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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 Britannica  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.  

Aerial view of Australia

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 time . 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 slang words in 2023 and 2024

Words

Phrases

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!”

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!”

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.

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.”

Preppy

Refers to lots of girly pink, LuLuLemon accessories, and the like. It’s a type of style, and it contrasts with the darker “emo”, which is more black clothes and sad music.

Beige flag

Quirky, neutral traits in partners that may not be deal-breakers or deal-makers

Bussin

Used to describe something as exceptionally good, flavorful, or impressive

Caught in 4K

used to emphasize when someone is unmistakably caught doing something, leaving no doubt about what happened

Nepo baby

They have obtained positions or opportunities primarily due to their family or close connections, rather than based on their merit

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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About this Article

Published on January 20, 2024

About this Author

Vincent Blokker - IELTS Australia
Vincent