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Australian English

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Australian English
Native speakers
16.5 million in Australia (2012)[1]
3.5 million L2 speakers of English in Australia (Crystal 2003)
Early forms
Latin (English alphabet)
Unified English Braille[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Australian English (AuE; en-AU[a]) is the set of varieties of the English language native to Australia. Although English has no official status in the Constitution, Australian English is the country's national and de facto official language as it is the first language of the majority of the population.

Australian English began to diverge from British English after the First Settlers, who set up the Colony of New South Wales, arrived in 1788. By 1820, their speech was recognised as being different from British English. Australian English arose from the intermingling of early settlers, who were from a great variety of mutually intelligible dialectal regions of the British Isles, and quickly developed into a distinct variety of English[5] which differs considerably from other varieties of English in vocabulary, accent, pronunciation, register, grammar and spelling.

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  • ✪ Australian Slang | Real Life English! | Vocabulary and Common Expressions
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This video is one that you've been asking me for for a long time! I'm Emma from mmmEnglish, here to share some very common, very Australian expressions with you. If you are living in Australia or planning to visit Australia in the future and plan to chat with some locals while you're here, you're going to have to learn some of the local slang expressions and get used to listening to an Australian English accent. If you don't already know, I'm from Australia, a very big, very beautiful island underneath you or to the east or the west of you. Now, my Australian English is an English teachers version of Australian English, so I thought it would be useful to get some real Australian accents on here just to show you what it's like. So I've asked a few friends to think of some common Australian expressions that they use all the time and then try to explain them for you. It's going to seem like a bit of a random collection of expressions because I asked them to think of ones that they use. But they are super useful and they're used every day! Ready? Let me first introduce you to Ben. Now you've actually met Ben before in this video here. I often say "What are you doing this arvo?" which means, well it's a compressed way of saying "What are you doing this afternoon?" Thanks Ben! that was a pretty good explanation. This afternoon is very often spoken by Australians as "This arvo" or even "sarvo". Arvo is used in spoke English only and that goes for most of the expressions in this video. They're informal and they're mostly used in spoken English. And Australians like to shorten words as much as possible. Arvo. Avo. Ambo. Servo. Barbie. Sanga. Kanga. Blowie. Footy. Mozzie. Bottle-o. And it just goes on and on! That's where arvo comes from. And then there's the link between the words, this and arvo. And this happens all the time in spoken English for all native speakers who are speaking at a natural pace no matter where they come from. Words that end in a consonant sound are often linked to the following word, if it starts with a vowel sound. I'm a little hungry. I'm a I'm a little hungry. Keep it together. Keep it together. Keep it together. So that's why this and arvo sound like they're smashed together this. This arvo. This arvo. This arvo. This arvo. This arvo. We're having some mates around for a barbie 'sarvo, you should come! You can also hear arvo on its own. I'll pick it up on Wednesday arvo. Let's move on. She'll be right. Where would I use "she'll be right"? Any time that something looks like it's going to go wrong or you're in doubt or any uncertainty. Yes! And you're just like "nah it'll be fine" but instead you just go "she'll be right". Mate add a "mate" on the end. Mate is that extra convincer. It just reassures everyone she'll be right mate. Like Jess said, this expression is used all the time when you're trying to convince yourself or someone else that everything will be okay. It's the equivalent of saying "don't worry about it" or "it'll be fine" The car feels a little strange, I hope we don't have a flat tire. She'll be right, there's only ten K's to go. The trick with this expression is that 'she' as a pronoun doesn't always refer to a woman or a girl. Most of the time, yes it does, but sometimes you'll hear people refer to objects as she - it's just something to keep in mind particularly for this expression. Here, she is referring to the tire or even to the situation in general. So let's hear a few common ways that Australians talk positively about something. Here's Ali. I say either it'll be ace or I've had a ripper of a time! It's a great thing. If you have a ripper, yeah a ripper, a ripper of a time, you've had a great time like it's it's up here. Yeah. And the good time's probably here and a ripper of a time and an ace time is like like maybe a little bit lower. Okay so all of these expressions are used to say that something is really great. Note that ace is an adjective, it could be used to describe people, things, experiences. Ripper can be an adjective too! I've had a ripper day! But it can also be used in this fixed