Dictionary of Australian slang

Dictionary of Australian slang

Cattle Pool campsite, courtesy of Tourism Western Australia

Understanding Australian slang is no walk in the park – for overseas visitors, it can feel like you need a dictionary.

After landing in the country, tourists are confronted with words like ‘hooroo’ and ‘crikey’. But what does it all mean?

We take you through our favourite words in Aussie slang from A to Z.

Arvo: Aussies have never met a word we couldn’t abbreviate. Arvo stands for afternoon, and it can make all sorts of great phrases, such as ‘arvo tea’.

Barbie: A classic slang term from the Australian tourism ad featuring Paul Hogan, Australians like to throw things on the barbecue, such as snags (sausages) and steaks.

Unfortunately the ad was a little misleading – shrimps are called prawns in Australia, and shrimp more often means a short person.

Crikey: Made popular by the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, crikey can express admiration or amazement – particularly when faced with a particularly huge croc.

Dunny: If you ask for the bathroom and get directed to the dunny, don’t worry. Dunny is slang for the loo/toilet/bathroom, so you have been pointed in the right direction.

Esky: An esky is a cooler, and is a necessity for a picnic in spring or for a day at the beach.

Fair dinkum: Fair dinkum basically means straight up, I’m telling the truth, fair go. More often used in television shows than in day-to-day life.

G’day: An abbreviation for ‘good day’, saying ‘g’day’ can be a struggle for some tourists who haven’t had years of practice abbreviating words.

But give it a go, and ask some locals for pointers.

Heaps: Basically meaning a lot, you’ll hear ‘heaps’ heaps of times in Australia.

Hooroo: Saying ‘goodbye’ when you depart sounds unnecessarily formal to an Aussie. We’d much rather say ‘see ya’ or if we’re in a more expansive mood, you might be on the receiving end of a ‘hooroo’.

Jackaroo and jillaroo: If you’re travelling around Australia on a working visa, you’ll be sure to run into some jackaroos and jillaroos, who work as jack-of-all-trades on cattle stations. But their main job is rounding up cattle.

Kanga: When driving the roads of Australia and someone yells ‘kanga!’, watch out. There’s probably a kangaroo on the road, and you don’t want to be in a road accident with these large mammals.

Larrikin: Meaning a joker, trickster or stirrer, a larrikin is a person who is always out for a laugh and might just use you as a way to get one.

Mob: Watch too many American television shows, and you’ll end up thinking that mob is related to the mafia and gangsters.

But as in the famous Australian novel They’re a Weird Mob, mob just means a group of people who hang out together.

No worries: We don’t know whether it’s the sun, the surf, the excellent food or the great people, but Aussies often seem to have no worries.

Or at least it will be seen that way by tourists, who will be told ‘no worries’ when asking for anything from directions to Uluru to a tube of sunscreen.

Oz: The official name is Australia, but Down Under, God’s country and Oz are all words you’ll hear to describe this great southern land.

Pom: The English first came to Australia over two hundred years ago, and they haven’t stopped coming. Pom is an affectionate nickname (unless the English are beating us in cricket) for an English person.

Qantas: This carrier often feels like Australia’s unofficial national airline, and the Peter Allen song Qantas has co-opted, ‘I still call Australia home’, has been known to bring a tear to a returning Aussie’s eye.

Ranga: A nickname for a person with red hair. There may be one particularly well known ranga in Australian politics.

She’ll be right: The ‘she’ in this phrase can mean anything from an actual woman to a car.

This phrase is often uttered over things that will definitely not be alright, like a flat tire, a burst pipe or a pub that’s run out of chicken parmas.

True blue: If you’re true blue, then you’re an authentic, real, dinky-di Aussie.

Ute: There are utes, and then there are utes. A classic Aussie ute (meaning utility vehicle) has a front cabin for driving, and an exposed steel trailer on the back, often with a kelpie dog hanging out of it.

Vegemite: If you don’t like Vegemite, then you can’t really be Australian. This yeasty spread has livened up many a sandwich, and as the tag line says, it puts a rose in every cheek.

The recent marketing campaign for Vegemite iSnack 2.0 wasn’t necessarily received well, but let’s all pretend that didn’t happen.

Walkabout: Gone walkabout means taking off for a while, and being pretty much out of reach. If you ask where someone is and are told that they’ve ‘gone walkabout’ it probably means that no one really knows where they are.

You beauty: Often heard at the races when a punter has just won big, this phrase normally refers to someone/thing that’s done well in a sport, and has become beautiful by association with its success.

Zinger: No, it’s not a KFC burger, but rather a really great insult or comeback.

What’s your favourite Aussie slang word?



  • Red Nomad OZ

    Blimey! I’ll be flat out like a lizard drinking to top that lot!!

  • Alena

    Hello, can you please tell me if there is a word for “attention” in Australian slang? Thank you in advance

    • eee


    • Anthony McAuliffe


    • Johnus Moronus


  • Brittany Bro

    Why not reference indigenous culture/language when referring to ‘mob’ and ‘walkabout’? They are blatant aboriginal terms that have been adopted into the wider Australian lexicon, so if you’re doing ‘origins’ you might want to include that.

    Mob: a term that has for a long time been in common use by indigenous peoples to describe groups or clans
    Walkabout: indigenous rite of passage in which boys undergo a long solo journey to transition into manhood.

    Sure, not as funny… but after all, nothing is more Australian than indigenous Australians, right?