Australian English

Australian English (AuE; en-AU[lower-alpha 1]) is the set of varieties of the English language native to Australia. Although English has no official status in the Constitution, Australian English is the country's national and de facto official language as it is the first language of the majority of the population.

Australian English
Native speakers
16.5 million in Australia (2012)[1]
3.5 million L2 speakers of English in Australia (Crystal 2003)
Early forms
Latin (English alphabet)
Unified English Braille[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Australian English began to diverge from British English after the First Settlers, who set up the Colony of New South Wales, arrived in 1788. By 1820, their speech was recognised as being different from British English. Australian English arose from the intermingling of early settlers, who were from a great variety of mutually intelligible dialectal regions of Great Britain and Ireland, and quickly developed into a distinct variety of English[5] which differs considerably from most other varieties of English in vocabulary, accent, pronunciation, register, grammar and spelling.


The earliest form of Australian English was spoken by the children of the colonists in early New South Wales. This first generation of native-born children created a new dialect that was to become the language of the nation. The Australian-born children in the new colony were exposed to a wide range of dialects from all over the British Isles, in particular from Ireland and South East England.[6]

The native-born children in the colony created the new dialect from the speech they heard around them, and with it expressed peer solidarity. Even when new settlers arrived, this new dialect was strong enough to blunt other patterns of speech.

A quarter of the convicts were Irish. Many had been arrested in Ireland, and some in Great Britain. Many, if not most, of the Irish spoke Irish and either no English at all, or spoke it poorly and rarely. There were other significant populations of convicts from non-English speaking parts of Britain, such as the Scottish Highlands, Wales and parts of Cornwall.

Records from the early 19th century show this distinct dialect in the colonies after the first settlement in 1788.[5] Peter Miller Cunningham's 1827 book Two Years in New South Wales, described the distinctive accent and vocabulary of the native-born colonists, that differed from that of their parents and with a strong London influence.[6] Anthony Burgess writes that "Australian English may be thought of as a kind of fossilised Cockney of the Dickensian era."[7]

The first of the Australian gold rushes, in the 1850s, began a large wave of immigration, during which about two per cent of the population of the United Kingdom emigrated to the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria.[8] According to linguist Bruce Moore, "the major input of the various sounds that went into constructing the Australian accent was from south-east England".[6]

Some elements of Aboriginal languages have been adopted by Australian English—mainly as names for places, flora and fauna (for example dingo) and local culture. Many such are localised, and do not form part of general Australian use, while others, such as kangaroo, boomerang, budgerigar, wallaby and so on have become international. Other examples are cooee and hard yakka. The former is used as a high-pitched call, for attracting attention, (pronounced /ˈkʉːiː/) which travels long distances. Cooee is also a notional distance: if he's within cooee, we'll spot him. Hard yakka means hard work and is derived from yakka, from the Jagera/Yagara language once spoken in the Brisbane region.

Also of Aboriginal origin is the word bung, from the Sydney pidgin English (and ultimately from the Sydney Aboriginal language), meaning "dead", with some extension to "broken" or "useless". Many towns or suburbs of Australia have also been influenced or named after Aboriginal words. The best-known example is the capital, Canberra, named after a local language word meaning "meeting place".[9]

Among the changes starting in the 19th century were the introduction of words, spellings, terms and usages from North American English. The words imported included some later considered to be typically Australian, such as bushwhacker and squatter.[10]

This American influence continued with the popularity of American films and the influx of American military personnel in World War II; seen in the enduring persistence of such terms as okay, you guys and gee.[11]

Phonology and pronunciation

The primary way in which Australian English is distinctive from other varieties of English is through its unique pronunciation. It shares most similarity with other Southern Hemisphere accents, in particular New Zealand English.[12] Like most dialects of English it is distinguished primarily by its vowel phonology.[13]


The vowels of Australian English can be divided according to length. The long vowels, which include monophthongs and diphthongs, mostly correspond to the tense vowels used in analyses of Received Pronunciation (RP) as well as its centring diphthongs. The short vowels, consisting only of monophthongs, correspond to the RP lax vowels. There exist pairs of long and short vowels with overlapping vowel quality giving Australian English phonemic length distinction, which is unusual amongst the various dialects of English, though not unknown elsewhere, such as in regional south-eastern dialects of the UK and eastern seaboard dialects in the US.[15] As with New Zealand English, the weak-vowel merger is complete in Australian English: unstressed /ɪ/ is merged into /ə/ (schwa), unless it is followed by a velar consonant.

monophthongs diphthongs
short vowels long vowels
IPA examples IPA examples IPA examples
ʊ foot, hood, chook ʉː goose, boo, who’d ɪə near, beard, hear[nb 1]
ɪ kit, bid, hid, fleece, bead, heat æɔ mouth, bowed, how’d
ɛ dress, led, head square, bared, haired əʉ goat, bode, hoed
ə comma, about, winter ɜː nurse, bird, heard æɪ face, bait, made
æ trap, lad, had æː bad, sad, mad ɑɪ price, bite, hide
ɐ strut, bud, hud ɐː start, palm, bath[nb 2] choice, boy, oil
ɔ lot, cloth, hot thought, north, force
  1. The boundary between monophthongs and diphthongs is somewhat fluid, /ɪə/, for example, is commonly realised as [ɪː], particularly in closed syllables, though also found in open syllables such as we're, here, and so on. In open syllables particularly the pronunciation varies from the bisyllabic [ɪːɐ] though the diphthong [ɪə] to the long vowel [ɪː].
  2. Many words historically containing /æ/ have /ɐː/ instead, however the extent to which this development has taken hold varies regionally.