expression as a noun. A ripper of a time. How was your trip? It was ace! We had a ripper of a time! We just hung out on the beach all day! Now when Ali and Jess were using their hands to show how great these expressions were, they were explaining the degree of greatness. So according to them, a great time is here and an ace time is here and a ripper of a time is here. I guess that might be true! Australians, what do you think? Is a ripper better than ace? I think so. Meet Tom. Now Tom is a tradesman and tradesmen work in trades. They build things and they fix things. Here in Australia it's really common to hear the abbreviated names of these jobs. The shortened version because we Australians love to make words shorter. Say out of all the tradies, which is a tradesman, tradies, you got your chippies - which is a carpenter - sparkys - which is an electrician - the brickies - which are bricklayers. Did you get that? He's referring to people's jobs. A tradie is a tradesman. A chippy is a carpenter. Someone who workswith wood. A sparky is an electrician. A brickie is a bricklayer. Probably the other best part of the day is where we knock off. Finish. Get on the piss, which is like you go have a beer. Knock off and get on the piss. Not distinctly Australian expressions there but ones that you will definitely hear when you're speaking to Australians. Unfortunately. Knock off is to finish work for the day. What time do you knock off? I'll knock off early so we can go to the cinema. To get or to be on the piss means to drink alcohol and usually quite a lot of it. One glass of wine is not "getting on the piss". Drinking ten beers is definitely on the piss. Now this is not really a pleasant way to describe this activity. It's very, very informal and used only amongst friends but for goodness sake's please don't tell your boss that that's what you're doing on a Tuesday night. Tell your boss you're meeting a friend for a drink. But then when you're talking to your friend you could say let's get on the piss. That would be letting them know that you were interested in drinking a lot that night. Where's Sam? It's Friday, he'll be on the piss with his mates. Please don't tell anyone you learnt that from me, you learnt it from Tom. I've got a few mates who often chuck a sickie which means when you can't be bothered going to work, they pretend to be sick and they tell their boss, well they tell them I'm sick, but they're really chucking a sickie. Okay this is a good one, every Australian watching has definitely chucked a sickie at least at some time in the past. And you might have done it as well. So this is when you tell your boss that you're unwell and that you need to take the day off work. But really you just want to do something more fun like go to the beach or maybe the night before, you went out and you partied too hard and you can't be bothered, you feel lazy. So in Australian slang you can say that you chucked a sickie. Your new friends here might try and convince you to go camping with them one long weekend. Come with us! You can just chuck a sickie on Monday! The weather is so good today, I think we'll just chuck a sickie and go to the beach. Also check out how Ben said Australia. Not in Australia anyway. Not in Australia anyway. Not in Australia anyway. This is literally what Australia sounds like when Australians say it. Let's get back to the girls. Take it easy. Yeah. If you're too keen, too excited. When else do you use it? Like if you, just like, I'm going to take it easy. Too much. But then you can also tell someone if they're like angry or like too like, erratic. Just say like whoa take it easy. Take it easy is not strictly Australian. You'll hear it said by lots of different native English speakers but it does have a few different meanings like Jess suggested. It can mean relax, to do nothing, just rest or chill out. What are you doing on the weekend? Nothing much, just taking it easy. Or it can mean calm down so if someone is getting angry or upset or they're too energetic, then you can say, hey, take it easy, Sam. Stop yelling, tell me what's wrong. Okay we're just going to deal with the shrimp thing right now. You probably think that we say "Chuck another shrimp on the barbie!" all the time. No! In Australia, this is not a shrimp. It's a prawn. We never say shrimp, you'll never hear an Australian say shrimp. But barbie is slang for barbecue and you'll hear people say that all the time! Come round to our place for a Barbie on Sunday. That just means come around to our house for dinner. A dinner that we're cooking on the barbecue. So there you have it, a collection of Australian expressions by Australians. Thanks to all of my awesome Aussie mates who helped to make this video. That's just a little taste of the type of English that you can expect down here in Australia. Have a prawn off the barbie. Chuck another prawn on the barbie. Yeah, cut to me. Well, I'm gonna play cricket, I bowl a few rips and orders or a couple of ring-a-ding-dinggers. Yeah I don't have to explain it, you have to have like the words come on. Sorry mate. Typical tradies, though, I'm a chippy, you know, all the tradies get to work, smocko, knock off, get on the piss. Take it easy, take it back a notch, just wind it down over there, just keep going. How do I speak in slang? Do you know what though? I reckon we nailed this. Don't forget to subscribe and check out some of my other more serious English grammar lessons over there. Thanks for watching, I'll see you soon.



