Ta! Cheers! Thanks!

I fear I may be stating the obvious here, but yes, those are in fact Rice Krispies & Raisin Bran cereals. Brekky, anyone?

It is interesting, & at times challenging, to learn a foreign language.

Now, I know what you’re thinking . . . wait a minute, don’t they speak English in Australia?  Technically, you would be correct (good on ya, mate!), but imagine what would happen if you invented several dozen new words, completely changed the meanings of a handful of others & decided not to clue in an entire country?  (I’m going to go out on a limb here & say that most Americans probably haven’t heard many of these before.)  Oh, & just for kicks, let’s also throw in an accent that sounds something like the lovechild of a Brit & a Bostonian (Aussies (that’s Ozzies) often drop their “r’s,” making words like Melbourne sound like “Melbin” & “Nullarbor” (that great expanse of nothingness on the road from South Australia to Western Australia) sound like “Nullahbor”).

Well I’ve experienced it firsthand & let me just tell you, it can get really confusing, really fast!

Like what if, in some alternate universe, a cantaloupe was not actually a cantaloupe at all, but, oh I dunno, a rockmelon?  Crazy, right?!

Read the sign carefully - no cantaloupes here!

While I certainly don’t presume to know all, or even most, Australian words & phrases, below are some of the ones I have either come across most frequently, or that I have found to be the most amusing.  I also don’t claim that all of these words are purely Australian; many may be rooted in the UK, but I’m not writing a research paper here, just remarking on some of the interesting things you might hear around Oz.


The letter “H” is pronounced “Hey-ch” & the letter “Z” is pronounced “Zed.”  I still don’t understand how Aussies learn to sing the alphabet when “now I know my ABC’s, next time won’t you sing with me?” doesn’t rhyme with “X – Y – Zed.”  *Sigh* 😦


Sunnies (Sunglasses)

Thongs (Flip Flops; In New Zealand, these are known as Jandals!)

Esky (Cooler)

Fine/Fine Up (As in, “Tomorrow the weather will be fine” or “I think it’s going to fine up this afternoon.”  Meaning Clear/Not Cloudy.)

Mozzie (Short for Mosquito)


Capsicum (Pepper; I’ve often seen the word capsicum on a menu, but it still throws me off when I read or hear about someone using “capsicum spray” – then I put two & two together – oh yeah, that’s what they call pepper spray!  Hahaha!)

Capsicum can refer to either red, yellow or green bell peppers.

Rocket (Arugula; I had one of those aha! moments recently when I finally made this connection . . . so we do have “rocket” in the States! . . . if only I’d ever seen or tasted arugula before I would have figured it out sooo much sooner, but we all know how adventurous I am when it comes to food! ;))

Rocket = Arugula . . . Mystery solved!

Muesli (Untoasted Granola; Aussies only call it granola if the “muesli” is toasted!)

Muesli comes in various forms, including the cereal you see pictured above, as well as "muesli bars" (granola bars to Americans).

Jelly (Jello; This one can get a bit confusing, as you might imagine.  No wonder Aussies think it’s odd that peanut butter & jelly sandwiches are a staple of American childhood . . . Although, I have to say – Vegemite?  Really, Australia?!)

There's always room for J-E-L-L-Y?

Lollies (Candy)

Lollies for Cupcake Decorating at the Good Food & Wine Show in July.

Biscuit (Cookie; The ANZAC biscuits pictured below were created during WWI.  Made from ingredients that do not readily spoil, such as oats, coconuts & golden syrup, the biscuits were able to survive the long journey to the troops.)

ANZAC stands for Australia & New Zealand Army Corps.

Magnum (OK, I had to throw this one in here – in Australia, Magnum is a brand of Ice Cream.  Reminds me of a story of a British friend who studied abroad in the States; In the middle of a class one day he made the faux pas of asking if anyone had a “rubber” . . . that’s an eraser to the Brits!! ;))

Perhaps a bit ironically, their slogan is "For Pleasure Seekers."

Hundreds & Thousands (These are sprinkles, but only the “Dot” Sprinkles are called 100’s & 1000’s – the long, skinny sprinkles are still called sprinkles!

100's & 1000's


Sloppy Joe (No, this one does not belong in the food category!  At least not in Australia.  According to an Aussie friend from work, a “sloppy joe” is a Sweatshirt!)

Nappies (This is NOT slang for “napkins,” despite the similarity between the two words.  And it’s a good thing I learned this one early on because nappies are in fact . . . Diapers!)

Baby Nappies

Serviettes (These are the Napkins!  It always sounds so funny to me when I have to ask customers at work if they want their cupcake on a serviette or in a take-away bag – it sounds to me like I’m asking if they want it on a silver platter!)