There is little variation in the sets of consonants used in different English dialects but there are variations in how these consonants are used. Australian English is no exception.

Consonant phonemes of Australian English[16]
  Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal  m     n     ŋ   
Plosive pb    td kɡ   
Fricative fv θð sz ʃʒ    h 
Approximant        ɹ  j  w   
Lateral        l         

Australian English is non-rhotic; that is, the /r/ sound does not appear at the end of a syllable or immediately before a consonant. However, a linking /r/ can occur when a word that has a final <r> in the spelling comes before another word that starts with a vowel. An intrusive /r/ may similarly be inserted before a vowel in words that do not have <r> in the spelling in certain environments, namely after the long vowel /oː/ and after word final /ə/. This can be heard in "law-r-and order," where an intrusive R is voiced after the W and before the A.

There is some degree of allophonic variation in the alveolar stops. As with North American English, Intervocalic alveolar flapping is a feature of Australian English: prevocalic /t/ and /d/ surface as the alveolar tap [ɾ] after sonorants other than /m, ŋ/ as well as at the end of a word or morpheme before any vowel in the same breath group. The wine–whine merger is complete in Australian English.

Yod-dropping occurs after /s/, /z/ and, /θ/. Other cases of /sj/ and /zj/, along with /tj/ and /dj/, have coalesced to /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ respectively for many speakers. /j/ is generally retained in other consonant clusters.

In common with most varieties of Scottish English and American English, the phoneme /l/ is pronounced as a "dark" (velarised) L ([ɫ]) in all positions, unlike other dialects such as Received Pronunciation and Hiberno (Irish) English, where a light L (i.e., a non-velarised L) is used in many positions.


Differences in stress, weak forms and standard pronunciation of isolated words occur between Australian English and other forms of English, which while noticeable do not impair intelligibility.

The affixes -ary, -ery, -ory, -bury, -berry and -mony (seen in words such as necessary, mulberry and matrimony) can be pronounced either with a full vowel or a schwa. Although some words like necessary are almost universally pronounced with the full vowel, older generations of Australians are relatively likely to pronounce these affixes with a schwa while younger generations are relatively likely to use a full vowel.

Words ending in unstressed -ile derived from Latin adjectives ending in -ilis are pronounced with a full vowel (/ɑɪl/), so that fertile rhymes with fur tile rather than turtle.

In addition, miscellaneous pronunciation differences exist when compared with other varieties of English in relation to seemingly random words. For example, as with American English, the vowel in yoghurt is pronounced as /əʉ/ ("long o") rather than /ɔ/ ("short o"); vitamin, migraine and privacy are pronounced with /ɑɪ/ (as in mine) rather than /ɪ/, /iː/ and /ɪ/ respectively; paedophile is pronounced with /ɛ/ (as in red) rather than /iː/; the prefix homo- (as in homosexual or homophobic) is pronounced with a /əʉ/ ("long o") rather than /ɔ/ ("short o"); urinal is pronounced with schwa /ə/ rather than /ɑɪ/ ("long i"); and harass and harassment are pronounced with the stress on the second, rather than the first syllable. As with British English, advertisement is pronounced with /ɪ/; tomato and vase are pronounced with /ɐː/ (as in father) instead of /æɪ/; zebra is pronounced with /ɛ/ (as in red) rather than /iː/; basil is pronounced with /æ/ ("short a") rather than /æɪ/ ("long a"); and buoy is pronounced as /boɪ/ (as in boy) rather than /ˈbʉːiː/. Examples of miscellaneous pronunciations which contrast with both standard American and British usages are data, which is pronounced with /ɐː/ ("dah") instead of /æɪ/ ("day"); garage, pronounced /ˈɡæɹɑː(d)ʒ/ instead of British /ˈɡæɹɪdʒ/ or American /ɡəˈɹɑː(d)ʒ/ (although the American pronunciation is also used); and maroon (colour), pronounced with /əʉ/ ("own") as opposed to /ʉː/ ("oon").


