Did you know that the word “selfie” came from Australia?
You’re welcome, world.
We Australians—I mean, Aussies—love to shorten our words.
Aussies love to have a good yarn (chat). But, we want to make it quick…or maybe we are just lazy. Whatever the reason, abbreviations are an essential part of being a “True Blue” Aussie.
After some research (which involved having a beer, barbie and saying “G’day” to some mates) I have come up with both the reason Australians abbreviate their words and also the most commonly abbreviated words – there are a lot!
Well, not really lazy…after considerable research which involved having a beer, barbecue (BBQ) and saying “G’day” to some mates, I have come up with a simple reason—normality.
Imagine it is your first day of university. You have chosen the perfect outfit, a great backpack and have the latest technology. You are ready for your first day of class! Bring it on! You walk into the classroom and realize that everyone is wearing pajamas pants, a sweatshirt and have a pen and paper ready. Suddenly you feel weird…out of place…ABNORMAL. Everyone looks at you as if you are crazy. You definitely won’t make that mistake again!
Well, let us pretend your university class is Australia. You want to fit in don’t you? You want to appear friendly and “down to earth.” For those of you who have not heard this idiom before, “down to earth” can refer to someone who is genuine, sensible and not fake. So, the next day you turn up to class in your tracksuit and make sure you have your pen and notebook ready. Suddenly you are treated differently. People start smiling at you. During the break, some other people start chatting. You feel like you belong!
Well this is what it is like in Australia. Australians like to show that they are normal people. And the best way to communicate this is through language. Hence, we have developed a language based around abbreviations, diminutives and a lot of idioms.
In case you have forgotten (and I am sure you haven’t) an abbreviation (noun) is a shorted word or phrase. A diminutive (adjective) means extremely small and an idiom is a word of phrase that is not taken literally.
Abbreviations are the key to unlocking the Australian language. This is because abbreviations and diminutives is a national hobby. Anywhere you visit in Australia, you will hear the same words but much, much, much shorter!
I mentioned before that we have developed our own (often weird) language and wanted to tell you that the reason that Australians use abbreviations is because they want to be more likable (more friends). They do not want people to think that they are too good to talk to them (snob). We sound more casual and friendlier when we use short words.
Young people come up with more and more new words every day. For example, we are so obsessed with shortening words that even our airline – QANTAS – is an abbreviation. Qantas is an abbreviation of Queensland and Northern Territory Airline Service.
Overall, Australians are very laid back and this shows when we speak. Also, there are so many other countries that speak English and we want to be special. We want to define ourselves as Australians NOT British or American. There are many reasons that we have our own special language but my personal opinion is that because we live on the coast we are just so happy and relaxed we don’t need to use a complete word!
Let’s have a look at some abbreviations!
30 Awesome Aussie Slang Words You’ll Hear Everywhere in Straya!
Once you’re feeling confident with the words below, go over to FluentU and test yourself with this English video challenge. Can you tell the difference between American, British and Australian English?
The great thing about FluentU is that if you hear a word you don’t understand, you can just click the subtitles to learn it! The video will automatically pause to show you a definition and examples.
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This is the abbreviated form of the phrase “a cup of tea.” This is one of the most common abbreviations you will hear, along with Macca’s and arvo (more on those below).
I don’t know how we managed to abbreviate 4 words into one…but we did. If you didn’t already know, the British colonized Australia. When the British go ANYWHERE they always want tea. So, of course tea was brought over with the early settlers.
It’s very common to drink tea in Australia. So common that we now have our very own brand called Bushell’s.
Now, imagine you’re inviting someone over. You’re conversation in British English might sound like this:
Bill: Hello Harry, how are you?
Harry: Hello Bill. I’m fine. How are you?
Bill: Very good thanks. I was just calling to see if you would like to come over for a cup of tea?
Harry: That sounds great. I’ll be there in 15 minutes.
To Australians, that’s way too formal. Let’s pretend Bill and Harry are Australian. Have a look at the conversation below:
Bill: G’day mate!
Bill: Would ya like to pop around for a cuppa?
Harry: Sure, mate. See ya in 15.
You’ll notice that we’ve abbreviated “good day” so it’s now “g’day,” and we usually say “ya” instead of “you.” “Pop around” is a casual way to say “come over.”
Thanks to all this casual language, the second conversation would make an Australian feel more comfortable and at ease. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t washed your hair or have food stains on your clothes. You’re only going around for a cuppa!
Macca’s is the abbreviated version of McDonald’s. To an Australian, pronouncing 3 syllables is too hard. 2 syllabus is much easier.
