Keen to understand Australian slang? Well, I’m not here to f*** with spiders.
“Don’t walk too close to the trees,” an Australian friend once told me, when I visited Perth a couple of years ago. “You might be attacked by drop bears.”
I remember staring at him incredulously. It was one of the many WTF moments I had in Australia. Much to his glee, I took his little warning a tad bit too seriously. It’s common knowledge Australia is home to deadly animals and insects that want to kill you — and I don’t want to die by ‘drop bears’! But, what even are they?
Of course, I felt silly when he finally let me in on the joke. Sadly, that did little to help me understand other Aussie slang words coming out of locals’ mouths. What’s so natural for them is so foreign to me, much like how Singlish is to anyone who’s not Singaporean.
However, one thing I did learn is that Australians love to shorten words. It’s akin to how Singaporeans love to abbreviate everything (e.g. HDB, SMLJ, O$P$). Some Australian slang words are relatively easy to figure out: G’day is good day. Breakfast is brekkie. But other words? Sanger? Arvo? Pissfarting? What?
Like how Gen Z-ers and Millennials come up with new lingo almost every damn day (e.g. full send, sus, shooketh), trying to understand Australian slang is a curious and fun journey. To help you along, I’ve consulted the best resources available (i.e. Internet friends and Australian locals) to come up with this guide!
Aussie = Australia?
Let’s start with the basics. Aussie refers to “Australian”. Many foreigners/non-Australians (myself included) mistakenly think the word refers to Australia (the country). However, locals have informed me that’s incorrect.
So, to ask your colleague “How was Aussie?” is wrong. The correct usage would be, “I love Aussies! Very friendly bunch of people. But I don’t understand what they say, that’s why I need this Aussie slang guide!”
Short for Australia, the country. Go on, educate your colleague the next time they misuse the term “Aussie”.
Bag of fruit — not the NTUC kind
A man’s formal suit. We don’t know how this one came about, but we love it. We love the bag of fruit that Renald has on.
I’m not here to f*** with spiders
Essentially you’re saying, “Why else would I be here?”. Kind of like the Singaporean equivalent of “Then I come for what? For fun ah?”
A cigarette. Not that you’ll need it when you’re in Australia because they’re bloody expensive. Pick another poison.
To procrastinate, or do nothing productive (Like now).
A toilet. I don’t want to know why it’s a “Thunder Box”
An Australian white ibis (a type of bird) that’s common all over the country. They’re like the irritating Singaporean mynahs — digging in bins for food scraps, pooping everywhere, and being a nuisance in general.
The difference is that the bin chicken is a cultural icon of Australia. I mean, there are floats and merchandise of these birds!
The vicious, bloodthirsty cousin of the cuddly koala. Its primary mode of attack is to drop from trees and attack unsuspecting victims, mainly tourists.
Good on ya
This can literally mean “good for you”. But if someone tells you this sarcastically, you likely f***ed something up. Well, good on ya. Like how my mum would say, “Orh bi good”.
Kangeroos loose in the top paddock
Someone who’s acting crazy or wacky. Pretty much the Aussie version of someone who’s all “siao ah”!
Short for f**ken oath. An enthusiastic yes, like you agree wholeheartedly with something. Similar to YAAAAASSSSS.
Exhausted. Yeah, we’ve all been there.
An adjective that’s short for “chock a block”. Means very crowded, jammed with people and things.
I’m flat out like a lizard drinking
This phrase with a very disturbing imagery attached to it simply means that you’re very busy. Much like how a lizard flattens itself to drink water from the ground, you’re probably being squished by your workload.
An Aussie tradition where you drink an alcoholic beverage out of a shoe, supposedly for good luck. I hope they don’t have too many athlete’s feet over there.
Built like a brick shithouse
Used to refer to someone with a muscular body (usually male).
A beginner surfer. What a way to welcome the newbie.
Chuck a Sickie
To feign illness and call in sick to skip work. Basically, the Aussie version of taking MC/chao keng. Not wanting to go to work is a universal human experience, after all.
Short for McDonald’s. Or, as we say it: “Mcnorner”, “Meh-doner” or “Let’s go maxxx!”
Being tired, and wanting to go home. In other words — sian.
An overly emotional person who complains a lot. Also known as a whinger (I’m sure we all know someone like that).
Thongs – not the underwear
Flip-flops, pluggers, or what we call slippers. The Aussie version of thongs isn’t to be confused with the underwear that gives you a permanent wedgie.
Chuck a U’-ey
Make a U-turn. High probability of this happening when driving on Australian roads because you’re trying to avoid roadki— oh, missed the turn.
A pub. Confirm it’s some of you people’s favourite place to hang at.
Food. To use in a sentence to praise a dish, you can say “Bloody good tucker!” It’s basically the Aussie version of “WAH! This (food) damn shiok eh!”
Nah yeah / Yeah nah
Yes / No, respectively. Confused? Yeah nah.
But: Something some Aussies add to the end of their sentence. For example, “We’re going to grab a drink, but.” Or “Not much going on today, hey.” Other variations include “hey” or “ay”. It’s somewhat similar to how Singaporeans end sentences with “one”.
Brocci: Broccoli, nature’s little edible tree.
Bloke: A man.
Bloomin’/Flamin’: Adjectives, or words used to exaggerate something. Such as, “Wow! That was bloomin’ impressive!” I suppose it’s the non-vulgar alternative to “bloody” or “f***in'”.
Bogan: Someone whose clothing, speech, and behaviour is unrefined and uncouth. Akin to “white trash”.
Bottle-O: A shop selling alcoholic beverages.
Cactus: Used to describe something or someone that’s “dead”, i.e. not functioning, broken, or finished.
Cheers: A way of saying hello, goodbye, and thank you. Also what you say before you and the squad down your drinks!
Chockie/Choccy: Chocolate, the best thing ever.
Chookas: Means “Break a leg” or “all the best”. Used to wish a performer good luck. For example, “Chookas for the big night!”
Chunder: Vomit. Like what poor Clarence did in Vietnam.
Dag: A socially awkward person. You lor.
Devo: Devastated, or feeling a lot of shock and grief (i.e. when the guys see their favourite football team lose).
Loose: Drunk and out of control.
Mate: Friend. An alternative is “cobber”.
Shocking: Not ‘actual’ shocking, but it means the opposite. Like “shocking day” means it’s a great day.
Sheila: Refers to a girl or woman. Doubles as a lovely female name. It also happens to be the name of Jerome’s mum (hello Aunty Sheila!).
Stubby/Tinnie: A can of beer. A six-pack is called a “slab”.
Veg-O: A vegetarian.
Chuck on: Turn on.
Chuck a wobbly: To overreact to something. (There seems to be a lot of chucking going on in Australia.)
Dirty bird: KFC.
Dog and bone: Phone.
Fair dinkum: To mean that something is honest and true. Can be used as a question or a statement. For example, “I spent AU$75 on chocolates today.” “Are you fair dinkum?”
How ya going: “How are you doing?”
I’ll fong ya: To hit someone with a thong (slipper). Asian parenting 101.
She’ll be right: Everything will be okay. Or, as we say it: DUN WORRY, IS’OK ONE.
Arvo: Afternoon, like “I’ll see you Sunday arvo!” It’s not short for avocado — that’s avo (“eh-vo”).
Know any more Aussie slang? Which one’s your favourite? Tell us in the comments below!