International students say that one of the most confounding aspects of Australian culture is the constant use of slang.

This isn’t surprising as Australians use slang, in particular, ‘diminutives’ (shortened words) more than any other English speakers.

In 2013 Australian’s use of ‘Maccas‘ instead of ‘McDonald’s’ was so common that the restaurant chain officially changed the name of some of its stores making Australia the only country in the world where McDonald’s sometimes goes under a different name.

Australians also really like to shorten words by adding an ‘ie’ or an ‘o’ sound such as in ‘postie‘ for a postal worker and ‘ambo’ for an ambulance.

All this chopping and changing is particularly challenging for students for whom English is a second language.

While there are plenty of ‘Aussie slang dictionaries’ around, they tend to focus on older slang that most Australians don’t use anymore (unless they’re being sarcastic). And some of it’s just a plain myth. An Australian would never say, for example, “throw a shrimp on the barbie” – because here we call shrimp ‘prawns’.

So here is a list of slang/phrases and acronyms used in Australia that international students actually need.

Expressing Yourself

Aggro: Angry

Full on: Intense/Wild

Heaps: A lot or very i.e. ‘heaps good’

No worries: Don’t worry about it/It’s OK

Ordinary/Average: These two words can mean what they’re supposed to, but they can also be a mild insult, indicating that something is of poor quality

She’ll be right: It will be fine

Try hard: Someone annoyingly enthusiastic or who tries too much to please others

______ as: Almost anything could go here; Busy as, awesome as, tired as. To understand the speaker, just cut off the ‘as’ and add ‘very’ to the front and you’ll get what they mean

Totes: Totally

Jelly: Jealous

Play it by ear: Decide as you go

At School

Biro: pen

Dodgy: Poor quality/Not reliable/Suspicious

How ya going/How’s it going?: How are you?

How good is that?: This is a rhetorical question so you don’t have to answer. It just means ‘that’s good’

Mobile/Mobes: Cell phone

Rubber: Eraser

Pacer: Mechanical/refillable pencil

Reckon: Think/Figure,/Assume

Uni: University

Wag: To skip class

Zed: The letter ‘Z’

Going/eating out

Arvo: The afternoon

ATM: Teller Machine/Electronic banking outlet. Stands for Automatic Teller Machine

Avo: Avocado

Barbie: BBQ

Bikkie: A biscuit

Bottle-o: Liquor store

Brekie: Breakfast

Bucks: Dollars

Budgie Smuggler: A pair of Speedos

Cuppa: A hot beverage

Chemist: Drug store/pharmacy

Dunny: Toilet

Durry: Cigarette

EFTPOS: Machine for electronic (card) payments. Stands for Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale

Esky: Ice cooler

Flat White: Coffee with milk or cream

Footy: Football (the game or the ball)

Goon: Cheap wine in a bag.

Grog run: A trip to go and buy alcohol

HJs/Hungry Jacks: Burger King. When Burger King wanted to open stores in Australia, their name had already been trademarked by a small takeaway shop in South Australia, so they became, Hungry Jack’s.

Jelly: Jell-O

Kiwi: A New Zealander (but also a fruit and a bird)

Knock: To criticise something

Macca’s: McDonald’s

Mate: Friend (this can be used passive-aggressively though, so pay attention to the situation)

Mozzie: Mosquito

Petrol: Gas

Pokies: Poker Machine

Sanga: Sandwich

Servo: Service station/gas station

Shout: A round of drinks paid for by a particular person. If it’s your ‘shout’, then it’s your turn to buy everyone drinks.

Skull: To drink something quickly in one go

Straya: Australia

Stubbie: A bottle of beer

Snag: Sausage

Spud: A potato

Vegies: Vegetables

Woop woop: The name of an imaginary town, used to indicate a place far away/ in the country

In The Workplace

ASAP: As soon as possible

Bludger: A lazy person

Call it a day: Finish what you’re doing

Fair go: A fair chance

FYI: For Your Information

Give someone a bell/a holler: Call someone on the phone

Lift: Elevator

Moving forward: Thinking about the future/Moving on to the next thing

Reach out: Get into contact with

Sickie: A day off work due to illness (related: Chuck a sickie: To pretend to be sick to get a day off work)

Whinger: Someone who complains a lot.


Now you are ready to learn more about the formal language used in Academic English.