So, the next time your friend asks you to join them at Macca’s you know that they mean McDonald’s, the restaurant…not the man down the street called Macca.
This comes from the word “afternoon.” If you say the word afternoon in your head, you will find that it also has 3 syllables! Well that’s too much effort for us! 2 syllables is better, quicker, easier…we just saved ourselves 2 seconds. That means we can go for a surf sooner. In a sentence it looks like this:
See ya in the arvo – see you in the afternoon.
Wanna come over this arvo? – Would you like to come over this afternoon?
Whatcha doin’ this arvo? – What are you doing this afternoon?
What is important to understand is that Australians only speak like this. We don’t actually write things this way. I have written out the words phonetically to help with pronunciation, but English learners must be aware that we never ever write out words this way. We must still pay attention to grammar and spelling rules when we write.
To help you understand this concept, here’s a 10-minute lesson from the famous Fluency MC. Even though it’s in American English, it’s very helpful because he writes down how words sound and how you should write them, so you can see how dramatic the differences can be.
Here are a few more examples with an Australian accent and with typical Australian abbreviations and slang.
This one is easy to learn and even easier to pronounce. Most native English speakers will pronounce all the syllables in “Australia,” but we Aussies say “Straya” instead.
If you’re learning English, you’ll do the same thing. Pronouncing all the syllables in the word is the correct thing to do and you should keep doing it. This word, along with the others on this list, is an exception for when you finally visit Straya.
You’ll need to be careful when you start talking with an Aussie—if you say “AU-STRA-LIA” they might make fun of your pronunciation (but in a nice way). So, simply place the emphasis on the “S” and the “tray” sounds. It should sound like this: “Straaayah.“ If you enjoy music and know a bit about it, the last sound of Straya rhymes with the note “lah” in the “do, re, mi, fa so lah, tee, do” scale.
Aussies love their footy! For us, footy is rugby. Have you heard of rugby?
Don’t get confused with the other football. We call this soccer (like the Americans do).
So, if you hear someone mention the word footy, they’re talking about one of the types of football we play. If you’re not sure what type they’re talking about, or you just have no idea what Australian football is, don’t be afraid to ask! Aussies love to talk about footy.
Ask a question about footy, and you’ll make a new Aussie friend who will spend hours telling you everything that happened in the last big footy games.
If you do get caught in a conversation about football, you should be prepared to spend hours listening. If you’ve been talking about footy for hours and you’re starting to get hungry, ask your friend for a biccy! Biccy is short for biscuit.
Be warned—in Australia, a biccy (biccies is the plural) is many things. A biccy can be a cracker, cookie (American) or a plain, slightly sweet round snack you eat with your tea. The most common biccies are Tim-Tams, Saos (not sweet), choc-chip biccies and Digestives (UK).
Yum! Everyone loves chocolate, so here’s how you talk about it in Straya. Use the word choccy.
8. Choccy biccy
If you don’t feel like a plain biccy, simply ask if they have a choccy biccy. That’s a chocolate biscuit!
This abbreviation is more of a nickname. The original noun “lap-top” has two syllables and so does the abbreviation, lappy. The word doesn’t get much shorter, even though this is technically an abbreviation. Think of it as a cute name for your laptop!
ACDC is the most Australian famous band. Everyone in Australia knows about Accadacca! I think this is the first band you’ll listen to as an Australian child. If you go to the pub, you’ll hear it. Actually, you’ll hear an Accadacca song almost everywhere you go when you visit Australia.
Devastated is often shortened to devo. In context, it would be used in this way:
The surf was bad this weekend. I was devo!
So, devo means just really upset. It’s an exaggeration used to strengthen how bad the situation was.
This word isn’t related to devo at all. This is the shortened version of “definitely.” For example:
Do you guys want to go camping this weekend?
Defo! Let’s do it!
This word is an extension of arvo. It literally means “this afternoon.”
What are you up to s’arvo?
Now, I bet you’re all used to hearing the noun “gas station.” This is an American term. In Australia we call it something completely different. Also, we don’t refer to gasoline as “gas,” we call everything “petrol”…unless it’s diesel.
Well, we often have a mini-market inside each gas station. They sell food and offer other services. So, after you fill up your car with petrol, you can also buy milk, coffee, water, credit for your phone, maybe a latte, sometimes you can even pay your bills. This is why we call it a “service station” instead of “gas station,” because there are many services being offered here.
Of course, 4 syllables—ser-vice-sta-tion—is too much effort for us, so we have abbreviated it to servo.
