How to Speak like an Australian… or should I say Aussie

If there’s one thing that characterises the way Australians speak, more than anything, I’d say it would have to be their use of abbreviations. Australians, or should I say Aussies, love shortening as many words as possible and it seems anything goes.

I first became aware of this while working with Aussies at a dairy farm. ‘Arvo’ would be used instead of ‘afternoon’, ‘preg’ testing instead of ‘pregnancy’ testing, and a calf born ‘premature’ would be called the ‘preemie’.

Once you become aware of it you start to hear these abbreviations everywhere, especially if you watch TV or listen to the radio. ‘Musicians’ are referred to as ‘musos’, ‘jelly’ is the word used for ‘jealous’, and I’ve even heard journalists call ‘politicians’ ‘pollys’!

Coming from Northern Ireland, abbreviations are nothing new to me. We do abbreviate words, both in NI and the rest of the UK, but just not to  the same extent. Back home we talk about going to ‘uni’ (university), and there’s nothing better than throwing on a comfy pair of ‘trackies’ (tracksuit bottoms), but generally we use the full word and things aren’t shortened too often.

So coming to Australia and learning the lingo has been a bit strange for me, and it’s still something I’m getting my head around. I can only imagine how hard it must be for someone whose first language isn’t English.

But don’t worry, I’ve done a bit of research and this whole abbreviation thing isn’t as complicated as it first seems, there’s even a bit of a system to it. Below I’ve listed abbreviations I’ve come across along with guidelines on how to apply them:-

Cut off the end of the word and add “ie”, “i” or “y” (the most popular way)

Aussie Australian
Barbie BBQ
Bikkie Biscuit
Breakie Breakfast
Brissie Brisbane
Cardie Cardigan
Choccie Chocolate
Chressie Christmas
Cozzy Swim Costume
Footy Football
Greenie Environmentally Friendly Person
Jelly Jealous
Lappy Laptop
Lippy Lipstick
Lollies Sweets
Mozzie Mosquito
Polly Politician
Postie Postman
Preemie Premature
Sickie Sick day off work
Sunnies Sunglasses
Tassie Tasmania
Trackies Tracksuit Bottoms
Tradie Tradesman
U-ey U Turn
Undies Underpants
Uni University
Webby Webcam
Wollies Woolworths

Cut off the end of the word and add “o”

Arvo Afternoon (‘r’ not pronounced)
Avo Advocado
Bottle-O Bottle Shop
Devo Devostated
Doco Documentary
Journo Journalist
Muso Musician
Rego Registration
Reno Renovation
Servo Service Station
Smoko Smoke break at work
Traino Train Station
Wino Person who likes wine

On the odd occasion add an “a”

Cupa Cup of tea
Sanga Sandwich
Maccas McDonalds

Sometimes just generally shortening the word, maybe stick on an “s” 

Melbs Melbourne
Mobes Mobile Phone
Preg Pregnant

I’ve been in Australia for 8 months now, and although I’ve grasped what the Aussies are on about when they use these words (most of the time), I still haven’t brought myself to start using them. I swear my dairy farm boss gives me a confused look when I say “afternoon” rather than “arvo”, but it just doesn’t feel natural to me. I’ll say the abbreviation in my head, but when I open my mouth, the full word just comes out. But whether I use them or not, every time I hear a new abbreviation it makes my day.

Do you have any abbreviations I can add to the list? Or anything else that stands out about the way Australians speak? Would love to hear about it 🙂








8 thoughts on “How to Speak like an Australian… or should I say Aussie

  1. I think you have nailed the Australian lingo! But what do you think of it? What kind of impression does it leave you with about Australians? Just curious about slang and how it reflects a society.

    • Thanks! Haha I have mixed opinions on it. Sometimes I think it’s overdone and certain abbreviations can sound pointless and annoying, other times it amusing. But since being here I’ve found a lot of Australians to be so friendly towards me and that comes across in how they speak. I think for most Aussies it’s just a way of coming across less formal, having a bit of fun. What’s your opinion on it? Are you an Australian?

      • Actually I’m a New Zealander….my feeling about the Australian lingo (and New Zealand for that matter) is that there doesn’t appear to be any formality. It’s fine to have the informal language, and….(all other aspects of) culture, but I find that in both countries there is an enjoyment of formality missing. Yes they are very friendly and that is nice, but if you want to ‘dress up’ and enjoy the finer things in life, they look down their nose at you like you are ‘trying to be something you are not’. So if you speak ‘proper English’ it is the same. It does depend WHERE in Australia you are, Sydney and Melbourne are changing a bit I believe. I live in Malaysia now and have done for now 18 years, and here they love formality….so I’m enjoying it. What do you think?

      • Yes I think English is becoming less formal in all English speaking countries, everyone’s different though, some use slang more than others to different degrees. But there are still a lot of people who enjoy speaking and writing properly and there always will be. What I think is wrong though is when journalists don’t use proper English. I saw a news story teaser on tv the other night and the newsroom used the word ‘pollies’ instead of ‘politicians’. I know they’re just trying to relate to their viewers, but I think it’s important for journalists to use proper English and be professional. For example, in the UK the BBC would say ‘mother’ while Sky News would say ‘mum’. But at least Mum isn’t slang, it’s literally just less formal.

      • I agree with you. I saw also in England there was a front page headline a while ago using the word ‘ciggie’. It made me cringe, but like you I realised, that’s the readership, to me it said more about the newspaper as a whole rather than the reader. When I read the rest of the paper, it was all about the same…maybe if I lived in the UK I probably wouldn’t read that one….everyone has a choice I guess. But I did find your list of the use of ‘o’, ‘ie’, and ‘a’ well researched and a bit of an eye-opener about why they do that – to me it seems like they are always trying to make the language sound a bit baby-ish. That is a common problem in NZ as well, people don’t want to use proper English because they don’t think they are ‘sophisticated and mature’ enough to speak properly. I think it is a self image issue….sorry I am on a roll….

        Hope you are enjoying your trip!

  2. We’re a weird bunch! You’ve definitely got this language thing down pat though! We definitely like to add ‘o’ to the end of words – and we like to add it to the end of peoples’ names as well. ‘Robbo’, ‘Jordo’, ‘Jono’… reading your list, I didn’t even flinch at the abbreviations. They have kind of become their own words!

    Have an amazing time while you’re here! x

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