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What is slang? And when do you use slang?

When you learn English, you’re taught how to speak and write ‘proper’ English. Some people call this “Queen’s English” or “BBC English.” Then, when you travel to an English-speaking country, you may come across terms you’ve never heard before. 

The Encyclopædia Britannicaexternal icon defines slang as “unconventional words or phrases that express either something new or something old in a new way. It is flippant, irreverent, indecorous; it may be indecent or obscene.” Slightly confusing, right? So, that’s why we simply define slang as very informal language or specific words used by a group of people. Usually you’ll hear slang in spoken language. You can also come across it in SMS or social media. However, you don’t use slang in formal written work. 

As a non-native English speaker, when you use slang correctly (and in the appropriate situation), it can make you sound more natural in your speech. Also, it can show your understanding of English in a social context. For example, using slang with your mates (friends) is good. But if the conversation is more formal, you probably want to avoid slang words and phrases. 

So, try to make sure you use slang correctly, like a native speaker. When you use it out of context or inappropriately, it sounds strange and could show that you don’t understand the language. Now let’s have a look at the 100 most common Aussie slang words and phrases. 

100 Australian Slang Words & Phrases

Aussie slang word/phrase Meaning
A Cold One Beer
Arvo Afternoon
Aussie Salute Wave to scare the flies
Avo Avocado
Bail To cancel plans
Barbie Barbecue
Bathers Swimsuit
Beauty Great!
Billabong A pond in a dry riverbed
Billy Teapot (in the outback on the fire)
Bloody Very
Bloody oath Yes! Or “That’s very true”
Bludger Someone who’s lazy
Bogan Someone who’s not very sophisticated
Booze Bus Police vehicle used to catch drunk drivers
Bottle-O Liquor shop: a place to buy alcohol
Brekky Breakfast
Brolly Umbrella
Budgie Smugglers Speedos
Bush “Out in the bush” or away from civilisation
Choc A Bloc Full
Biccy Biscuit
Chook Chicken
Chrissie Christmas
Cobber Very good friend
Coldie Beer
Coppers Policemen
Crikey an expression of surprise
Crook Being ill (I’m crook); a criminal (he’s a crook)
Dag Someone who’s a bit of a nerd or geek
Daks Trousers
Deadset That’s true, or true!
Defo Definitely
Devo Devastated
Drongo a Fool, ‘Don’t be a drongo mate’
Dunny Toilet
Durry Cigarette
Esky An insulated container that keeps things cold
Facey Facebook
Fair Dinkum Honestly? Or, Yes honestly!
Flannie / Flanno flannelette shirt
Flat out Really busy
Footy Football (AFL / Aussie Rules)
G’day Hello
Galah Not being bright, also a stupid person
Gnarly Awesome
Going off Busy, lots of people
Good On Ya Good work
Goon Wine in a box
Hard yakka Hard work
Heaps Loads, lots, many
Hoon Hooligan or a very bad driver
Iffy Bit risky or unreasonable
Knickers Female underwear
Lappy Laptop
Larrikin Someone who’s always up for a laugh
Lollies Sweets
Maccas McDonalds
Manchester Sheets / Linen etc
Mate Friend
Mozzie Mosquito
No Drama No problem / it’s ok
No Worries No problem / it’s ok
No Wucka’s A truly Aussie way to say ‘no worries’
Outback The interior of Australia. Even more remote than “the bush”
Pash To kiss
Pissed Off An offensive/vulgar way of saying you are very annoyed
Piss Up A party, a get together and in Australia
Pissed Intoxicated, Drunk
Piss Off An offensive way to tell someone to go away or get lost.
Rack Off The less offensive way to tell someone to go away or get lost.
Reckon For sure
Rellie / Rello Relatives
Ripper ‘You little ripper’ = That’s fantastic!
Rooted Tired or Broken
Runners Trainers, Sneakers
Sanger Sandwich
Servo Service Station / Garage
Sheila A woman
Sick Awesome; ‘that’s really sick mate’
Sickie A sick day off work
Slab A carton of beers
Snag Sausage
Stoked Happy, Pleased
Straya Australia
Stubby A bottle of beer
Stuffed Tired
Sunnies Sunglasses
Swag Single bed you can roll up, a bit like a sleeping bag
Tea Dinner
Tinny Can of beer or small boat
Thongs Flip Flops
True Blue Genuinely Australian
Tucker Food
Two Up A gambling game played on Anzac day
U-IE To take a U-Turn when driving
Up yourself Stuck up
Woop Woop Middle of nowhere “he lives out woop woop”
Ya You
Yous Plural of you

Read stories from 8 people who failed to understand an Aussie slang expression. 

Australia with Harbour Bridge during twilight blue hour.

Using Australian slang in a sentence

When you’ve read the list of most common Australian slang words, or true-blue Aussie slang, you’re well on your way to understanding your Aussie mates. If you want to use slang correctly, check out the following examples. 

What's the meaning of "No worries"?

Let’s start with one of the most famous Australian slang phrases: 'No worries'. It’s said to be the national motto of Australia. This expression means “do not worry about it”, or “it’s all right”. It can also mean “sure thing” and “you’re welcome.” So, when you bump into a person on the train and you apologise, they may respond with “no worries”, meaning “it’s all right”. Just be careful “no worry” is not a phrase used in English. 

What's the difference between "Bush", "Outback" and "Woop Woop"?

