different language. Australians tend to shorten nouns and add the “ee” sound to the end of them. For example, sunglasses becomes “sunnies,” mosquitos becomes “mozzies,’ and an Australian becomes “Aussie.”

Of course, some American English words are totally different in Australian English, and they have abbreviations, too. For example, an American “cookie” is an Australian “biscuit” or “bikkie.” Americans typically use the word “mailman,” but in Australia, he’s a “postman” or “postie.”

It must be noted that Aussies only speak like this -- when it comes to writing things down they revert back to the normal spelling. These are just a few of the words and phrases that I have incorporated into my daily conversations since I’ve been here.

  • G’Day - An easy one to start with. This is a pretty standard greeting, in Australia. It’s just an abbreviation of the old English ‘Good day.’
    “G’day mate!”
    “How ya goin’?”
  • I’m so keen / Get Keen - This phrase means to be eager, interested or excited about something.
    “Do you want to go to the beach?”
    “Yeah, I’m so keen!”
  • Don’t you reckon / I reckon - Means don’t you think or believe.
    “I reckon it’ll take 20 minutes longer to get into the city around rush hour.”
  • I can get around that - Means “I can support that”
    “Do you want to come watch the footy game tonight?
    “Yeah, I can get around that.”
  • College - Equivalent to Americans’ term for university's dorms
    “Do you live off campus?”
    “Ah no, I live in that college over there.”
  • Uni - Abbreviation for university
    “How’s uni life going?”
    “Yeah mate, it’s keeping me busy. The marks for these classes are hard to get.”
  • Marks - Equivalent to the term “grades”
    In Australia, the marking system is composed of 5 categories: High Distinction, Distinction, Credit, Pass, Fail. Unlike American universities, there are no pluses or minuses. Most students receive credits for their courses.
  • Cheers - No worries and cheers are Australia's most frequently used multi-purpose words. Cheers can mean "goodbye," "have a nice day," or "thanks"—or even all three at once.
    “Have a good one!”
    “Cheers, mate!”
  • Brekkie - This is an abbreviation for breakfast. Vegemite and butter on toast is usually a staple at this meal, but I am personally not a fan of the salty spread.
    “Brekkie at 7:30 am?”
    “Yeah mate, see you in the Dino.”
  • Tomato Sauce - It is ketchup - NOT pasta’s tomato sauce.
  • Arvo - This comes from the word “afternoon.” If you say the word afternoon in your head, you will find that it has 3 syllables! Well that’s too much effort for Australians. 2 syllables is better, quicker and easier.
    “Whatcha doin’ this arvo?”
  • Bloody - It sounds bad, but it’s really just used for emphasis. An adjective, used as intensive. “Oh, how bloody good.”
  • Chemist - The equivalent to a pharmacy.
    “Where can I get some lozenges and cold medicine to cure this Freshman flu?”
    “At the Chemist on campus, mate”
  • Good on ya - This phrase means “great job” or “well done.”
    “I went to the gym this morning!”
    “Good on ya!”
  • Heaps - Mean “a lot”.
    “There’s heaps of people at the beach on a sunny day!”
  • How ya going? - Means: How are you doing? Very common to hear Aussies greeting each other this way.
    “How ya going?”
    “I’m doing good, thanks for asking!”
  • Toastie - A toasted sandwich. Usually the cause of most fire alarms in our colleges (dorms).
    “What do you like on your toastie?”
    “Ham and cheese”
  • Macca’s - Nickname for McDonald’s.
    “Want to go on a Maccas run?”
    “Yeah mate, they are the only place to get food on campus from past 11 pm!”
  • Opportunity Shop / Op Shop - Term used instead of thrift shop
    “That’s a nice looking dress you have on!”
    “Thanks mate, it was a bloody good find from the op shop.”
  • Rubbish - Means garbage. Also used to describe when something is ridiculous.
    “That music is rubbish.” or “Chuck your rubbish in the bin over there.”



Australia Semester