Take-Away (OK, we can easily figure out that this is a synonym for “Take-Out,” but I had never used this phrase before hearing it abroad.  I know it’s a small difference, but I think it has a nice ring to it. :))

Brekky (short for Breakfast)

Famous "Big Brekky" at Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt

Rubbish Bin; or simply “Bin” (Garbage/Trash Can.  You might also use the word rubbish to describe something you don’t like, as in “This music is rubbish.”  In addition, instead of “throw it in the garbage/trash, Aussies would say “chuck it in the bin.”)

Trolley (Shopping Cart)

Pram (Stroller)

Ute (Utility Vehicle; Although it always makes me think of those two “youts” from My Cousin Vinny – hahaha!)

TaCheers (As you may have guessed from the title of this post, both words mean Thanks.  Ta is very informal & thus only used for very small/minor favors.  I often hear it at work when handing a customer his or her change.)


You’ve surely heard No worries, but what about No dramas or Too easy?  Oz has a very laid back culture. 😉

What do you reckon? (OK, so we know what this one means as well, but seriously, who actually says reckon in the 21st century? . . . Except that it’s used so often in Australia I’m afraid I just might hear it coming out of my own mouth one of these days!)

Rock up (To arrive; e.g., “What time did they finally rock up?”)

How ya going? (How are you?  I just can’t bring myself to say this one – it sounds way too strange with my American accent.  Same goes for “G’day, mate!“)

Give it a go (Give it a try)

How did you go? (How did you do?)

Hey? (Huh?)

Stuff up/Stuff around (Make a mistake/Dilly-dally)

Good on ya! (Good for you!)

It’s my shout (It’s my turn to pay.  I love the political poster below that’s currently hanging up around the city.  “Labor” refers to one of the major political parties in Australia.  They would be considered the liberal party in the American sense of the word, but this is a bit confusing as Australia’s other main party is literally called the “Liberal” party & they are the conservatives!)

The Murray-Darling is a river basin in southeast Australia & apparently it is very thirsty!

I’ve got bags (Dibs)

Are you alright? (Can I help you?  This is something you might say to a customer in a store, meaning perhaps “Can I help you find something?” or “Are you ready to order?,” not “Are you hurt?” or “Are you going to be ill?,” although that’s what it always sounded like to me until I got used to hearing it on a regular basis!)

What are you after? (What would you like?)

To get rugged up (Put on lots of warm clothes)

Chuck a Sickie (No, it doesn’t mean to vomit, although it kinda sounds like that, hey? 😉  It actually means to Call in sick to work when you’re not really sick.)


First of all, let me make the disclaimer right now that I have *no* idea how to do proper phonetic spellings, so this section is going to be a real challenge.  Some of these (like to-MAY-to/to-MAH-to) you’ll already be familiar with so it won’t matter so much; others (like o-RE-ga-no/o-re-GA-no) will probably be new.

Tomato (“You say to-MAY-to, I say to-MAH-to . . . Let’s call the whole thing off!“)

Banana (My supervisor & I were chatting about Australian & American words & accents one day when she asked me to try to pronounce “banana” like an Aussie – she nearly choked on her coffee after hearing my interpretation (she said I sounded more British than Australian!) – I guess I won’t be starting an acting career anytime soon! 😉  Oh well, it’s something like “ba-NAH-na.”)

Peanut Butter (I *love* hearing Aussies say this – whereas we say PEANUT butter, their version is more like “peanut BUTT-ah“)

Mocha (Mah-ca – OK, I admit I don’t know how to do this one justice phonetically, but when Aussies pronounce “mocha,” you don’t hear the “oh” sound that Americans use, it’s more like a cross between an “oh” & an “ah.”)

Basil (This one always cracks me up because when I try to think about how the Aussies pronounce it, I often end up thinking “baah-sil” (baa) like a sheep instead of “ba-sil” [OK, I don’t know how to spell this one phonetically either, but it starts out like the “ba” in “bat”] & then inevitably it takes me a minute or two to remember how I pronounce it [bay-sil – Americans say “bay-sil,” Niki!  Hahaha!])

Oregano (O-re-GAN-o.  This one is tricky because as an American, you have to put the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-ble.  If you forget how to pronounce it, just remember that it sounds a bit like origami!)

Fillet (FILL-it.  This is one of the few words for which I think the American pronunciation is more beautiful than the Australian . . . although technically the American pronunciation is the French pronunciation, so we can’t really take credit for that. ;))


I recently came across some children’s books that had me in stitches – I swear these titles could be from an SNL skit, but no, they’re real!  Of course I took pictures just to prove I wasn’t making these up! 😉

I didn't know those little piggies lived in the bush!

The dingrel* is coming!  The dingrel is coming!