Variation in Australian closing diphthongs[17]
DiaphonemeLexical setCultivatedGeneralBroad
// FLEECE [ɪi] [ɪi] [əːɪ]
// GOOSE [ʊu] [ïɯ, ʊʉ] [əːʉ]
// FACE [ɛɪ] [ɐ̟ɪ] [ɐ̟ːɪ, a̠ːɪ]
// GOAT [o̽ʊ] [ɐ̟ʉ] [ɐ̟ːʉ, a̠ːʉ]
// PRICE [a̠ɪ̞] [ɒɪ̞] [ɒːɪ̞]
// MOUTH [a̠ʊ] [æo] [ɛːo, ɛ̃ːɤ]

Academic research has shown that the most notable variation within Australian English is largely sociocultural. This is mostly evident in phonology, which is divided into three sociocultural varieties: broad, general and cultivated.[18]

A limited range of word choices is strongly regional in nature. Consequently, the geographical background of individuals can be inferred, if they use words that are peculiar to particular Australian states or territories and, in some cases, even smaller regions.

In addition, some Australians speak creole languages derived from Australian English, such as Australian Kriol, Torres Strait Creole and Norfuk.


The broad, general and cultivated accents form a continuum that reflects minute variations in the Australian accent. They can reflect the social class, education and urban or rural background of speakers, though such indicators are not always reliable.[19] According to linguists, the general Australian variant emerged some time before 1900.[20] Recent generations have seen a comparatively smaller proportion of the population speaking with the broad variant, along with the near extinction of the cultivated Australian accent.[21][22] The growth and dominance of general Australian accents perhaps reflects its prominence on radio and television during the late 20th century.

Australian Aboriginal English is made up of a range of forms which developed differently in different parts of Australia, and are said to vary along a continuum, from forms close to Standard Australian English to more non-standard forms. There are distinctive features of accent, grammar, words and meanings, as well as language use.

The ethnocultural dialects are diverse accents in Australian English that are spoken by the minority groups, which are of non-English speaking background.[23] A massive immigration from Asia has made a large increase in diversity and the will for people to show their cultural identity within the Australian context.[24] These ethnocultural varieties contain features of General Australian English as adopted by the children of immigrants blended with some non-English language features, such as Afro-Asiatic languages and languages of Asia.

Regional variation

Although Australian English is relatively homogeneous, there are some regional variations. The dialects of English spoken in South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands differ slightly in vocabulary and phonology.

Most regional differences are in word usage. Swimming clothes are known as cossies or swimmers in New South Wales, togs in Queensland, and bathers in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia.[25] What Queensland and New South Wales call a stroller is usually called a pram in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.[26] Preference for some synonymous words also differ between states. Garbage (i.e., garbage bin, garbage truck) dominates over rubbish in New South Wales and Queensland, while rubbish is more popular in Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia.[26] The word footy generally refers to the most popular football code in an area; that is, rugby league or rugby union depending on the local area, in most of New South Wales and Queensland, and Australian rules football elsewhere. Beer glasses are also named differently in different states. Distinctive grammatical patterns exist such as the use of the interrogative eh (also spelled ay or aye), which is particularly associated with Queensland. Tasmanian English has a unique stress on the English syllable 'schwa', denoted in IPA as [ə] (the e sound in 'herd'), in Tasmanian English it is typically stressed to [əː] or [ˈə] .

There are some notable regional variations in the pronunciations of certain words. The trap‑bath split is more complete in South Australia, which had later direct settlement from the British Isles than other parts of the country, which were settled while the trap-bath split was more substantially incomplete. Words such as dance, advance, plant, graph, example and answer are pronounced with /aː/ (as in father) far more frequently in South Australia while elsewhere in Australia the older /æ/ (as in mad) is more common.[26] L-vocalisation is also more common in South Australia than other states. In Western Australian and Queensland English, the vowels in near and square are typically realised as centring diphthongs ("nee-ya"), whereas in the other states they may also be realised as monophthongs.[27] A feature common in Victorian English is salary–celery merger, whereby a Victorian pronunciation of Ellen may sound like Alan and Victoria's capital city Melbourne may sound like Malbourne to speakers from other states. There is also regional variation in /uː/ before /l/ (as in school and pool).


Intrinsic traits

Australian English has many words and idioms which are unique to the dialect and have been written on extensively, with the Macquarie Dictionary 4th Edition incorporating numerous Australian terms.[28]

Internationally well-known examples of Australian terminology include outback, meaning a remote, sparsely populated area, the bush, meaning either a native forest or a country area in general, and g'day, a greeting. Dinkum, or fair dinkum means "true" or "is that true?", among other things, depending on context and inflection.[29] The derivative dinky-di means "true" or devoted: a "dinky-di Aussie" is a "true Australian".

Australian poetry, such as "The Man from Snowy River", as well as folk songs such as "Waltzing Matilda", contain many historical Australian words and phrases that are understood by Australians even though some are not in common usage today.

Australian English, in common with several British English dialects (for example, Cockney, Scouse, Glaswegian and Geordie), uses the word mate.

Several words used by Australians were at one time used in the United Kingdom but have since fallen out of usage or changed in meaning there. For example, creek in Australia, as in North America, means a stream or small river, whereas in the UK it means a small watercourse flowing into the sea; paddock in Australia means field, whereas in the UK it means a small enclosure for livestock; bush or scrub in Australia, as in North America, means a wooded area, whereas in England they are commonly used only in proper names (such as Shepherd's Bush and Wormwood Scrubs).