The earliest form of Australian English was spoken by the children of the colonists in early New South Wales. This first generation of native-born children created a new dialect that was to become the language of the nation. The Australian-born children in the new colony were exposed to a wide range of dialects from all over the British Isles, in particular from Ireland and South East England.[6]

The native-born children in the colony created the new dialect from the speech they heard around them, and with it expressed peer solidarity. Even when new settlers arrived, this new dialect was strong enough to blunt other patterns of speech.

A quarter of the convicts were Irish. Many had been arrested in Ireland, and some in Great Britain. Many, if not most, of the Irish spoke Irish and either no English at all, or spoke it poorly and rarely. There were other significant populations of convicts from non-English speaking parts of Britain, such as the Scottish Highlands, Wales and parts of Cornwall.

Records from the early 19th century show this distinct dialect in the colonies after the first settlement in 1788.[5] Peter Miller Cunningham's 1827 book Two Years in New South Wales, described the distinctive accent and vocabulary of the native-born colonists, that differed from that of their parents and with a strong London influence.[6] Anthony Burgess writes that "Australian English may be thought of as a kind of fossilised Cockney of the Dickensian era."[7]

The Australian gold rushes saw many external influences on the language.
The Australian gold rushes saw many external influences on the language.

The first of the Australian gold rushes, in the 1850s, began a large wave of immigration, during which about two per cent of the population of the United Kingdom emigrated to the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria.[8] According to linguist Bruce Moore, "the major input of the various sounds that went into constructing the Australian accent was from south-east England".[6]

Some elements of Aboriginal languages have been adopted by Australian English—mainly as names for places, flora and fauna (for example dingo) and local culture. Many such are localised, and do not form part of general Australian use, while others, such as kangaroo, boomerang, budgerigar, wallaby and so on have become international. Other examples are cooee and hard yakka. The former is used as a high-pitched call, for attracting attention, (pronounced /kʉːiː/)[stress?] which travels long distances. Cooee is also a notional distance: if he's within cooee, we'll spot him. Hard yakka means hard work and is derived from yakka, from the Jagera/Yagara language once spoken in the Brisbane region.

Also of Aboriginal origin is the word bung, from the Sydney pidgin English (and ultimately from the Sydney Aboriginal language), meaning "dead", with some extension to "broken" or "useless". Many towns or suburbs of Australia have also been influenced or named after Aboriginal words. The best-known example is the capital, Canberra, named after a local language word meaning "meeting place".[9]

Among the changes starting in the 19th century were the introduction of words, spellings, terms and usages from North American English. The words imported included some later considered to be typically Australian, such as bushwhacker and squatter.[10]

This American influence continued with the popularity of American films and the influx of American military personnel in World War II; seen in the enduring persistence of such terms as okay, you guys and gee.[11]

Phonology and pronunciation

The primary way in which Australian English is distinctive from other varieties of English is through its unique pronunciation. It shares most similarity with other Southern Hemisphere accents, in particular New Zealand English.[12] Like most dialects of English it is distinguished primarily by its vowel phonology.[13]


Australian English monophthongs[14]
Australian English monophthongs[14]
Part 1 of Australian English diphthongs[14]
Part 1 of Australian English diphthongs[14]
Part 2 of Australian English diphthongs[14]
Part 2 of Australian English diphthongs[14]

The vowels of Australian English can be divided according to length. The long vowels, which include monophthongs and diphthongs, mostly correspond to the tense vowels used in analyses of Received Pronunciation (RP) as well as its centring diphthongs. The short vowels, consisting only of monophthongs, correspond to the RP lax vowels. There exist pairs of long and short vowels with overlapping vowel quality giving Australian English phonemic length distinction, which is unusual amongst the various dialects of English, though not unknown elsewhere, such as in regional south-eastern dialects of the UK and eastern seaboard dialects in the US.[15] As with New Zealand English, the weak-vowel merger is complete in Australian English: unstressed /ɪ/ is merged into /ə/ (schwa), unless it is followed by a velar consonant.

monophthongs diphthongs
short vowels long vowels
IPA examples IPA examples IPA examples
ʊ foot, hood, chook ʉː goose, boo, who’d ɪə near, beard, hear[nb 1]
ɪ kit, bid, hid, fleece, bead, heat æɔ mouth, bowed, how’d
e dress, led, head square, bared, haired əʉ goat, bode, hoed
ə comma, about, winter ɜː nurse, bird, heard æɪ face, bait, hade
æ trap, lad, had ɐː start, palm, bath[nb 2] ɑe price, bite, hide
ɐ strut, bud, hud thought, north, force choice, boy, oil
ɔ lot, cloth, hot
  1. ^ The boundary between monophthongs and diphthongs is somewhat fluid, /ɪə/, for example, is commonly realised as [ɪː], particularly in closed syllables, though also found in open syllables such as we're, here, and so on. In open syllables particularly the pronunciation varies from the bisyllabic [ɪːa] though the diphthong [ɪə] to the long vowel [ɪː].
  2. ^ Many words historically containing /æ/ have /ɐː/ instead, however the extent to which this development has taken hold varies regionally.


There is little variation in the sets of consonants used in different English dialects but there are variations in how these consonants are used. Australian English is no exception.

Consonant phonemes of Australian English[16]
  Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal   m       n       ŋ    
Plosive p b     t d k ɡ    
Fricative f v θ ð s z ʃ ʒ     h  
Approximant           ɹ   j   w    
Lateral           l            

Australian English is non-rhotic; that is, the /r/ sound does not appear at the end of a syllable or immediately before a consonant. However, a linking /r/ can occur when a word that has a final <r> in the spelling comes before another word that starts with a vowel. An intrusive /r/ may similarly be inserted before a vowel in words that do not have <r> in the spelling in certain environments, namely after the long vowel /oː/ and after word final /ə/. This can be heard in "law-r-and order," where an intrusive R is voiced after the W and before the A.

