Top 10 Slang Words To Try In Australia

G’Day Mate! The Top Slang Words to Try in Australia

When we travel, one of the first things we consider is the language of the country we’re visiting. We often think that if they speak the same language, then we’ll be able to navigate our way smoothly around them. However, this is not the case for Australia. Foreigners will find themselves baffled when they visit down under because of the idiosyncrasies in their way of speaking. In the same manner, Australians often use their unique terms and are often not understood in other English-speaking countries. This is because Australians love to abbreviate and use different terms for their expressions. They also use different suffixes when using slang words. It may sometimes cause confusion for visitors especially when used in phrases, but it’s actually the Australian’s way to make you feel more comfortable. Here are some slang words to try in Australia to have more fun during your vacation.

1. Arvo

Australian’s love for shortening words is evident in “arvo”, which comes from “afternoon”. There is no etymology for this, just that it’s a way to say something faster. Australians generally have a laid back personality and this is seen in the way they talk. They’re not lazy, they just want to do something else other than saying long words. Don’t be lost when someone asks you if you’re available in the arvo or tells you that they will see you in the arvo. It’s one of the most common slang words in Australia you will hear when you visit down under. There is no clear logic or reason behind the abbreviation, but it follows the same “rules” for calling an umbrella a “brolly”, or a musician who plays at a pub with a band a “muso”.

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2. Macca’s

One of the most surprising terms that you might encounter when visiting Australia is Macca’s. Visitors often think that Macca’s is a local restaurant, a beloved local joint that serves native cuisines. Don’t be confused, it’s just our beloved McDonald’s restaurant! This is another example of abbreviating a word so fewer syllables and less time will be needed to say them. It’s not laziness, it’s just an Australian’s way to sound more familiar. More than half of the population say “Macca’s” than the original name that McDonald’s had to acknowledge it. There are branches across the country that carry “Macca’s” in their signages than the traditional name. So next time you’re craving for burger and fries, head on to Macca’s!

3. Footy

A sure way to make a friend out any Australian is to ask them about footy. When Australians talk about footy, it’s Australian football or rugby. This is not a case of shortening a word, as both football and footy have the same number of syllables. This is a case of ending words in –ie, -ey, or –y. It sounds cute and endearing, so it’s fine. Locals love footy so much that there are four major types. There are even more leagues and teams to join in. Australians are passionate about footy that they can go for hours explaining the different types and leagues. Footy is not to be mistaken with American football because it’s called soccer down under. But don’t be afraid to ask if you’re confused about footy, your Australian friend will surely be pumped up to explain this to you.

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4. Barbie

Another slang term that you will usually hear in Australia is barbie. And no, this is not the doll. Barbie is short for barbecue. It’s a combination of Australians loving to shorten their words then adding –ie as a suffix to make it sound more friendly. It’s the same “rule” that applies when calling the avocado “avo”, breakfast “brekky”, and Christmas “Chrissie”.
Australians love grilling and they surely know how to throw barbecue parties. Whether meat, fish, vegetables or even fruits, they have their place on the grill. So the next time you are asked if you’re available on Saturday arvo for Barbie while watching the footy, you know that you will have a wonderful afternoon watching Australian football while enjoying a sumptuous meal.

5. Servo

When you need to fill up your vehicle’s tank and ask where the gas station is, you might get confusing looks. Gasoline stations are more often called service stations in Australia because they serve more than petrol (as gasoline is called) and diesel. There are convenience stores where you can get coffee and snacks, and other services that cater to needs like paying for bills or adding credit to your phone. This is the reason why service stations are called “servos”. Again, the abbreviation is a term of endearment for Australians. So the next time you need petrol, ask where the servo is. You might get an unpleasant smell when you ask for gas.

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6. Coppa

Coppa is one of the most useful Australian slangs to learn. Aside from the suffix –ie, the ending –a or –o is another endearment that is used when abbreviating words. Coppa is the slang used for policemen or law enforcement officers. This actually has roots from the English migrants who used “copper” to call policemen. In English, “to cop” someone is to catch someone, hence the term copper for policemen. When this was brought to Australia, “copper” became “coppa” partly because of the accent and partly because of the unique way that locals have with their words. So the next time you find yourself lost during your Australian trip, ask directions from the nearest coppa you can find. Hopefully, no accidents will happen around that you will need to call an “ambo” or an ambulance.

7. Cuppa

Not to be confused with “coppa”, this term is used when inviting a friend over for tea. Cuppa is the abbreviation for “cup of tea”. This is another British influence on Australians that can be traced back to the first immigrants. Teas are important to the British people and so tea was introduced to Australians during the colonization. Nowadays, it is common for Australians to drink tea that they even have their own local brand. So when you are asked if you are available for a cuppa in the arvo, you know that it is an Australian way to invite you for an afternoon tea.

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8. Frothy

One of the most fun slang words to try in Australia is “frothy”, the term for beer. This is an ode to the foam or froth found in beers which Australians love to have. Beers are so popular across the country that they have other slang terms for it – “a cold one”, “stubbie”, and “slab”. Stubbie is the term used for a 375ml beer bottle. When you are asked to bring a slab, it means you are expected to come with a 24-pack of beer. Though not an abbreviation and certainly not shorter than the monosyllabic “beer”, these Australian slang words are descriptions of the products they represent. When you are invited for a “frothy” or “a cold one”, you are sure to enjoy a cold glass or bottle of this favoured Australian brew.

9. Sickie

Employees will surely know this term as this is the slang used in Australia to describe taking a sick day. Sickie is an abbreviation for “sick leave”, taking a day off work due to medical reasons. This is another example of shortening a term and adding –ie at the end. Other examples of this formation are “surfie” for a surfer and “firie” for firefighters. However, when the phrase “chuck a sickie” is used, it means that the person taking a sickie is not really sick. So when you are visiting a friend in Australia and they say that they chucked a sickie to go with you, you’ll know that they made up an excuse in the office and just said they were not feeling well to join you on your trip.

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10. Snag

When used in traditional English, “to snag” something is usually to get it. We commonly say “I snagged the best job in the world” to indicate our love for our work, but it means a different thing in Australia. Snag, also called snagger, snarler or snork, means sausage in Australia. It traces its etymology from the Scottish term “snag” which means a light meal or a morsel. So now when you’re asked for an arvo of barbie with a snag and a cold one, you will understand that you are being invited to an afternoon of barbecued sausages with beer, not a bad way to relax during your Australian trip.

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Australians have a unique way of giving terms to common things. Although English may be a shared language to many, it may be difficult to follow discussions when in Australia. Partly due to accent and partly due to the tradition of abbreviating words, there are many slang terms that are used in Australia. Some slang words trace their roots to indigenous terms or words brought by colonizers, but Australians put their twist to these terms and have taken them as their own. Most of these slang words or phrases are shared throughout the country. You can expect to hear them whether you are visiting the capital or will be travelling to the outback. It will be good to learn them so you can have slang words to try in Australia on your next visit. The distinctive way of clipping words or adding suffixes to these clipped words easily stick to the mind, marking the endearing way that Australians value and respect their language.

Fun Fact

What is a good Australian slang?

In Australian English a goog is an egg. It is an abbreviation of the British dialect word goggy ‘a child’s name for an egg’, retained in Scotland as goggie.

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Dave P
Dave P
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