11 Australian English Phrases You Should Know to Sound Like an Aussie
So, have you decided to study in Australia?
Are you planning a vacation in the land down under?
You have read about Australia… the fresh food, the gorgeous beaches, the sunshine and, of course, the KILLER ANIMALS!
We have crocodiles, sharks, spiders and more in Australia, but it’s possible that you’re more afraid of the language than you are of the wildlife.
If you aren’t an advanced learner of English, Australian English can seem like a whole new world.
Well, let me ease you into it with a brief “how to speak Australian” class.
- 11 Australian English Phrases You Need to Survive the Outback
- Australian English Pronunciation
- History of Australian English
11 Australian English Phrases You Need to Survive the Outback
You’ll recognize Australian English when you hear it because of the accent! It’s a dialect of English that’s based on British English—for example, Australian English sometimes skips the R, and it also uses British spelling. Over the years, though, it took on its own unique sound, vocabulary and slang.
Here are some essential Australian English phrases:
This word means many things. It can translate to “Hello” or “How are you?” Some people just say it when they make eye contact with another person on the street.
This is the most common Australian slang word you will hear while visiting.
The problem with this word is the pronunciation. It isn’t “good day” or “geh-day.” You have to cut the “g” sound short and emphasize the “day.”
Make sure that “day” is drawn out. It sounds similar to “daaey.”
If you master this word, it’s guaranteed that you’ll make many friends!
This is simply a synonym for friend. We usually add this to the word G’day.
For example, G’day mate means “Hello, friend.” However, you can use mate in many other ways.
If someone asks you how your weekend was, the typical reply from (male) Australians is Maaaate. Used in this way, it means, “OMG! I can’t even start to describe how awesome it was.”
You can also use mate when you pass people on the street. If you make eye contact with a stranger, simply nod your head and say mate as a simple, casual greeting. This is a friendly way to acknowledge them.
3. How ya going?
This simply means, “How are you?”
Ya means “you” and going simply refers to how you are: good, sad, angry, excited. Going in this context means the act of being alive or existing. So, the person is asking how you’re feeling or how your day is/was.
Let’s try using the above three vocabulary words and phrases in a sentence together. They’re often used together as a friendly greeting! For example:
“G’day mate! How ya’ going?”
This word is an interjection. An interjection (also called an exclamation), as you know, may have no grammatical connection to a sentence. An interjection is sometimes followed by an exclamation mark (!).
Crikey, being an interjection, is almost always followed by an exclamation mark.
Most Australians grow up hearing this word. The word is used as an exclamation of surprise or bewilderment. It can also mean “wow!”
“Crikey! Did you see the size of that snake?”
Crikey is mainly used by older generations but became popular again when the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, became famous.
There’s another Australian word that’s a synonym for crikey.
If you forgot, a synonym is a word or phrase that means the same or nearly the same as another word or phrase. For example, “shut” is a synonym for “close.”
In the same way, streuth is a synonym for crikey, so we can use either one to express the same thing.
Streuth has a particular pronunciation, so you need to pay attention to this. It’s pronounced like “Strooooth.”
There’s an emphasis on the “ooo” sound and it must be drawn out (or in other words, pronounce the word in the laziest way you can!). Like the word crikey, it’s an exclamation of shock. For example:
“Streuth! You were nearly attacked by a shark?!”
6. Fair dinkum
The word dinkum began in the Australian goldfields.
Dinkum originally came from a Chinese dialect and can be translated to mean “true gold” or “good gold.” There were many Chinese people searching for gold in Australia in the 1800s. Isn’t it interesting to find out that some Australia English has Chinese origins?
It’s an important piece of Australian English so you must be able to use it in the correct way. You say fair dinkum when you want to state a fact or truth. For example:
“It’s true mate! Fair dinkum.”
“Fair dinkum! That is a lot of gold.”
7. Heaps good
Young Australians like to replace the word “very” with heaps. So, this phrase literally means “very good.”
It shows that something you have done, eaten or achieved is very, very, very good.
Australians are used to hearing teachers say, “Very good work, Emma,” or parents state, “You have been very good today, here is your reward.” Because of this, young Australians became so sick and tired of hearing “very good” that we simply created our own version of the phrase.
Adults and seniors understand this phrase, but it’s most commonly used by Australians aged 10 to 20.
Anne: How was your vacation?
Bob: It was heaps good.
8. Fully sick
If you like the beach, then this word is for you! Use the adverb fully and add sick to it.
The word fully means “completely” or “entirely.” Used alone in a sentence we would say “I fully understand the math equation.”
But why the word sick? Isn’t it bad to be sick? Well, when we say fully sick, it doesn’t mean that a person is really sick. It means the opposite!
Fully sick means “This is great!” or “very good quality.” Most surfers use this phrase when they talk about the ocean. For example:
Adam: The surf was fully sick today!