There is some degree of allophonic variation in the alveolar stops. As with North American English, Intervocalic alveolar flapping is a feature of Australian English: prevocalic /t/ and /d/ surface as the alveolar tap [ɾ] after sonorants other than /m, ŋ/ as well as at the end of a word or morpheme before any vowel in the same breath group. For many speakers, /t/ and /d/ in the combinations /tr/ and /dr/-are also palatalised, thus /tʃr/ and /dʒr/, as Australian /r/ is only very slightly retroflex, the tip remaining below the level of the bottom teeth[citation needed] in the same position as for /w/; it is also somewhat rounded ("to say 'r' the way Australians do you need to say 'w' at the same time"), where older English /wr/ and /r/ have fallen together as [rʷ]. The wine–whine merger is complete in Australian English.

Yod-dropping occurs after /s/, /z/ and, /θ/. Other cases of /sj/ and /zj/, along with /tj/ and /dj/, have coalesced to /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ respectively for many speakers. /j/ is generally retained in other consonant clusters.

In common with most varieties of Scottish English and American English, the phoneme /l/ is pronounced as a "dark" (velarised) L ([ɫ]) in all positions, unlike other dialects such as Received Pronunciation and Hiberno (Irish) English, where a light L (i.e., a non-velarised L) is used in many positions.


Differences in stress, weak forms and standard pronunciation of isolated words occur between Australian English and other forms of English, which while noticeable do not impair intelligibility.

The affixes -ary, -ery, -ory, -bury, -berry and -mony (seen in words such as necessary, mulberry and matrimony) can be pronounced either with a full vowel or a schwa. Although some words like necessary are almost universally pronounced with the full vowel, older generations of Australians are relatively likely to pronounce these affixes with a schwa while younger generations are relatively likely to use a full vowel.

Words ending in unstressed -ile derived from Latin adjectives ending in -ilis are pronounced with a full vowel (/ɑel/), so that fertile rhymes with fur tile rather than turtle.

In addition, miscellaneous pronunciation differences exist when compared with other varieties of English in relation to seemingly random words. For example, as with American English, the vowel in yoghurt is pronounced as /əʉ/ ("long 'O'") rather than /ɔ/ ("short o"); vitamin, migraine and privacy are pronounced with /ɑe/ (as in mine) rather than /ɪ/, /iː/ and /ɪ/ respectively; paedophile is pronounced with /e/ (as in red) rather than /iː/; and urinal is pronounced with schwa /ə/ rather than /ɑe/ ("long i"). As with British English, advertisement is pronounced with /ɪ/; tomato and vase are pronounced with /ɐː/ (as in father) instead of /æɪ/; zebra is pronounced with /e/ (as in red) rather than /iː/; and buoy is pronounced as /boɪ/ (as in boy) rather than /ˈbʉːiː/. Two examples of miscellaneous pronunciations which contrast with both standard American and British usages are data, which may be pronounced with /ɐː/ ("dah") instead of /æɪ/ ("day"); and maroon, pronounced with /əʉ/ ("own") as opposed to /ʉː/ ("oon").


Variation in Australian closing diphthongs[17]
Diaphoneme Lexical set Cultivated General Broad
// FLEECE [ɪi] [ɪi] [əːɪ]
// GOOSE [ʊu] [ïɯ, ʊʉ] [əːʉ]
// FACE [ɛɪ] [ɐ̟ɪ] [ɐ̟ːɪ, a̠ːɪ]
// GOAT [o̽ʊ] [ɐ̟ʉ] [ɐ̟ːʉ, a̠ːʉ]
// PRICE [a̠ɪ̞] [ɒɪ̞] [ɒːɪ̞]
// MOUTH [a̠ʊ] [æo] [ɛːo, ɛ̃ːɤ]

Academic research has shown that the most notable variation within Australian English is largely sociocultural. This is mostly evident in phonology, which is divided into three sociocultural varieties: broad, general and cultivated.[18]

A limited range of word choices is strongly regional in nature. Consequently, the geographical background of individuals can be inferred, if they use words that are peculiar to particular Australian states or territories and, in some cases, even smaller regions.

In addition, some Australians speak creole languages derived from Australian English, such as Australian Kriol, Torres Strait Creole and Norfuk.


The broad, general and cultivated accents form a continuum that reflects minute variations in the Australian accent. They can reflect the social class, education and urban or rural background of speakers, though such indicators are not always reliable.[19] According to linguists, the general Australian variant emerged some time before 1900.[20] Recent generations have seen a comparatively smaller proportion of the population speaking with the broad variant, along with the near extinction of the cultivated Australian accent.[21][22] The growth and dominance of general Australian accents perhaps reflects its prominence on radio and television during the late 20th century.

Australian Aboriginal English is made up of a range of forms which developed differently in different parts of Australia, and are said to vary along a continuum, from forms close to Standard Australian English to more non-standard forms. There are distinctive features of accent, grammar, words and meanings, as well as language use.