Litotes, such as "not bad", "not much" and "you're not wrong", are also used, as are diminutives, which are commonly used and are often used to indicate familiarity. Some common examples are arvo (afternoon), barbie (barbecue), smoko (cigarette break), Aussie (Australian), Straya (Australia) and pressie (present/gift). This may also be done with people's names to create nicknames (other English speaking countries create similar diminutives). For example, "Gazza" from Gary, or "Smitty" from John Smith. The use of the suffix -o originates in Irish Gaelic (Irish ó), which is both a postclitic and a suffix with much the same meaning as in Australian English.

In informal speech, incomplete comparisons are sometimes used, such as "sweet as" (as in "That car is sweet as."). "Full", "fully" or "heaps" may precede a word to act as an intensifier (as in "The waves at the beach were heaps good."). This was more common in regional Australia and South Australia but has been in common usage in urban Australia for decades. The suffix "-ly" is sometimes omitted in broader Australian English. For instance, "really good" can become "real good".

Australia's switch to the metric system in the 1970s changed most of the country's vocabulary of measurement from imperial to metric measures.[30] Since the switch to metric, heights of individuals are listed in centimetres on official documents such as a driver's licence but older people understand and may speak of feet and inches.[31]

Comparison with other varieties

Where British and American English vocabulary differs, in different circumstances Australian English favours:

  • A usage which is different from both varieties, as with footpath (US: sidewalk UK: pavement); capsicum (US: bell pepper UK: green/red pepper); lollies (US: candy UK: sweets); doona (US: comforter UK: duvet); or ice block/icy pole (US: popsicle UK: ice lolly)
  • A usage which is shared with British English, as with mobile phone (US: cellular phone); or (vehicle) bonnet (US: hood)
  • A usage which is shared with American English, as with truck (UK: lorry); or eggplant (UK: aubergine)

There are also terms shared by British and American English but not commonly found in Australian English, which include:[28]

  • Abroad (Aus: overseas)
  • Cooler/ice box (Aus: Esky)
  • Flip-flops (Aus: thongs)
  • Meadow (Aus: grassy plain)
  • Pickup truck (Aus: ute)
  • Wildfire (Aus: bushfire)
  • Woods (Aus: bush)

In addition to the large number of uniquely Australian idioms in common use, there are instances of idioms taking different forms in Australian English than in other varieties, for instance:

  • A drop in the ocean (as with UK usage) as opposed to US a drop in the bucket
  • A way to go (as with UK usage) as opposed to US a ways to go
  • Home away from home (as with US usage) as opposed to UK home from home
  • Take with a grain of salt (as with US usage) as opposed to UK take with a pinch of salt
  • Touch wood (as with UK usage) as opposed to US knock on wood
  • Wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole (as with US usage) as opposed to UK wouldn't touch with a barge pole

Terms ascribed different meanings in Australian English

There also exist words in Australian English which are ascribed different meanings from those ascribed in other varieties of English, for instance:[28]

  • Asian in Australian and US usage commonly refers to people of East Asian ancestry, while in British English it commonly refers to people of South Asian ancestry
  • Biscuit in Australian and UK usage refers to both US cookie and cracker, while in American English it refers to a leavened bread product
  • (potato) Chips refers both to UK crisps (which is not commonly used in Australian English) and to US French fries (which is used alongside hot chips)
  • Football in Australian English refers to Australian rules football, Rugby league or Rugby union. UK football is commonly referred to as soccer, while US football is referred to as gridiron
  • Pants in Australian and US usage refers to UK trousers, but in British English refer to Australian English underpants
  • Public school in Australian and US usage refers to a state school. Australian (in common with US) English uses private school to mean a non-government or independent school, in contrast with British English which uses public school to refer to the same thing.
  • Pudding in Australian and US usage refers to a particular sweet dessert, while in British English it can refer to dessert (the food course) in general
  • Prawn in Australian English refers both to large and small crustaeans, while in British English it refers to large crustaceans (with small crustaceans referred to as shrimp) and in American English the term shrimp is used universally for large and small crustaceans
  • Thong in both US and UK usage refers Australian English G-string (underwear), while in Australian English it refers to US and UK flip-flop (footwear)
  • Vest in Australian and US usage refers to UK waistcoat but in British English refers to Australian English singlet

British English terms not commonly used in Australian English

A non-exhaustive selection of British English terms not commonly used in Australian English include:[32]