This word is more common among younger people. So, after you go to the servo, you fill up your car with petty (petrol). Remember, petrol is what we call gasoline.
This is the abbreviation for a bottle shop (liquor store).
In Australia, many of our beers are sold in cans. We call these tins. So, when you go to the Bottle-o, have a look for the famous Toohey’s New or Victoria Bitter (VB) tinnys.
Now, let’s have a look at some occupations. There are many abbreviations for job titles. The most commonly abbreviated occupations are those which we have day-to-day contact with, meaning we see or interact with them very often.
A police man or law enforcement officer.
It turns out that this isn’t really 100% Australian slang, as it has its roots in English slang. Our version of the word is based on the English word “copper.” This derives from the verb “to cop” which means “to catch.” Americans also call police officers “cops.”
As the original white settlers in Australia were English convicts (criminals), the term copper probably came over from England. Of course, with our accent and way with words, it sounds a little different in Australia. Nowadays, we say coppa all the time.
The word tradie derives from the full word “tradesman.”
Tradesman is a noun for all those people who work doing a trade, or a job that requires particular skills. For example, electricians, plumbers and carpenters have trade jobs. Not just anybody can have one, you need to learn how first.
We call these skilled workers tradies.
This is simple: A postie is a postman, someone who delivers our letters and parcels every day.
This is short for garbage man or garbage truck driver.
Anyone who plays in a band at a pub is referred to as a muso. Most of the time they get a small amount of money and free beer for performing at their local watering hole (pub).
A cabbie is a cab driver or taxi driver. We usually refer to cabs as taxis in Australia…however we prefer to use to noun cabbie for the taxi driver. Americans use this term as well.
A brickie is a tradie (tradesman) who works as a bricklayer. This type of skilled work involves laying bricks in floors, sidewalks and building walls.
The abbreviation ambo is used to refer to both the ambulance (the vehicle) as well as the ambulance driver. Don’t worry if you hear it and get confused. We tend to use this word to refer to both things interchangeably.
The last 4 abbreviations are nouns. As you know, nouns are “naming words.” Aussies have come up with quite a few terms that will have you laughing.
The shortened version of Facebook. You’ll probably hear teenagers refer to it as Facey.
Did ya see that new photo on Facey?
Yeah. That was heaps good!
Another little note: We usually say “heaps” instead of “very”!
The short version of the noun “present.” When you’re invited to a birthday party or any other celebration, make sure that you bring a prezzie. Typical prezzies (plural) include wine, beer or gift vouchers.
You may be thinking that this is a woman’s name. You’re wrong. This is our word for Christmas! Start buying your chrissie prezzies before the stores are empty!
The greatest fruit in the world. The humble avocado (avo) can be eaten in many ways. I recommend it on toast. Before adding avocado…spread some Vegemite on the toast, add the avo and top it off with some thinly sliced cheese!
Once you’ve mastered that snack, you’ll be even more of a true blue Aussie!
Using Australian Slang Words Together
All right, now we’ve got a lot of new Aussie slang to learn here. Here most of the new words in a short story, to help you learn the words in context:
My mate Paolo invited me around to his house yesterday arvo for a quick cuppa. Paolo isn’t from Straya, but he loves a good cuppa. I said to him, “mate, can we just go to Macca’s? I really feel like a burger.” On the way to Macca’s, we had to stop at the servo for some petty. After filling up at the servo, I put on the radio. Accadacca was playing.
I was really excited about the song and started driving too fast. I must have been speeding because a Coppa pulled me over. The Coppa asked “Have you been drinking?” I replied, “nah, mate, I’m a Tradie. I just finished work.” He replied, “are you sure you haven’t had a tinny?” I shook my head, “I might have one later when I watch the footy game.”
On the way to Macca’s we invited some more friends. One was a Cabbie, another was a Postie and the other two worked as a Brickie and a Firey. Paolo sometimes works as a Muso down at the local pub. He’s also a part-time Garbo.
We finally arrived at Macca’s. I ordered a burger and fries and Paolo ordered chicken nuggets and a choccy biccy. They had free Wi-Fi there, so we used our lappys and went onto Facey. It turns out that our mate got a new job as an Ambo driver! We were defo excited about that! After a while on Facey, we started looking for some good Chrissy prezzies for our friends. We found the perfect prezzie, but when we tried to order it we found out that there weren’t any left. Devo!
Well, that’s it for this post. Hopefully you’ve taken away some new lingo that will help you on your study or travel adventure. If you need some more practice, here’s a fantastic clip to help you with context—when and how to use the words—as well as pronunciation.
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