The ethnocultural dialects are diverse accents in Australian English that are spoken by the minority groups, which are of non-English speaking background.[23] A massive immigration from Asia has made a large increase in diversity and the will for people to show their cultural identity within the Australian context.[24] These ethnocultural varieties contain features of General Australian English as adopted by the children of immigrants blended with some non-English language features, such as the Afro-Asiatic and Asian languages.

Regional variation

Although Australian English is relatively homogeneous, there are some regional variations. The dialects of English spoken in South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands differ slightly in vocabulary and phonology.

Most regional differences are in word usage. Swimming clothes are known as cossies or swimmers in New South Wales, togs in Queensland, and bathers in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia.[25] What most of Australia calls a stroller is usually called a pram in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.[26] Preference for some synonymous words also differ between states. Garbage (i.e., garbage bin, garbage truck) dominates over rubbish in New South Wales and Queensland, while rubbish is more popular in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia.[26] The word footy generally refers to the most popular football code in an area; that is, rugby league or rugby union depending on the local area, in most of New South Wales and Queensland, and Australian rules football elsewhere. Beer glasses are also named differently in different states. Distinctive grammatical patterns exist such as the use of the interrogative eh (also spelled ay or aye), which is particularly associated with Queensland.

There are some notable regional variations in the pronunciations of certain words. The trap‑bath split is more complete in South Australia, which had a different settlement chronology and type from other parts of the country. This resulted in a British English influence that lasted longer that of the other colonies. Words such as dance, advance, plant, graph, example and answer are pronounced with /aː/ (as in father) far more frequently in South Australia while elsewhere in Australia the older /æ/ (as in mad) is more common.[26] L-vocalisation is also more common in South Australia than other states. In Western Australian and Queensland English, the vowels in near and square are typically realised as centring diphthongs ("nee-ya"), whereas in the other states they may also be realised as monophthongs.[27] A feature common in Victorian English is salary–celery merger, whereby a Victorian pronunciation of Ellen may sound like Alan to speakers from other states. There is also regional variation in /uː/ before /l/ (as in school and pool).


Intrinsic traits

Bush poets such as Banjo Paterson captured the Australian vocabulary of the 19th century in their bush ballads.
Bush poets such as Banjo Paterson captured the Australian vocabulary of the 19th century in their bush ballads.

Australian English has many words and idioms which are unique to the dialect and have been written on extensively, with the Macquarie Dictionary, widely regarded as the national standard, incorporating numerous Australian terms.[28]

Internationally well-known examples of Australian terminology include outback, meaning a remote, sparsely populated area, the bush, meaning either a native forest or a country area in general, and g'day, a greeting. Dinkum, or fair dinkum means "true" or "is that true?", among other things, depending on context and inflection.[29] The derivative dinky-di means "true" or devoted: a "dinky-di Aussie" is a "true Australian".

Australian poetry, such as "The Man from Snowy River", as well as folk songs such as "Waltzing Matilda", contain many historical Australian words and phrases that are understood by Australians even though some are not in common usage today.

Australian English, in common with several British English dialects (for example, Cockney, Scouse, Glaswegian and Geordie), uses the word mate. Many words used by Australians were at one time used in the United Kingdom but have since fallen out of usage or changed in meaning there.

For example, creek in Australia, as in North America, means a stream or small river, whereas in the UK it means a small watercourse flowing into the sea; paddock in Australia means field, whereas in the UK it means a small enclosure for livestock; bush or scrub in Australia, as in North America, means a wooded area, whereas in England they are commonly used only in proper names (such as Shepherd's Bush and Wormwood Scrubs).

Litotes, such as "not bad", "not much" and "you're not wrong", are also used, as are diminutives, which are commonly used and are often used to indicate familiarity. Some common examples are arvo (afternoon), barbie (barbecue), smoko (cigarette break), Aussie (Australian) and pressie (present/gift). This may also be done with people's names to create nicknames (other English speaking countries create similar diminutives). For example, "Gazza" from Gary, or "Smitty" from John Smith. The use of the suffix -o originates in Irish Gaelic[citation needed] (Irish ó), which is both a postclitic and a suffix with much the same meaning as in Australian English.

In informal speech, incomplete comparisons are sometimes used, such as "sweet as" (as in "That car is sweet as."). "Full", "fully" or "heaps" may precede a word to act as an intensifier (as in "The waves at the beach were heaps good."). This was more common in regional Australia and South Australia[when?] but has been in common usage in urban Australia for decades. The suffix "-ly" is sometimes omitted in broader Australian English. For instance, "really good" can become "real good".