Australia is big. And by big, we mean it’s the planet’s sixth largest country. However, most people live on Australia’s coastline. More than 85% of Australia’s 25 million population live in towns and cities on the eastern and southern coasts, in cities such as Sydney and Melbourne. When people refer to the “outback,” they mean the large expanse of uninhabited/sparsely populated area in the centre of the Australian continent. So, what’s the difference between “bush” and “outback”? The difference between outback and bush is that the outback is usually the remote and desolate areas of Australia. The bush is not the city, but towards the direction of the outback. It’s usually an area of natural woodlands, shrubs and undergrowth. So, you would drive from the city to the bush to the outback. Makes sense? Now, what about “woop woop”? You would say “he lives out woop woop,” meaning he lives in an isolated place or a destination outside of your local area, usually far away. 

Drinks: From a “coldie” to the “booze bus” 

When you look through the list of 100 Australian Slang Words & Phrases, you’ll see a couple of slang words and phrases that relate to drinking alcohol. So, what do Aussies mean when they say: “Let’s grab a slab from the bottle-o later.” A “slab” is a quantity or beer, usually a box. You can buy this from a liquor store (Aussies call this a bottle shop, or “bottle-o”). Be careful not to drink alcohol and drive a vehicle. Australian Police are very strict, and you don’t want to get caught by a Booze Bus: a custom-built Police bus to check for intoxicated drivers on the road. 

True-blue Aussies on Straya Day 

Australia has a rich history, dating back some 65,000 years. On 26th January every year, Aussies celebrate Straya Day (Straya short for Australia, because it’s how many Aussies pronounce Australia). Australia Day is the official national day of Australia, where we celebrate all the things we love about our country: the land, the sense of fair go, the lifestyle, the democracy, the freedoms we enjoy, but particularly our people. On Straya Day, most people get together with their relos or mates and cook true-blue Aussie tucker: snags on a barbie. Confused? Let’s translate that sentence: On Australia Day, most people get together with their relatives or friends and cook a genuine Australian meal: sausages on a barbecue.

International slang words

We’ve shown you the 100 Australian Slang Words & Phrases. But what about slang words that are used around the world? Some of these new international slang words are used in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and the UK (and even in non-English speaking countries). 

Slang words or phrases develop over timeexternal icon. Some die out because nobody uses them anymore. Others don’t get used because people move on to a new slang word. Sometimes, slang words are so popular that they are absorbed into the common language. So, that’s how language grows and evolves over time. New words are added to the dictionary. At the same time, old ones disappear. What about new slang words in 2019 and 2020? Let’s check them out.

New words in 2019 and 2020

BAE An acronym meaning “before anyone else.” It’s used between romantic partners or close friends. “Bae, you’re the best.”
Basic Someone or something that’s very common or a conformist. “You’re so basic. You’re only wearing that because everyone else is.”
Boujee or bougie Short for bourgeois. Meaning rich or acting rich or aspiring to be a higher class than one is.
Bye Felicia A fast way to tell someone to go away. “I know you’re just copying my style. Bye Felicia.”
Coin Another term for money. “I need to make major coin.”
Dying Something that was so funny, you died laughing. “This is way too funny. I’m dying!”
Epic Very enjoyable. “His latest novel was epic.”
Extra Means trying too hard, over the top, excessive, maybe a little dramatic. “Oh wow, don’t be so extra”
Fierce This signifies a strong, independent person. “I love her to death. She’s so fierce!”
FOMO Acronym for “fear of missing out”
Ghost To ignore someone on purpose. “We were chatting for a while, but now I’m being ghosted.”
GOAT An acronym that stands for “greatest of all time.” “I don’t care what you say, because Jake is the goat.”
Gucci When you say this, it means that something is good or cool
Lit If something is “lit,” it means it’s super cool or “on fire.” “Last night’s party was lit.”
Karen A term used by millennials and Gen Z to describe older generations who ask for the manager to complain. “She’s such a Karen.”
Low key It means it’s being done under the radar or they don’t want anyone to know. “I low key love Imagine Dragons, but don’t tell anyone!”
On point Outstanding, perfectly executed. “Your hair looks on point today.”
Read To “read” someone means you’re calling them out for their bad behaviour.
Salty Angry or bitter about something. “Why are you so salty? I meant that comment as a joke.”
Savage Someone who criticises people non-stop and doesn’t care what others will say.
Ship Short for (romantic) relationship.
TBH Acronym for “to be honest”
The tea When someone is dishing “the tea,” they’re gossiping, particularly with the juiciest or most dramatic gossip.
Thicc Looking good in your skin, not matter your shape or size.
Thirsty If someone’s “thirsty,” it means they’re a little too eager or even desperate. “Look at the way he dressed-up for his second date. He’s way too thirsty.”
Throw shade To “throw shade” means to insult or say something unkind about someone. “I can’t believe he said that. He just threw some serious shade.”
Woke Slang for “awakened,” as in being highly aware of social injustices. “If you’re so woke, why didn’t you vote?”
Yeet A very strong word for yes.
YOLO An acronym for “you only live once,” encouraging people to seize the day. “Of course, you should go on that trip to Dublin! YOLO!
SMH This is an acronym for “shaking my head.” Typically used when something is very obvious, plain old stupid, or a disappointment.
Mint Usually means cool or nice. “Man, that car is mint.”

Check our list of 100 new English words & phrases

Can I use idioms and jargon in the IELTS Writing and Speaking test?

The IELTS Speaking test is supposed to represent a normal conversation between two people. So, you should avoid very formal language. For example, you don’t usually “furthermore” or “moreover” in every-day conversations. However, you probably also don’t want to use overly informal language. Some slang is probably too informal: if you tell your examiner “my friend threw me some shade,” he or she may not understand what you mean. 

You can get a higher IELTS band score if you show the ability to use idiomatic expressions appropriately but perhaps stick with common idiomatic expressions that are well-known. We’ve provided some helpful lists with our Idioms A-Z: Explained

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