If you dream of studying in Australia, be prepared to learn some slang. Aussies are known for their use of informal language. Many consider it part of their national identity.
As this article by two Monash University linguists points out, Australia’s attachment to slang actually goes all the way back to some of the earliest English settlements in the country.
So, what slang words should you know before traveling “down under”? Here are 12 popular Australian slang words to get started:
“Arvo” means afternoon. According to the Australian National Dictionary Centre, the word was first recorded in 1920. In Australian English, an “-o” is commonly added to shortened words. Two examples are “ambo” (ambulance driver) or “rello” (relative) – but there are many more.
How to use it: I’m meeting my sister in the park on Sunday arvo.
“Barbie” is a short form of barbeque. In Australian English, “-ie” is also added to lots of abbreviated words. The word “selfie” is a good example of this; it was coined by an Australian man in 2002!
How to use it: We’re having a barbie tomorrow – do you want to come?
Chucking a sickie
“Chucking a sickie” means to take a sick day from work when you are not sick – or without a proper reason. Look, there’s that “–ie” again.
According to a 2018 study, nearly half of Australians who take off sick are actually chucking a sickie.
How to use it: I’m going to chuck a sickie on Monday to spend an extra day with my family.
Give someone a bell
“To give someone a bell” simply means to call someone on the phone. It’s a term used both in Australia and the U.K.
How to use it: I’ll give you a bell tomorrow when I’m out of class.
“Hard yakka” means work hard. The word “yakka” – which first appeared in the 1840s – derives from the word for work (yaga). It comes from Yagara, an Indigenous language in Australia.
In fact, many Australian English words derive from Indigenous languages. Take a look at some more examples on ABC Learn English.
How to use it: Studying for my final English exam was hard yakka, but worth it.
“Macca’s” is a nickname for Mcdonald’s. If you used the term Macca’s in the U.S. or Canada, you’d get some funny looks. But the term is very common in Australia. In fact, McDonald’s changed its name to Macca’s at stores across the country for Australia Day in 2013 – and still refers to itself as Macca’s today.
How to use it: I’m craving a cheeseburger. Where’s the closest Macca’s?
“Mate” is a popular word for friend. And while it’s used in other English-speaking countries around the world, it has a special connection to Australia. In the past, mate has been used to address men, but it can be gender-neutral.
In Australia, you’ll also hear mate used in an ironic sense. If someone is upset with an athlete’s play, for example, they might yell at the T.V.: “maattee!”
How to use it: G’day mate, how are you doing?
“No worries” is a common way to say that something is no bother – or even to say you’re welcome. It’s often used to assure people that everyone will be alright, and not to worry.
How to use it: “Thanks for taking that shift at work for me!” – No worries, I don’t mind at all.
She’ll be right
“She’ll be right” is an optimistic way to say that everything will turn out okay in the end.
Now, why is the pronoun she used? “Australian English often uses the feminine pronoun she where standard English would use it. For example, instead of ‘it’ll be right’ Australians say ‘she’ll be right’,” explains the Australian National Dictionary Centre.
How to use it: I’m worried about applying to a university abroad. But I know if I work hard, she’ll be right.
A “uey” is a U-turn. When you say it, it sounds like “You E”. Instead of saying make a uey, you’re more likely to hear an Australian say chuck a uey.
How to use it: We’re going in the wrong direction! Chuck a uey up ahead to turn around.
“Uni” is an abbreviation for – you guessed it – university. The word uni is used in both Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.; and while it’s not very common in Canada or the U.S., most people would still understand you if you said it. There are 43 unis in Australia – you can take a look at them here.
How to use it: My best mate from uni just had a baby. She looks just like him!
A “veggo” is a vegetarian. About 3% of the population in Australia say they’re vegetarian, while just 1% are vegan. But if you’re a veggo, you won’t have any issues shopping. There are lots of meat and dairy-free options available in supermarkets and restaurants.
How to use it: My brother is a veggo. He cooked some amazing veggie burgers on the barbie last weekend.