Watch out, little bush pigs – the hungry dingrel is looking for an easy feed.  You’d better build a very strong house to keep him out!

A clever new Aussie twist on an old story.”

*I have absolutely no idea what a dingrel is – maybe similar to a dingo?  A Google search proved to be unhelpful in this matter. 😦

I always thought it was a boy who cried wolf? Silly Aussies!

“Cocky is a cheeky trickster, who loves nothing more than pulling pranks on the other birds.  But when Cocky’s tricks get him into real trouble, he finally learns his lesson . . . or does he?”

There are heaps (lots) more I’m probably forgetting right now & others I’ve left out intentionally, otherwise this post could go on forever! (as if it hasn’t gone on long enough already! ;)) Well, hopefully my ramblings have given you a tiny glimpse into the language of the Land Down Under. 😀  And get ready . . . because in about a month you’re in for a real treat, when I post Aussie Slang: Christmas Edition!! 😀

By the way, fun social experiment – go to your local supermarket & start taking random pictures of everyday food items . . . you’ll be sure to get some looks – hahaha! 😉

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Camille
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 02:13:05

    What a fun post! Love the Rice Bubbles – do they snap, crackle and pop? Super colorful photos on all your shots.

    Well, be ready to get rugged up when you rock up to the Eastern United States this winter.

    Love (in every language) you heaps – good on ya – Great post!

    Mom xoxox (kisses and hugs!)


  2. Heather
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 08:20:26

    I love when you remind me of things I’d forgotten or bits of slang I never learned!! SO glad you clued me in to arugula a few weeks ago!


    • nicoleinoz
      Oct 26, 2011 @ 00:14:54

      Glad I could help! You clued me in to so many of these when I first arrived. I’m SO grateful for all of the help & support you’ve provided (& continue to provide!) along the way! ❤ 🙂


  3. Gav
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 08:52:50

    Some of these are very English others are just as foreign as they are to you. I like it, it’s a useful information as I expect to be in Oz at some point in the future 🙂


    • nicoleinoz
      Oct 26, 2011 @ 00:16:24

      Hmmm, I don’t suppose you will be in Oz in the next couple of months? I’m guessing not! Well, I’m sure we’ll meet up in the States or the UK at some point!


  4. Jessica
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 11:01:30

    Fabulous post. I would have never thought sloppy joe meant sweatshirt. I can only imagine what Australians think when they see it on a menu in the States:-) Keep having fun and stay safe! Big hugs!!!


    • nicoleinoz
      Oct 26, 2011 @ 00:18:31

      I just learned about sloppy joes! One of my friends at work told me about it – I’ve never actually heard anyone use it (I have heard “jumper” though, which means sweater). Big hugs right back at ya!


  5. Auntie Marilyn
    Oct 25, 2011 @ 00:25:04

    I was laughing so hard I was crying – love this one Niki – love you more!!!


  6. Aunt Penny
    Oct 26, 2011 @ 02:04:23

    I just love this post Niki, it’s so interesting, educational, and fun. I hope I can still understand you when you come to California 😉


    • nicoleinoz
      Oct 26, 2011 @ 20:28:42

      Hahaha! It will be interesting, for sure – I know at least a few of these words have slipped into my vocabulary. Well, “no worries” is one that everyone will understand, but if I start saying things like “capsicum” or “rock up” when I get back to the States I might get some strange looks! 😉


  7. Rebecca
    Oct 29, 2011 @ 09:38:16

    Here’s another one that for some reason, annoys the HELL out of Aussies/Kiwi’s = bouy. We pronounce it “boo-ee” and they pronounce it “boy”. And they get so WORKED UP over this fact, it’s kind of funny!

    I loved all the little changes and though that I picked up the “language” really fast, though in typical me-style, would reply in “American”.

    But serviettes! That drove me crazy!! Whenever someone would ask for them, I would be an American-bitch and “correct” them. “You mean, NAPKINS??” because there is no reason why they should be called anything else!


    • nicoleinoz
      Oct 29, 2011 @ 20:21:59

      Hahaha – sounds like you are pretty passionate too, Rebecca! 😉 I’ll have to get one of my Aussie friends to say “buoy” for me – how strange!


  8. Trackback: Five books that will make your kids want to go to Australia « emeraldcitykids
    • nicoleinoz
      Dec 19, 2012 @ 16:05:02

      Thanks for checking out my post! I couldn’t help but laugh when I came across these books in my travels. You should also check out “Diary of a Wombat,” “Baby Wombat’s Week” & “Christmas Wombat” by Jackie French – so cute!!


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Map of Australia

WA = Western Australia; NT = Northern Territory; SA = South Australia; QLD = Queensland; NSW = New South Wales; ACT = Australian Capital Territory; VIC = Victoria; TAS = Tasmania


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