I’ve written a lot of heavy-going (but very useful!) posts lately. So I thought it was time for something more light-hearted!

If you are after practical advice on living and working in Australia, take a look at my posts on filing your 2016/17 tax return, how best to travel round the country, how to plan and execute an awesome road trip, and all your questions about the boring stuff related to work.

If you’ve been in Oz a while, it will not have escaped your notice that Aussies have a different way of expressing themselves from, well, pretty much anyone else.

And I don’t just mean the way that their intonation goes up at the end of every sentence, making everything sound like a question…?

They basically have a whole other language. It’s English, but not as you know it.

It starts with a constant need to make speech shorter.

Bottle shops are bottle-o’s, McDonald’s is Macca’s, registration is rego, and service station is servo. These guys have pretty much got that stuff covered:



(Although I’m pretty sure nobody actually refers to petrol as ‘petty’…)


As a rule, take off the end of the word and add a vowel, or a Y or S. This goes for people too – almost nobody in Oz escapes a nickname.

Neither do places. Freo, Brissie, Newy, Margs.

That’s Fremantle, Brisbane, Newcastle (yes Australia also has one), and Margaret River, to you Poms.

Sometimes it takes a bit of detective work to figure out what the hell someone is on about, but it is usually pretty obvious.

If in doubt, smile and feign understanding.

Once you’ve distinguished the avos from the arvos, you can move onto the vocab.

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but should at least ensure that you aren’t left staring blankly when someone asks you if they can grab a durry off you, or asks where the dunny is.


Food & Drink

Stubby – bottle of beer (and related: a stubby holder is a kind of beer cosy that I’ve only ever seen used in Oz)

Tinny – tin of beer.

Middy / pot – half a pint. Different states have different terms for this – e.g. in Victoria it’s a pot, but WA it’s a midi.

Schooner – a weird drink measurement, somewhere between a pint and a pot. (Wikipedia tells me it’s three-quarters of a pint, which makes sense). Not all drinking establishments use these, but they’re fairly common in Melbourne

Slab – a carton of beers. Or ciders, I guess.

Goon – if you don’t know what this is then a) lucky you and b) you can’t have been a backpacker in Australia yet. Goon is both the best friend and mortal enemy of the budget backpacker: cheap, horrific wine from a box, often drunk straight from the goon bag.

Lollies – sweets. All sweets, not just actual lollipops.

Parmy – chicken parmigiana. Basically a chicken schnitzel with tomato sauce and cheese on top.


Sydney Opera house



Doona – duvet.

Manchester – I’ve never heard this used in conversation, but manchester usually refers to linen – towels, sheets and so on. You’ll see it on signs in supermarkets, and now you won’t be confused like I was.

Esky – cooler. Big cool box that you put ice in to keep your food (or more likely, drinks) cold.

Dunny – toilet. Enough said.



Bogan – kind of like a chav or a redneck. Bad hair, missing teeth. That kind of attractive stuff.

Dag – dork, loser. Can be an affectionate term.

Sook – someone who’s sulking, or whining. Kind of like calling someone out for being a baby.



Durry – cigarette.

Daks – trousers. Trackie daks are trackie bottoms, obviously.

Thongs – I feel like everyone already knows this, but thongs are flip flops. (G-strings are thongs, FYI)

Ute – pickup truck.

Chook – chicken.

EFTPOS – stands for Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale. Basically, if you pay by card you are using EFTPOS.

Footy – Australian Rules Football… actual football is generally called soccer.

Three Sisters



Fair dinkum – oh really?

Feeling crook – feeling ill.

How you going? – How you doing?

I don’t know if everyone finds this confusing but it took me ages to get my head round this question. My first thought was always ‘going where?’

But, as it turns out, the answer is almost invariably ‘good, thanks’ – the universal ‘how are you?’ response.

She’ll be right – it’ll be fine. ‘She’ can be a person or a situation. Makes total sense.

No dramas – no problem, no worries. This is a phrase you might accidentally get addicted to saying (I am currently in recovery for this).

Heaps (+ adjective) – very (+ adjective). The meaning of this is pretty obvious but it’s just a fun little turn of phrase. It’s not really good, it’s heaps good. This is probably one of my favourite Australia-isms.



Aaaaand that’s all I could think of. If you can think of more, leave them in the comments below!


Hope you enjoyed that brief introduction to the Aussie lexicon.

And, big news – people actually do say ‘G’day’ in real life. My mind was blown when I first experienced that.

Now I’m just waiting for someone to say, “More shrimp on the barbie!” and my life will be complete.

Happy travelling!

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How to Speak Australian