  • Artic/articulated lorry (Aus: semi-trailer)
  • Aubergine (Aus: eggplant)
  • Bank holiday (Aus: public holiday)
  • Barmy (Aus: crazy/mad)
  • Bedsit (Aus: studio apartment)
  • Bin lorry (Aus: garbage truck)
  • Bobby (Aus: police officer)
  • Bollocks (Aus: nonsense)
  • Cagoule (Aus: raincoat)
  • Candy floss (Aus: fairy floss)
  • Cash machine/cash machine (Aus: automatic teller machine/ATM)
  • Comprehensive school (Aus: state school/public school)
  • Chav (Aus: lower socio-economic person comparable to bogan)
  • Child-minder (Aus: babysitter)
  • Chivvy (Aus: nag)
  • Chrimbo (Aus: Christmas)
  • Chuffed (Aus: proud)
  • Current account (Aus: transaction account)
  • Cleg (Aus: horsefly)
  • Clingfilm (Aus: Glad wrap/cling wrap)
  • Community payback (Aus: community service)
  • Cooker (Aus: stove)
  • Coppice (Aus: cleared bushland)
  • Council housing (Aus: public housing)
  • Counterpane (Aus: bedspead)
  • Crèche (Aus: child care centre)
  • Courgette (Aus: zucchini)
  • Daft (Aus: stupid)
  • Dell (Aus: valley)
  • Do (Aus: party)
  • Doddle (Aus: an easy task)
  • Doss (Aus: to be lazy)
  • Drawing pin (Aus: thumb tack)
  • Dungarees (Aus: overalls)
  • Dustbin (Aus: garbage bin/rubbish bin)
  • Dustcart (Aus: garbage truck/rubbish truck)
  • Duvet (Aus: doona)
  • Elastoplast/plaster (Aus: band-aid)
  • Electrical lead (Aus: electrical cord)
  • Estate car (Aus: station wagon)
  • Fairy cake (Aus: cupcake)
  • Father Christmas (Aus: Santa Claus)
  • Fen (Aus: swamp)
  • Free phone (Aus: toll-free)
  • Full fat milk (Aus: full-cream milk)
  • Heath (Aus: shrubland)
  • Git (Aus: idiot/moron)
  • Goose pimples (Aus: goose bumps)
  • Half-term (Aus: school holiday)
  • Hairgrip (Aus: hairpin/bobbypin)
  • Hoover (v) (Aus: to vacuum)
  • Horsebox (Aus: horse float)
  • Ice lolly (Aus: ice block/icy pole)
  • Juicy bits (Aus: pulp)
  • Kitchen roll (Aus: paper towel)
  • Knackered (Aus: tired/worn out)
  • Landslip (Aus: landslide)
  • Lavatory (Aus: toilet) (lavatory used for toilets on transportation/aeroplanes)
  • Lorry (Aus: truck)
  • Loudhailer (Aus: megaphone)
  • Mangetout (Aus: snow pea)
  • Marrow (Aus: squash)
  • Moggie (Aus: domestic short-haired cat)
  • Moor (Aus: swampland)
  • Nought (Aus: zero)
  • Nettled (Aus: irritated)
  • Nick (n) (Aus: prison)
  • Nosh (Aus: meal)
  • Off-licence (Aus: bottle shop)
  • Pavement (Aus: footpath)
  • Pelican crossing (Aus: pedestrian crossing/zebra crossing)
  • People carrier (Aus: people mover)
  • Pikey (Aus: itinerant/tramp)
  • Pillock (Aus: idiot/moron)
  • Polo neck (Aus: skivvy)
  • Potato crisps (Aus: potato chips)
  • Press-up (Aus: push-up)
  • Red/green pepper (Aus: capsicum)
  • Rodgering (v) (Aus: sexual intercourse)
  • Pillar box (Aus: post box)
  • Plimsoll (Aus: sandshoe)
  • Pushchair (Aus: stroller/pram)
  • Saloon car (Aus: sedan)
  • Sellotape (Aus: sticky tape)
  • Shan't (Aus: will not)
  • Skive (v) (Aus: to wag)
  • Sleeping policeman (Aus: speed bump)
  • Snog (v) (Aus: to kiss)
  • Sod (Aus: someone or something that is unpleasant)
  • Spinney (Aus: shrubland)
  • Stream (Aus: creek)
  • Swan (v) (Aus: to leave ostentatiously)
  • Sweets (Aus: lollies)
  • Tangerine (Aus: mandarin)
  • Tipp-Ex (Aus: white out/liquid paper)
  • Trainers (Aus: runners/sneakers)
  • Turning (n - where one road branches from another) (Aus: turn)
  • Utility room (Aus: laundry)
  • Value-added tax (VAT) (Aus: goods and services tax (GST))
  • Wellington boots (Aus: gumboots)
  • White spirit (Aus: turpentine)

American English terms not commonly used in Australian English

A non-exhaustive list of American English terms not commonly found in Australian English include:[33]