Julie: Fully sick!? How big were they?
Adam: They were at least 4 feet. Man, I caught so many fully sick waves!
We can also use this word to describe parties, cars and things that you like.
Adam: Check out my fully sick ride!
Julie: Wow, nice car! Fully sick!
9. Yeah, nah
Yeah, nah is often one of the most confusing expressions you’ll hear if you’re not an Australian. To break it down, yeah is a more casual form of “yes,” while nah means “no.” Putting them together, you get the equivalent of “yes, no”–which doesn’t seem to make sense!
If an Australian says this to you, what they usually mean is yes, they understand what you’re saying, but no, they don’t agree with it. It’s a way to disagree with someone without sounding too harsh.
Australians are known for being generally direct, but this is one common expression where they aren’t!
Julie: Let’s try out this new restaurant!
Bob: Yeah, nah, it’s gotten bad reviews so far.
10. She’ll be right
The first thing that you should know about this phrase is that she doesn’t actually mean a person. In Australian slang, she can be used to mean everything.
What this casual expression’s saying is that everything will be alright. Australians sometimes use it in response to bad news or negative situations:
Adam: I didn’t get that raise I was hoping for.
Bob: Mate, she’ll be right.
In this context, it can an encouraging expression. It can also imply that there’s nothing that you can really do for now–except hope for things to improve.
Another meaning of this phrase is something could still be better, but it’s okay enough for you:
This apartment is a bit further away than I expected, but she’ll be right.
11. True Blue
This is the last phrase and probably the most important one in the Australian vocabulary. This means “the real thing.”
The color blue represents loyalty and truth. So the phrase true blue describes something as genuine, real and honest.
Watch this video clip by John Williamson:
The man is standing and singing in a shed. He’s in the Outback (out in the rural part of Australia).
The music video shows many types of Australians: firefighters, business owners, plumbers, electricians and aboriginals. These people are “true blue.” They’re all real, honest Australians.
See if you can pick out any other words that you don’t know. There’s even more Australian slang out there to learn!
To make it easier to understand how you’ll use your new Australian English, here are all the words and phrases you just learned in a sample conversation:
Adam: G’day mate! How ya going? How was your weekend?
John: G’day. Yeah, my weekend was heaps good. I went to the beach and had a barbecue with my mates. It was a true blue weekend.
Adam: Sounds great! How was the beach?
John: The beach was fully sick! Fair dinkum, I caught 5 waves and then took a break. But crikey! I was nearly bitten by a shark!
Adam: Streuth mate! Are you okay? I wished I had come with you, but now I’m glad I didn’t. I’m afraid of sharks. Sheila actually invited me to that beach next week, but after hearing that, yeah, nah.
John: True blue! Which reminds me, I’m on my way to get my phone fixed because I dropped it in the water.
Adam: Mate, she’ll be right, I had that same problem and they got it patched up fast.
John: I hope so. See you later then!
For more everyday Australian expressions, you can check out this guide:
Australian English Pronunciation
Now that you know about some Australian English expressions, we’ll delve into another unique feature of Australian English: the accent.
The first and most important thing to remember when practicing your Australian accent is to be lazy. Pronounce words slowly. Make your vowel sounds extra long. Pretend to be very tired when you speak and you’ll sound like a native in no time. It’s not very hard, just give it a try!
Here are three more ways to sound like an Australian when you speak English.
1. Skip letters at the ends of words. Australians skip the letters at the ends of many words. For example “what?” becomes “wha?” Meeting, going and trying change to meetin, goin and tryin.
2. Change letters at the ends of words. You must change the letters at the ends of some words. The words super, after, dinner and order become supah, aftah, dinnah and ordah.
3. Turn “oo” sounds into “ew” sounds. When words are spelled with “oo,” then you need to change the sound you make when you pronounce these words. The best examples of this are pool, school and cool. Australians change these words to pewl, skewl and kewl.
Want to hear how all of this sounds when a native Australian is speaking English? Watch this fun video clip for a great demonstration:
History of Australian English
So why does Australian English sound a bit like British English?
Back in the 18th century, Australia was part of the British Empire. British convicts were transferred to Australia, and a lot of other immigrants followed, including soldiers and their families. Most of them came from London, but their different dialects started merging together:
Of course, Australian English was influenced by local languages too. A lot of animal names are aboriginal words (kangaroo and koala!), as well as fun slang like yakka (hard work).
Add in some pop culture influence from US media, and you get the unique melting pot that is Australian English.
To explore Australian English, check out some podcasts, movies and TV shows. There’s also FluentU, which curates native English videos from Australia, US, UK and other countries for language learners. Each video comes with interactive subtitles and explanations for expressions and slang so you’ll know how locals speak the language.
By getting familiar with the sounds and phrases of Australian English, you’ll have no problem speaking to any true blue Australian!