Australia's switch to the metric system in the 1970s changed most of the country's vocabulary of measurement from imperial to metric measures.[30] Since the switch to metric, heights of individuals are listed in centimetres on official documents such as a driver's licence but older people understand and may speak of feet and inches.[31]

Comparison with other varieties

Where British and American vocabulary differs, Australians sometimes favour a usage different from both varieties, as with footpath (for US sidewalk, UK pavement), capsicum (for US bell pepper, UK green/red pepper), or doona (for US comforter, UK duvet) from a trademarked brand. In other instances, it either shares a term with American English, as with truck (UK: lorry) or eggplant (UK: aubergine), or with British English, as with mobile phone (US: cell phone) or bonnet (US: hood).

A non-exhaustive selection of common British English terms not commonly used in Australian English include (Australian usage in brackets): artic/articulated lorry (semi-trailer); aubergine (eggplant); bank holiday (public holiday); bedsit (one-bedroom apartment); bin lorry (garbage truck); cagoule (raincoat); candy floss (fairy floss); cash machine (automatic teller machine/ATM); child-minder (babysitter); chivvy (nag); clingfilm (glad wrap/cling wrap); cooker (stove); courgette (zucchini); skive (wag); dungarees (overalls); dustbin (garbage/rubbish bin); dustcart (garbage/rubbish truck); duvet (doona); elastoplast/plaster (band-aid); estate car (station wagon); fairy cake (cupcake/patty cake); free phone (toll-free); football (soccer); full fat milk (full-cream milk); goose bumps (goose pimples); high street (main street); hoover (v - to vacuum); horsebox (horse float); ice lolly (ice block/icy pole); kitchen roll (paper towel); lorry (truck); marrow (squash); nettled (irritated); off-licence (bottle shop); pavement (footpath); potato crisps (potato chips); red/green pepper (capsicum); pilchard (sardine); pillar box (post box); plimsoll (sandshoe); pushchair (pram/stroller); saloon car (sedan); snog (v - kiss); swan (v - to go somewhere in an ostentatious way); sweets (lollies); tangerine (mandarin); utility room (laundry); Wellington boots (gumboots).

A non-exhaustive list of American English terms not commonly found in Australian English include: acclimate (acclimatise); aluminum (aluminium); bangs (fringe); bell pepper (capsicum); bellhop (hotel porter); broil (grill); burglarize (burgle); busboy (included under the broader term of waiter); candy (lollies); cell phone (mobile phone); cilantro (coriander); comforter (doona); counter-clockwise (anticlockwise); diaper (nappy); downtown (CBD); drywall (plasterboard); emergency brake (handbrake); faucet (tap); flashlight (torch); frosting (icing); gasoline (petrol); golden raisin (sultana); hood (bonnet); jell-o (jelly); jelly (jam); math (maths); nightstand (bedside table); pacifier (dummy); period (full stop); parking lot (car park); popsicle (ice block/icy pole); railway ties (sleepers); rear view mirror (rear vision mirror); row house (terrace house); scallion (spring onion); silverware/flatware (cutlery); stickshift (manual transmission); streetcar (tram); takeout (takeaway); trash can (garbage/rubbish bin); trunk (boot); turn signal (indicator/blinker); vacation (holiday); upscale/downscale (upmarket/downmarket); windshield (windscreen).

Terms shared by British and American English but not so commonly found in Australian English include: abroad (overseas); cooler/ice box (Esky); flip-flops (thongs); pickup truck (ute); wildfire (bushfire).

Australian English is particularly divergent from other varieties with respect to geographical terminology, due to the country's unique geography. This is particularly true when comparing with British English, due to that country's dramatically different geography. British geographical terms not in common use in Australia include: coppice (cleared bushland); dell (valley); fen (swamp); heath (shrubland); meadow (grassy plain); moor (swampland); spinney (shrubland); stream (creek); woods (bush) and village (even the smallest settlements in Australia are called towns or stations).

In addition, a number of words in Australian English have different meanings from those ascribed in other varieties of English. Clothing-related examples are notable. Pants in Australian English follows American usage in refer to British English trousers but in British English refer to Australian English underpants; vest in Australian English pass also in American refers to British English waistcoat but in British English refers to Australian English singlet; thong in both American and British English refers to underwear (otherwise known as a G-string), while in Australian English it refers to British and American English flip-flop (footwear). There are numerous other examples, including biscuit which refers in Australian and British English to what in American English is cookie or cracker but to a savoury cake in American English; Asian, which in Australian and American English commonly refers to people of East Asian heritage, as opposed to British English, in which it commonly refers to people of South Asian descent; and (potato) chips which refers both to British English crisps (which is not commonly used in Australian English) and to American English French fries (which is used alongside hot chips).

In addition to the large number of uniquely Australian idioms in common use, there are instances of idioms taking differing forms in the various Anglophone nations, for example home away from home, take with a grain of salt and wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole (which in British English take the respective forms home from home, take with a pinch of salt and wouldn't touch with a barge pole), or a drop in the ocean and touch wood (which in American English take the forms a drop in the bucket and knock on wood).