  • Acclimate (Aus: acclimatise)
  • Airplane (Aus: aeroplane)
  • Aluminum (Aus: aluminium)
  • Automobile (Aus: car)
  • Baby carriage (Aus: stroller/pram)
  • Bangs (Aus: fringe)
  • Baseboard (Aus: skirting board)
  • Bayou (Aus: swamp/billabong)
  • Bell pepper (Aus: capsicum)
  • Bellhop (Aus: hotel porter)
  • Beltway (Aus: ring road)
  • Boondocks (Aus: the sticks/Woop Woop/Beyond the black stump)
  • Broil (Aus: grill)
  • Bullhorn (Aus: megaphone)
  • Burglarize (Aus: burgle)
  • Busboy (Aus: included under waiter)
  • Candy (Aus: lollies)
  • Cellular phone (Aus: mobile phone)
  • Check (restaurant bill) (Aus: bill)
  • Cilantro (Aus: coriander)
  • Comforter (Aus: doona)
  • Condo (Aus: apartment)
  • Counter-clockwise (Aus: anticlockwise)
  • Coveralls (Aus: overalls)
  • Crapshoot (Aus: a risky venture)
  • Diaper (Aus: nappy)
  • Downtown (Aus: CBD)
  • Drapes (Aus: curtains)
  • Drugstore (Aus: pharmacy/chemist)
  • Drywall (Aus: plasterboard)
  • Dumpster (Aus: skip bin)
  • Dweeb (Aus: nerd)
  • Fall (season) (Aus: autumn)
  • Fanny pack (Aus: bum bag)
  • Faucet (Aus: tap)
  • Filling station (Aus: service station/petrol station)
  • Flashlight (Aus: torch)
  • Freshman (Aus: first year student)
  • Frosting (Aus: icing)
  • Gasoline (Aus: petrol)
  • Grifter (Aus: con artist)
  • Ground beef (Aus: minced beef)
  • Glove compartment (Aus: glovebox)
  • Golden raisin (Aus: sultana)
  • Hood (vehicle) (Aus: bonnet)
  • Jell-o (Aus: jelly)
  • Ladybug (Aus: ladybird)
  • Mail carrier (Aus: postman/postie)
  • Mass transit (Aus: public transport)
  • Math (Aus: maths)
  • Mineral spirits (Aus: turpentine)
  • Nightstand (Aus: bedside table)
  • Obligated (Aus: obliged)
  • Pacifier (Aus: dummy)
  • Penitentiary (Aus: prison)
  • Period (Aus: full stop)
  • Parking lot (Aus: car park)
  • Play hooky (Aus: to wag)
  • Popsicle (Aus: ice block/icy pole)
  • Railroad (Aus: railway)
  • Railroad ties (Aus: Railway sleepers)
  • Rappel (Aus: abseil)
  • Realtor (Aus: real estate agent)
  • Row house (Aus: terrace house)
  • Sales tax (Aus: goods and services tax (GST))
  • Saran wrap (Aus: plastic wrap/cling wrap)
  • Scad (Aus: a large quantity)
  • Scallion (Aus: spring onion)
  • Sharpie (pen) (Aus: texta)
  • Shopping cart (Aus: shopping trolley)
  • Sidewalk (Aus: footpath)
  • Silverware/flatware (Aus: cutlery)
  • Soda pop (Aus: soft drink)
  • Stick shift (Aus: manual transmission)
  • Streetcar (Aus: tram)
  • Sweatpants (Aus: tracksuit pants)
  • Tailpipe (Aus: exhaust pipe)
  • Takeout (Aus: takeaway)
  • Trash can (Aus: garbage bin/rubbish bin)
  • Trunk (vehicle) (Aus: boot)
  • Turn signal (Aus: indicator)
  • Turtleneck (Aus: skivvy)
  • Vacation (Aus: holiday)
  • Upscale/downscale (Aus: upmarket/downmarket)
  • Windshield (Aus: windscreen)


As with American English, but unlike British English, collective nouns are almost always singular in construction, e.g., the government was unable to decide as opposed to the government were unable to decide. Shan't, the negation of should as in I shan't be happy if ..., the use of haven't any instead of haven't got any and the use of don't let's in place of let's not, common in upper-register British English, are almost never encountered in Australian (or North American) English. River generally follows the name of the river in question as in North America, i.e., Darling River, rather than the British convention of coming before the name, e.g., River Thames. In South Australia however, the British convention applies—for example, the River Murray or the River Torrens. As with American English, on the weekend and studied medicine are used rather than the British at the weekend and read medicine. Similarly, around is more commonly used in constructions such as running around, stomping around or messing around in contrast with the British convention of using about.

In common with British English, the past tense and past participles of the verbs learn, spell and smell are often irregular (learnt, spelt, smelt). Similarly, in Australian usage, the to in I'll write to you is retained, as opposed to US usage where it may be dropped. While prepositions before days may be omitted in American English, i.e., She resigned Thursday, they are retained in Australian English, as in British English: She resigned on Thursday. Ranges of dates use to, i.e., Monday to Friday, as with British English, rather than Monday through Friday in American English. When saying or writing out numbers, and is inserted before the tens and units, i.e., one hundred and sixty-two, as with British practice. However Australians, like Americans, are more likely to pronounce numbers such as 1,200 as twelve hundred, rather than one thousand two hundred. When referring to time, Australians will refer to 10:30 as half past ten and do not use the British half ten. Similarly, a quarter to ten is used for 9:45 in favour of the American (a) quarter of ten.

