Speak English Like an Australian: Common Australian Idioms

australiaIdioms are unique, fixed expressions that are natural for native speakers  but devilishly difficult to translate from one culture to another. In fact, in English many idioms are often unique to a country and following list of Common Australian Idioms should give you some insight into some of the most common idioms used Down Under.

To talk the legs off an iron pot
Someone who talks a lot or excessively.

  • My grandpa can talk the legs of an iron pot.

Note: ‘Talk the legs off an iron chair’ is also used and means that same thing.

To pull somone’s leg
To trick or to fool someone.

  • I don’t believe what you are saying. You’re pulling my leg!

Note: this is also a way of saying to someone that they are joking.

Piece of cake
Something that is easy to do.

  • That maths test was a piece of cake.

To spit the dummy
To throw a tantrum and lose one’s temper. Often accompanied with an outburst of anger. The phrase to ‘have a hissy fit’ is similar.

To feel under the weather
To say that someone is tired, weak, sick or unwell.

  • I am feeling under the weather. I cannot be bothered going to the gym to workout today.

To hit the nail on the head
To get something right or to do something very effectively and efficiently.

To speak of the devil
This phrase is said when someone appears just after you have been talking or speaking about the same person.

To hit the road
To leave, depart or to begin a journey.

  • We will be waking up early tomorrow, as we need to hit the road before sunrise.

Note: In Australia, it is common to say this as you depart on a journey, adventure or road trip.

Beat around the bush
When someone is talking and doesn’t get straight to the point.

  • Stop beating around the bush and tell me what you want!

Note: The opposite expression is ‘to cut to the chase.’

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Speak English Like an Australian: Australian Camping Vocabulary

campingCamping is a great way to explore the Australian outback, countryside and white sandy beaches. This entry on Australian Camping Vocabulary will give you a brief guide of the typical Aussie phrases and terms you might here along your camping adventures.

Slang phrase for a ‘long way away,’ a ‘very remote place,’ or the ‘middle of nowhere.’

  • I’m going for a drive out woopwoop.

A swag is a roll out canvas bed for sleeping. Generally they are made out of canvas and are water and insect proof.

Note: Nowadays, most people travel with swags rather than hike with a swag because modern day tents and sleeping bags are much lighter.

Slang term for a small aluminium boat. If you are camping in Australia, you may notice tinnies on the rooftops of 4WDs that are travelling around Australia. These small boats are used in rivers, dams and ocean, particularly for fishing.

Australian slang term for toilet. Usually a dunny refers to a toilet that is outdoors, but it can also refer to any type of toilet.

Note: When camping, you may use a ‘drop dunny,’ also called a ‘long drop,’ which is simply a toilet seat over a large hole in the ground- otherwise known as a pit toilet.

This is an Aussie slang term for mosquitos – avoid them if you can!

A metal pot used for cooking, boiling water or for brewing tea over a campfire.

Damper is a type of bread prepared with wheat based flour and water and cooked in the coals of an open campfire. It is also known as traditional bushmen’s bread. Many people still prepare and cook damper when camping in the outback.

Scroggin is a term used in Australia and New Zealand. It simply means trail mix: a mixture of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate pieces and others nibbles. Scroggin is a popular snack among hikers and bush walkers as it is high in energy.

Bush tucker
Refers to bush foods that are native to Australia and that are used by Indigenous Australians for food or for other purposes. This includes food from animals including kangaroos, emus, snakes etc., food from plants and seeds and insects including grubs.

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Speak English Like an Australian: Australian Transport Terms

transportationIn Australia there are different names (and slang references) for cars, car parts, road rules and other terms related to transportation. This entry on Australian Transport Terms is intended to give you a brief overview of some of these terms and if you are thinking of taking a road trip in Australia. If so, pay close attention!

Key: Oz vs. US word

Motorbike vs. Motorcycle
In Australia, both terms are used interchangeably while in the US motorcycle is much more common (and powerful).

Truckies vs. Truckers
The two countries use these terms to refers to a truck driver, particularly one who drives long distances transporting freight in a semi-trailer.

