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10 Australian Phrases You Need to Know

This article is sponsored by Student Housing Co.

As well as understanding the Australian currency, road rules, social and dating norms, and making sense of the country’s interesting cuisine, Australian slang is another thing you’ll have to figure out when living and studying ‘Down Under’.

There are hundreds of Australian slang words and just as many common Australian phrases out there. Some are funny, some are appropriate for the workplace, but most will be totally puzzling to international students. To help you, we’ve broken down 10 popular Aussie slang phrases to get you started. Get familiar with these and you’ll be one step closer to mastering how to ‘speak Australian’!

Bloody oath/Struth/Fair dinkum/Deadset

What does it mean?

Each of these phrases/words are a positive, somewhat surprised response.

When would I use it?

  1. When you are surprised by what has been said and are looking to confirm that it is true: “Fair dinkum! That sounds intense! You’re joking, right?”
  2. Assuring someone that what you’ve said is the truth: “This is deadset the hungriest I have ever been!”
Fun fact!

‘Struth’ is a contraction of the words ‘God’s truth’.

Dog’s breakfast/Dog’s brekkie

What does it mean?

Dogs are not known for their table manners and their food is not very appetising to look at – essentially, it’s a bit of a mess. This phrase is generally used to describe someone or something that looks messy or poorly finished.

When should I use it?

Australians enjoy self-deprecating humour, so we recommend you use this phrase to poke fun at yourself rather than someone else. For example: “I got ready in a hurry so I look like a bit of a dog’s breakfast”.

She’ll be right/No worries/No wukkas

What does it mean?

Australians are laidback and tend to approach life in a relaxed manner. These phrases are three different ways to say “everything is fine” and “don’t worry”.

When should I use it?

  1. In a response to assure someone that there is no issue or cause for concern:
    Them: “Are you sure that it won’t be too early for you?”
    You: “It is early but she’ll be right!”
  2. In a response to someone thanking you:
    Them: “Thanks so much for writing that introduction for our group assignment!”
    You: “No worries!”

Six of one, half a dozen of the other

What does it mean?

Since a ‘dozen’ is another word for 12 of something, ‘half a dozen’ would be six of something.

When should I use it?

You could use this phrase when there is not much difference in outcome between two options:

Them: “Do you want to go to the shops and then to the BBQ, or park the car first and then go?”

You: “I don’t mind – it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.”

As the crow flies

What does it mean?

This phrase essentially means the shortest route between two places. Since crows don’t need to worry about road rules or dense vegetation, the distance it takes for crows to fly somewhere will be shorter than other forms of transport.

When should I use it?

This phrase can be useful when you are explaining the distance between two places in a straight line: “My hometown is two hours away from the capital city, as the crow flies”.

It’s your shout

What does it mean?

This basically means it’s your turn to pay — usually relating to a round of drinks at the bar, but it could be for any cash exchange. This is a big part of Aussie money etiquette so it’s an important one to understand!

When should I use it?

If a friend bought you dinner last time you saw them and it’s now your turn to pay, you can tell them: “It’s my shout this time”.

Woop Woop

What does it mean?

Woop Woop is not a real place but describes somewhere out in the middle of nowhere or very far from your current location.

When should I use it?

If one of your classes is held in a building quite far from the main campus, you could say: “Feels like I just walked to Woop Woop and back!”

What do you reckon?/I reckon

What does it mean?

Reckon’ can be used as another word for ‘think’.

When should I use it?

This can be used when providing your opinion or asking for someone else’s opinion: “I was thinking of cooking dinner rather than going out — what do you reckon?”.

Do the Harold Holt

What does it mean?

To ‘do the Harold Holt’ means to leave without telling anyone where you are going.

When should I use it?

“Sorry for doing the Harold Holt, my friend offered to drive me home”.

Fun fact!

Harold Holt was a former Australian prime minister who disappeared while swimming at a Victorian beach.

Going off like a frog in a sock

What does it mean?

This means that something or someone is very boisterous and excited.

When should I use it?

“Were you at the UniBar on the weekend? It was going off like a frog in a sock!”

Lastly, one phrase to never use: Throw another shrimp on the barbie

Although ‘barbie’ is a commonly used slang word for a barbeque, Australians call them prawns, not shrimp. The phrase was made famous by a 1980s-90s international marketing campaign created by the Australian Tourism Commission, encouraging international travellers to visit Australia. Real Aussies will likely roll their eyes at you if they hear you saying this!