Spelling and style

As in most English-speaking countries, there is no official governmental regulator or overseer of normative spelling and grammar. The Macquarie Dictionary is used by some universities and some other organisations as a standard for Australian English spelling. The Style Manual: For Authors, Editors and Printers, the Cambridge Guide to Australian English Usage and the Australian Guide to Legal Citation are prominent style guides.

Australian spelling is closer to British than American spelling. As with British spelling, the u is retained in words such as colour, honour, labour and favour. While the Macquarie Dictionary lists the -our ending and follows it with the -or ending as an acceptable variant, the latter is rarely found in actual use today. Australian print media, including digital media, today strongly favour -our endings. A notable exception to this rule is the Australian Labor Party, which officially adopted the -or spelling in its name in 1912, after a period where both spellings seem to have been used indiscriminately (some sources have attributed the official decision for the party to use the American spelling to King O'Malley, who was born in the United States and was reputedly an advocate of spelling reform; the spelling without a u is the standard form in American English.[34][35] It has been suggested that the adoption of the spelling without a u "signified one of the ALP's earliest attempts at modernisation", and served the purpose of differentiating the party from the Australian labour movement as a whole and distinguishing it from other British Empire labour parties). Consistent with British spellings, -re, rather than -er, is the only listed variant in Australian dictionaries in words such as theatre, centre and manoeuvre. Unlike British English, which is split between -ise and -ize in words such as organise and realise, with -ize favoured by the Oxford English Dictionary and -ise listed as a variant, -ize is rare in Australian English and designated as a variant by the Macquarie Dictionary. Ae and oe are often maintained in words such as manoeuvre and paedophilia (excepting those listed below); however, the Macquarie Dictionary lists forms with e (e.g., pedophilia) as acceptable variants and notes a tendency within Australian English towards using only e.

Individual words where the preferred spelling is listed by the Macquarie Dictionary as being different from the British spellings include "program" (in all contexts) as opposed to "programme", "analog" (as opposed to digital) as opposed to "analogue", "livable" as opposed to "liveable", "guerilla" as opposed to "guerrilla", "verandah" as opposed to "veranda", "burqa" as opposed to "burka", "pastie" (food) as opposed to "pasty".[28][36][37] Unspaced prepositions such as "onto", "anytime", "alright" and "anymore" are also listed as being as acceptable as their spaced counterparts.[28]

Different spellings have existed throughout Australia's history. A pamphlet entitled The So-Called "American Spelling", published in Sydney some time in the 19th century, argued that "there is no valid etymological reason for the preservation of the u in such words as honor, labor, etc."[38] The pamphlet also claimed that "the tendency of people in Australasia is to excise the u, and one of the Sydney morning papers habitually does this, while the other generally follows the older form." What are today regarded as American spellings were popular in Australia throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the Victorian Department of Education endorsing them into the 1970s and The Age newspaper until the 1990s. This influence can be seen in the spelling of the Australian Labor Party and also in some place names such as Victor Harbor. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary has been attributed with re-establishing the dominance of the British spellings in the 1920s and 1930s.[39] For a short time during the late 20th century, Harry Lindgren's 1969 spelling reform proposal (Spelling Reform 1 or SR1) gained some support in Australia: in 1975, the Australian Teachers' Federation adopted SR1 as a policy.[40] SR1 calls for the short /e/ sound (as in bet) to be spelt with E (for example friend→frend, head→hed).

Both single and double quotation marks are in use (with double quotation marks being far more common in print media), with logical (as opposed to typesetter's) punctuation. Spaced and unspaced em-dashes remain in mainstream use, as with American and Canadian English. The DD/MM/YYYY date format is followed and the 12-hour clock is generally used in everyday life (as opposed to service, police, and airline applications).

Language tag comparison

Australian[41] American[42] British[43] Canadian[44]
anaemia anemia anaemia anemia
analog analog analogue analogue
analyse analyze analyse analyze
burqa burka burka burka, burqa
catalogue catalog catalogue catalog
centre center centre centre
colour color colour colour
defence defense defence defence
encyclopedia encyclopedia encyclopaedia encyclopedia
fetus fetus foetus fetus
guerilla guerilla guerrilla guerrilla
enquire (informal),
inquire (formal)
inquire enquire (informal),
inquire (formal)
jail jail gaol jail
judgment (legal)
judgment judgement,
judgment (legal)
livable livable liveable livable
manoeuvre maneuver manoeuvre manoeuvre
pastie pasty pasty pasty
practise (v.) practice practise (v.) practise (v.)
program program programme,
program (computer code)
realise realize realise realize
travelling traveling travelling travelling
verandah veranda veranda veranda
yoghurt yogurt yoghurt yogourt

Computer keyboards

There are two major English language keyboard layouts, the United States layout and the United Kingdom layout. Keyboards and keyboard software for the Australian market universally use the United States keyboard layout, which lacks pound sterling, Euro currency and negation symbols. Punctuation symbols are also placed differently from British keyboards.

See also


  1. en-AU is the language code for Australian English, as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).