Ute vs. Pickup truck
Ute is an Australian term, historically used to describe a two-door vehicle with a cargo tray in the rear.

Note: Examples of Utes include Holdens and Fords

Caravan vs. Trailer/Recreational vehicle (RV)
In Australia, a caravan is towed behind a car. It is a vehicle equipped for living in with amenities that may include beds, a kitchen sink and a bathroom. They are used on vacations and are popular in Australia. RVs in the US are similar to caravans, but they are vehicles made for living in (not towed) and are usually bigger in size and contain more amenities.

Bonnet vs. Hood
Refers to the hinged cover on a motor vehicle, which covers the engine. Bonnet is used most often in Australia and it is referred to as a protective cap or cover over a machine.

Boot vs. Trunk
Refers to the storage compartment located in the back of most standard cars.

Windscreen wipers vs. Windshield wipers
Refers to the device used to remove rain and other liquid fragments from the windscreen of a vehicle.

Note: It goes without saying that the front window itself has a different name in the two countries!

Indicators vs. Blinkers / Turn signals
Both terms are used interchangeably in Australia. Refers to the amber colour signal lights at the rear, side and front of vehicle, depending on the type of automobile. They are used to show what direction the vehicle is going (e.g., turning left or right).

Overtake vs. Pass
Refers to the action of going around another car on a highway or freeway by speeding up to overtake them.

Prang vs. Car crash
Prang is a British term for a motor vehicle crash or accident. This term is also often used in Australia.

  • I will be late for lunch. There was a bad prang on the highway and the traffic is banked up.

Servo vs. Gas station/Service station

  • Servo is an Aussie slang term for service station or gas/petrol station. Many are accompanied with shops and fast food outlets, particularly on Australian freeways and highways.

Bowser vs. Gas pump

  • Bowser is an Australian slang term for a petrol pump.

Note: Some Australians also refer to petrol/gasoline as juice (slang)

Yewy vs. U-turn
Ywey (pronounced U-ee) is a slang term for U-turn; the action of turning around the car and going back in the opposite direction.

  • We are going the wrong way mate! Quick, do a yewy here!

Don’t forget, there is always more practice at our Different Englishes page!

Speak English Like an Australian: Vital Australian Slang

australiaIf you are headed Down Under there are a few expression you must know before you go so we are dedicating this entry in our Speak English Like an Australian series to the most vital Australian slang.


Mate is an informal word for friend and it is common to hear ‘G’day mate’ in Australia. This expression is seen as being friendly and represents equality. Men particularly use the word ‘mate’ amongst male friends or when passing another male on the street and casually acknowledging them. Women hardly ever say mate, but they may say it to their male counterparts.

The term mate also can mean dude, man or buddy.


A: What are you doing tomorrow? Want to go to the skate park?

B: Yeah sure, mate. See ya then.

Note: Don’t say ‘G’day Mate’ to a woman. Ever.

Fair dinkum

The term ‘fair dinkum’ can be used in a few different ways depending on the context of the conversation.

  1. Fair dinkum means true or genuine
    A: Peter is a fair dinkum guy. He’ll help you out.
  2. Fair dinkum is also used to assess whether someone is being genuine or not.
    A: I saw a shark down at Rainbow beach this morning!
    B: Are you fair dinkum?
  3. Fair dinkum can also be used to express surprise or question something someone is telling you.
    A: I sold my house and quit my job. I’m moving up north!
    B: Fair dinkum!?

Note: In this example, fair dinkum means: ‘Are you for real?’ or ‘are you serious?’

How ya goin’? 

This literally means ‘How are you?’ Australians are known for shortening their words and abbreviating everything and this is a perfect example. In this case, ‘ya’ is said instead of you and ‘goin’ is used instead of saying going. This expression also has nothing to do with going somewhere.

Alternatively, you may also hear the expression ‘How are you doing’? or ‘How’s life’?

If you want a little more practice before your trip be sure to visit our mainpage!