As with American English, but unlike British English, collective nouns are almost always singular in construction, e.g., the government was unable to decide as opposed to the government were unable to decide. Shan't, the use of should as in I should be happy if ..., the use of haven't any instead of haven't got any and the use of don't let's in place of let's not, common in upper-register British English, are almost never encountered in Australian (or North American) English. River generally follows the name of the river in question as in North America, i.e., Darling River, rather than the British convention of coming before the name, e.g., River Thames. In South Australia however, the British convention applies—for example, the River Murray or the River Torrens. As with American English, on the weekend and studied medicine are used rather than the British at the weekend and read medicine. Similarly, around is more commonly used in constructions such as running around, stomping around or messing around in contrast with the British convention of using about.

In common with British English, the past tense and past participles of the verbs learn, spell and smell are often irregular (learnt, spelt, smelt). Similarly, in Australian usage, the to in I'll write to you is retained, as opposed to US usage where it may be dropped. While prepositions before days may be omitted in American English, i.e., She resigned Thursday, they are retained in Australian English, as in British English: She resigned on Thursday. Ranges of dates use to, i.e., Monday to Friday, as with British English, rather than Monday through Friday in American English. When saying or writing out numbers, and is inserted before the tens and units, i.e., one hundred and sixty-two, as with British practice. However Australians, like Americans, are more likely to pronounce numbers such as 1,200 as twelve hundred, rather than one thousand two hundred.

Spelling and style

As in most English-speaking countries, there is no official governmental regulator or overseer of correct spelling and grammar. The Macquarie Dictionary is used by some universities and some other organisations as a standard for Australian English spelling. The Style Manual: For Authors, Editors and Printers, the Cambridge Guide to Australian English Usage and the Australian Guide to Legal Citation are prominent style guides.

Australian spelling is closer to British than American spelling. As with British spelling, the u is retained in words such as colour, honour, labour and favour. While the Macquarie Dictionary lists the -our ending and follows it with the -or ending as an acceptable variant, the latter is rarely found in actual use today. Australian print media, including digital media, today strongly favour -our endings. A notable exception to this rule is the Australian Labor Party, which adopted the American spelling in 1912 as a result of -or spellings' comparative popularity at that time. Consistent with British spellings, -re, rather than -er, is the only listed variant in Australian dictionaries in words such as theatre, centre and manoeuvre. Unlike British English, which is split between -ise and -ize in words such as organise and realise, with -ize favoured by the Oxford English Dictionary and -ise listed as a variant, -ize is rare in Australian English and designated as a variant by the Macquarie Dictionary. Ae and oe are often maintained in words such as manoeuvre, paedophilia and foetus (excepting those listed below); however, the Macquarie dictionary lists forms with e (e.g., pedophilia, fetus) as acceptable variants and notes a tendency within Australian English towards using only e. Individual words where the preferred spelling is listed by the Macquarie Dictionary as being different from the British spellings include "program" (in all contexts) as opposed to "programme", "inquire" and derivatives "inquired", "inquiry", etc. as opposed to "enquire" and derivatives, "analog" (as opposed to digital) as opposed to "analogue", "livable" as opposed to "liveable", "guerilla" as opposed to "guerrilla", "yoghurt" as opposed to "yogurt", "verandah" as opposed to "veranda", "burqa" as opposed to "burka", "pastie" (food) as opposed to "pasty".[32][33][34] Unspaced prepositions such as "onto", "anytime", "alright" and "anymore" are also listed as being as acceptable as their spaced counterparts.[32][33][34]

Different spellings have existed throughout Australia's history. A pamphlet entitled The So-Called "American Spelling", published in Sydney some time in the 19th century, argued that "there is no valid etymological reason for the preservation of the u in such words as honor, labor, etc."[35] The pamphlet also claimed that "the tendency of people in Australasia is to excise the u, and one of the Sydney morning papers habitually does this, while the other generally follows the older form." What are today regarded as American spellings were popular in Australia throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the Victorian Department of Education endorsing them into the 1970s and The Age newspaper until the 1990s. This influence can be seen in the spelling of the Australian Labor Party and also in some place names such as Victor Harbor. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary has been attributed with re-establishing the dominance of the British spellings in the 1920s and 1930s.[36] For a short time during the late 20th century, Harry Lindgren's 1969 spelling reform proposal (Spelling Reform 1 or SR1) gained some support in Australia: in 1975, the Australian Teachers' Federation adopted SR1 as a policy.[37] SR1 calls for the short /e/ sound (as in bet) to be spelt with E (for example friend→frend, head→hed).

Both single and double quotation marks are in use (with double quotation marks being far more common in print media), with logical (as opposed to typesetter's) punctuation. Spaced and unspaced em-dashes remain in mainstream use, as with American and Canadian English. The DD/MM/YYYY date format is followed and the 12-hour clock is generally used in everyday life (as opposed to service, police, and airline applications).