  1. English (Australia) at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. "Unified English Braille". Australian Braille Authority. 18 May 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  3. "English"; IANA language subtag registry; named as: en; publication date: 16 October 2005; retrieved: 11 January 2019.
  4. "Australia"; IANA language subtag registry; named as: AU; publication date: 16 October 2005; retrieved: 11 January 2019.
  5. "history & accent change | Australian Voices". Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  6. Moore, Bruce (2008). Speaking our Language: the Story of Australian English. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 69. ISBN 978-0-19-556577-5.
  7. Burgess, Anthony (1992). A Mouthful of Air: Language and Languages, especially English. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0091774152.
  8. Blainey, Geoffrey (1993). The Rush that Never Ended: a History of Australian Mining (4 ed.). Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 0-522-84557-6.
  9. "Canberra Facts and figures". Archived from the original on 9 November 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  10. Baker, Sidney J. (1945). The Australian Language (1st ed.). Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
  11. Bell, Philip; Bell, Roger (1998). Americanization and Australia (1. publ. ed.). Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. ISBN 0-86840-784-4.
  12. Trudgill, Peter and Jean Hannah. (2002). International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English, 4th ed. London: Arnold. ISBN 0-340-80834-9, p. 4.
  13. Harrington, J.; F. Cox & Z. Evans (1997). "An acoustic phonetic study of broad, general, and cultivated Australian English vowels". Australian Journal of Linguistics. 17 (2): 155–84. doi:10.1080/07268609708599550.
  14. Cox, Felicity; Fletcher, Janet (2017) [First published 2012], Australian English Pronunciation and Transcription (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1-316-63926-9
  15. Mannell, Robert (14 August 2009). "Australian English – Impressionistic Phonetic Studies". Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  16. Cox & Palethorpe (2007:343)
  17. Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 597
  18. Mannell, Robert (14 August 2009). "Robert Mannell, "Impressionistic Studies of Australian English Phonetics"". Archived from the original on 31 December 2008. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  19. Australia's unique and evolving sound Archived 27 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine Edition 34, 2007 (23 August 2007) – The Macquarie Globe
  20. Bruce Moore (Australian Oxford Dictionary) and Felicity Cox (Macquarie University) [interviewed in]: Sounds of Aus (television documentary) 2007; director: David Swann; Writer: Lawrie Zion, Princess Pictures (broadcaster: ABC Television).
  21. Das, Sushi (29 January 2005). "Struth! Someone's nicked me Strine". The Age.
  22. Corderoy, Amy (26 January 2010). "It's all English, but vowels ain't voils". Sydney Morning Herald.
  23. "australian english | Australian Voices". 30 July 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  24. "australian english defined | Australian Voices". 25 October 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  25. Kellie Scott (5 January 2016). "Divide over potato cake and scallop, bathers and togs mapped in 2015 Linguistics Roadshow". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  26. Pauline Bryant (1985): Regional variation in the Australian English lexicon, Australian Journal of Linguistics, 5:1, 55–66
  27. "regional accents | Australian Voices". Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  28. "The Macquarie Dictionary", Fourth Edition. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 2005.
  29. Frederick Ludowyk, 1998, "Aussie Words: The Dinkum Oil On Dinkum; Where Does It Come From?" (0zWords, Australian National Dictionary Centre). Access date: 5 November 2007. Archived 16 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  30. "History of Measurement in Australia". web page. Australian Government National Measurement Institute. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  31. Wilks, Kevin (1992). Metrication in Australia: A review of the effectiveness of policies and procedures in Australia's conversion to the metric system (PDF). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. p. 114. ISBN 0-644-24860-2. Retrieved 5 August 2017. Measurements used by people in their private lives, in conversation or in estimation of sizes had not noticeably changed nor was such a change even attempted or thought necessary.
  32. "The Macquarie Dictionary", Fourth Edition. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 2005. Note: Entries with Chiefly British usage note in the Macquarie Dictionary and reference to corresponding Australian entry.
  33. The Macquarie Dictionary, Fourth Edition. The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd, 2005. Note: Entries with Chiefly US usage note in the Macquarie Dictionary and reference to corresponding Australian entry.
  34. Bastian, Peter (2009). Andrew Fisher: An Underestimated Man. UNSW Press. p. 372.
  35. "Disemvowelled". BBC News. 27 June 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  36. "Macquarie Dictionary". Macquarie Dictionary. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  37. "Oxford Dictionaries | the World's Most Trusted Dictionary Provider".
  38. The So Called "American Spelling." Its Consistency Examined. pre-1901 pamphlet, Sydney, E. J. Forbes. Quoted by Annie Potts in this article (archived from the original on 4 November 2017)
  39. "Endangered Languages and Cultures » Blog Archive » Webster in Australia". 30 January 2008. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  40. "Spelling Reform 1 – And Nothing Else!". Archived from the original on 30 July 2012.
  41. "Macquarie Dictionary". Macquarie University. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  42. "Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America's most-trusted online dictionary". Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  43. "Cambridge Dictionary". Cambridge University. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  44. "English Dictionaries". LibreOffice Extensions and Templates. Retrieved 30 November 2019.

Works cited

Further reading

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