Speak Like an Aussie: Slang for Down Under

Australia, Australia/New Zealand/Pacific, Destinations, Studying Abroad — By on April 7, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Yelena Galstyan, a magazine journalism student at Syracuse University, is taking a study abroad semester at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Her first piece in a series about her observations in the land down under provides a lesson on Aussie slang.

It took me all of two days in Brisbane and one visit to the local pub to erase the previous notion from my mind that perhaps not all Australians are friendly. Granted, I was warned.

“They can be sarcastic pricks,” said a friend of mine who studied in the country last year. Sarcasm maintains a constant presence in my vocabulary, so I figured if I dished it back, maybe I’d gain some respect.

Keyword: maybe. On one of my first nights out, one particularly stoat redheaded Aussie took it to the next level. After numerous sneer remarks about my country of residence, the United States, he felt the need to point out that America consisted of the east coast, the west coast, and nothing but a bunch of corn in between.

I came back with “at least we can grow crops,” but he didn’t like that very much. Next thing I know, he’s belting “oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…” in my face. I had no choice but to turn around and walk away.

Don’t get me wrong. Right off the bat I met some great Aussies, and soon enough, I’ll be able to call them my mates. My only word of advice for future travelers to the land of Aus: come in with an open mind. You may very well be greeted with a “G’ day mate,” but perhaps you’ll get a national anthem chant instead. Take it as it comes.

If you want to assimilate better, learn some Australian slang. Sure they speak English down under, but their phrases and expressions are totally unique to the culture. Have fun with it, and keep in mind that the only thing that Aussies are serious about is pride in their country, and sports.

Lastly, ladies, one thing you’ll also learn about Aussie guys (the ones that don’t act like pricks) is they are pretty straightforward, and they don’t beat around the bush. A little eye contact is all it takes sometimes. My girlfriends and I have come up with a general consensus: Australian guys are much less reserved than our Yankee counterparts back home.

That being said, flirting with an Aussie definitely has an element of mystery. We often find ourselves questioning: What did he just say? What does that even mean? It’s become a casual past-time, deciphering Aussie text messages. “I was so pissed last night.” That means he was drunk, not angry. “You’re a spunky Sheila.” Translation: You’re a good-looking girl.

Here are a few more phrases that you’ ll hear more often than not:

“No worries mate”

Australians are a very laid back breed of people. They work hard, but they also play hard, and down time is a must. Living in the New York State of mind my entire life, the relaxed culture here is utterly refreshing. Maybe since Australians enjoy a stable economy, an admirable education system, and one of the most beautiful environments on the planet, they don t stress the small stuff like us Americans constantly do. You’ll get this response to 75 percent of the requests you make.

– “I left my book on your tour bus.”
– “ Ah, no worries. I’ ll deliver it tomorrow.”

Synonym: “No dramas”

“How ya goin?”

Sounds funny, doesn’t it? This phrase is equivalent to “how are you doing?”and “how’s it going?” It’s literally a hybrid of both. Respond with “Well, and you?” and then go about your day. The phrase isn’t as much of a conversation starter; it’s more like a howdy-do.

“Sweet as”

This seemingly incomplete expression means fine or good. The “as” is used to intensity the phrase, similar to using “so” in front of it. When I first heard it I found myself questioning: sweet as what, and awaiting a response to my question. Nope, that’ s it. It’ s just “sweet as.” Fill in your own blank if you have to.

– “ How was the concert?”
– “ Sweet as.”


Cheers is pretty universal. We’ve all said it while clashing glasses together with our friends at the bar. Australians, however, say it all the time, in every scenario, with or without drinks. Can be used as a substitute for cool or great or essentially anything positive.

– “ Your booking is all set.”
– “ Cheers.”

“Fair Dinkum”

This phrase applies for something or someone genuine. It also means honest. Replace true that and no way with fair dinkum and you could well be on your way to sounding like an real Aussie. You’ll also find out if someone’s pulling your leg.

Example: “The cricket team claims their last game was fair dinkum.”

Here are some additional must-know words:

Oi (expression): Yo. Ex: “Oi, you over there!”
(noun): University, college. Ex: “It’s my forth year at the uni.”
(noun): barbecue. Ex: “Throw some shrimp on the barbie!”
(noun): friend. Ex: “He’s a good mate of mine.”
Water hole
(noun): pub. Ex: “Gather at the water hole half past seven.”
(noun): man. Ex: “He’s a good ol’ bloke.”
(adjective): great. Ex: “The weather is bonzer!”
(verb): I believe, I think. Ex: “I reckon it’s low tide.”
(adjective): a lot. Ex: “That place is heaps of fun.”
Fair-go (noun): a chance. Ex: “Give the bloke a fair-go.”
(verb): interested, excited. Ex: “I’m keen to skydive!”
Bush (noun): area surrounding the city, the outback. Ex: “Let’s go for a bush walk.”
Heaps (noun): a lot. Ex: “She made heaps of money.”
(adjective): sarcastic, with attitude. Ex: “You’re cheeky.”

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  • Kim says:

    This is so helpful and informative! If you can’t speak them, at least you know and understand what Aussies are saying! 😀

  • Clinton says:

    Just one note. Aussies refer to shrimp as prawn. So you would never hear the phrase ‘Throw some shrimp on the barbie’. Instead you would hear throw a steak on the barbie.

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  • caitlin says:

    actually aussies arent that bad as u stated i am an aussie. but i must admit some are out of their minds.
    i often use mate and gday
    and i love having barbies in the blaxzing aussie sun.
    Slang sentence
    gday mate throw me a beer from the esky would ya then put on some thongs and get over here and help out with the barbie.
    throw some steak on the barbie.

  • caitlin says:

    yeah your right

  • about that says:

    might sound strange, but you should get your articles translated. others might be interested in reading what you have to say