Computer keyboards

There are two major English language keyboard layouts, the United States layout and the United Kingdom layout. Australia universally uses the United States keyboard layout, which lacks pound sterling, Euro currency and negation symbols. Punctuation symbols are also placed differently from British keyboards.

See also


  1. ^ en-AU is the language code for Australian English, as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).



  1. ^ English (Australia) at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ "Unified English Braille". Australian Braille Authority. 18 May 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  3. ^ "English"; IANA language subtag registry; named as: en; publication date: 16 October 2005; retrieved: 11 January 2019.
  4. ^ "Australia"; IANA language subtag registry; named as: AU; publication date: 16 October 2005; retrieved: 11 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b "history & accent change | Australian Voices". Archived from the original on 20 December 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Moore, Bruce (2008). Speaking our Language: the Story of Australian English. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 69. ISBN 0-19-556577-0.
  7. ^ Burgess, Anthony (1992). A Mouthful of Air: Language and Languages, especially English. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0091774152.
  8. ^ Blainey, Geoffrey (1993). The Rush that Never Ended: a History of Australian Mining (4 ed.). Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0-522-84557-6.
  9. ^ "Canberra Facts and figures". Archived from the original on 16 December 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  10. ^ Baker, Sidney J. (1945). The Australian Language (1st ed.). Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
  11. ^ Bell, Philip; Bell, Roger (1998). Americanization and Australia (1. publ. ed.). Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. ISBN 0-86840-784-4.
  12. ^ Trudgill, Peter and Jean Hannah. (2002). International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English, 4th ed. London: Arnold. ISBN 0-340-80834-9, p. 4.
  13. ^ Harrington, J.; F. Cox & Z. Evans (1997). "An acoustic phonetic study of broad, general, and cultivated Australian English vowels". Australian Journal of Linguistics. 17 (2): 155–84. doi:10.1080/07268609708599550.
  14. ^ a b c Cox, Felicity; Fletcher, Janet (2017) [First published 2012], Australian English Pronunciation and Transcription (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1-316-63926-9
  15. ^ Robert Mannell (14 August 2009). "Australian English - Impressionistic Phonetic Studies". Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  16. ^ Cox & Palethorpe (2007:343)
  17. ^ Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 597
  18. ^ Robert Mannell (14 August 2009). "Robert Mannell, "Impressionistic Studies of Australian English Phonetics"". Archived from the original on 31 December 2008. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  19. ^ Australia's unique and evolving sound Edition 34, 2007 (23 August 2007) – The Macquarie Globe
  20. ^ Bruce Moore (Australian Oxford Dictionary) and Felicity Cox (Macquarie University) [interviewed in]: Sounds of Aus (television documentary) 2007; director: David Swann; Writer: Lawrie Zion, Princess Pictures (broadcaster: ABC Television).
  21. ^ Das, Sushi (29 January 2005). "Struth! Someone's nicked me Strine". The Age.
  22. ^ Corderoy, Amy (26 January 2010). "It's all English, but vowels ain't voils". Sydney Morning Herald.
  23. ^ "australian english | Australian Voices". 30 July 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  24. ^ "australian english defined | Australian Voices". 25 October 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  25. ^ Kellie Scott (5 January 2016). "Divide over potato cake and scallop, bathers and togs mapped in 2015 Linguistics Roadshow". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  26. ^ a b c Pauline Bryant (1985): Regional variation in the Australian English lexicon, Australian Journal of Linguistics, 5:1, 55-66
  27. ^ "regional accents | Australian Voices". Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  28. ^ "The Macquarie Dictionary", Fourth Edition. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 2005.
  29. ^ Frederick Ludowyk, 1998, "Aussie Words: The Dinkum Oil On Dinkum; Where Does It Come From?" (0zWords, Australian National Dictionary Centre). Access date: 5 November 2007. Archived 16 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  30. ^ "History of Measurement in Australia". web page. Australian Government National Measurement Institute. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  31. ^ Wilks, Kevin (1992). Metrication in Australia: A review of the effectiveness of policies and procedures in Australia's conversion to the metric system (PDF). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. p. 114. ISBN 0 644 24860 2. Retrieved 5 August 2017. Measurements used by people in their private lives, in conversation or in estimation of sizes had not noticeably changed nor was such a change even attempted or thought necessary.
  32. ^ a b "The Macquarie Dictionary", Fourth Edition. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 2005.
  33. ^ a b "Macquarie Dictionary". Macquarie Dictionary. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  34. ^ a b
  35. ^ The So Called "American Spelling." Its Consistency Examined. pre-1901 pamphlet, Sydney, E. J. Forbes. Quoted by Annie Potts in this article
  36. ^ "Endangered Languages and Cultures » Blog Archive » Webster in Australia". 2008-01-30. Retrieved 2017-09-20.
  37. ^ "Spelling Reform 1 - And Nothing Else!". Archived from the original on July 30, 2012.

Works cited

Further reading

External links

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