Macquarie Dictionary

The Macquarie Dictionary (/məˈkwɒri/) is a dictionary of Australian English. It is generally held by universities and the legal profession to be the authoritative source on Australian English.[1] It also pays considerable attention to New Zealand English. Originally it was a publishing project of Jacaranda Press, a Brisbane educational publisher, for which an editorial committee was formed, largely from the Linguistics department of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.[2] It is now published by Macquarie Dictionary Publishers an imprint of Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd. In October 2007 it moved its editorial office away from Macquarie University to the University of Sydney,[3] and then later to the Pan Macmillan offices in the Sydney central business district.

Macquarie Dictionary
The Macquarie Dictionary Sixth Edition
LanguageAustralian English
PublisherMacquarie Dictionary Publishers
Publication date
1981, 1991, 1997, 2005, 2009, 2013, 2017
Media typePrint, Digital


The first seven editions of the Macquarie Dictionary were edited by lexicographer Susan Butler, who joined the project in 1970 as a research assistant, and was its chief editor by the time the first edition was published in 1981. Butler announced her retirement as the Macquarie's editor in March 2018 after 48 years with the publisher.[4]

First Edition

The original version of the Macquarie Dictionary was based on Hamlyn's Encyclopedic World Dictionary of 1971, which in turn was based on Random House's American College Dictionary of 1947,[5] which was based on the 1927 New Century Dictionary, which was based on The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language, which itself was based on Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language second edition of 1841.[2]

Since its first publication in 1981,[2] its use has grown so that over time, it has come to rival longer-established dictionaries from elsewhere in the English-speaking world as a standard authority on the English language within Australia.[6]

Second Edition

The second edition was published in 1991 and it introduced encyclopedic content to many entries.

Third Edition

The third edition, published in 1997, made use of an inhouse corpus of Australian writing, Ozcorp, to add a large number of examples of Australian usage, to give some of the flavour of an historical dictionary. This edition also gave a good coverage of English in Asia.

Fourth Edition

The fourth edition, published in 2005, increases the number of citations, includes etymologies for many phrases and pays particular attention to Australian regionalisms.

Fifth Edition

The fifth edition was published on October 2009[7] and places particular emphasis on words relating to the environment and climate change.

Sixth Edition

The sixth edition was published on October 2013[8] and includes an update of new words and senses as well as words and phrases from other varieties of English which impinge on Australian English such as British English, American English and English in Southeast Asia, China and India.[9]

Seventh Edition

The seventh edition of the Macquarie Dictionary was published on 28 February 2017.[10] [11]

With a foreword by Kate Grenville, this latest edition includes thousands of new words and senses along with Australian regionalisms and a collection of words from the Australian experience in WW1.[12]

Preferred spellings

The dictionary records standard Australian English spelling, which is closer to British spelling than American spelling, with spellings like colour, centre, defence and practice/practise (noun/verb). It gives -ise spellings first, listing -ize spellings as acceptable variants, unlike the Oxford English Dictionary and some other dictionaries of British English, which continue to prefer -ize to -ise in spite of the opposite tendency amongst the British general public (see Oxford spelling). Labour, however, is sometimes spelt labor, especially in reference to the Australian political party.

One difference from British usage is the word program which the Macquarie Dictionary gives as the preferred spelling.[13]


Word of the Year

Each year the editors select a short-list of new words added to the dictionary, and invite the public to vote on their favourite. The public vote is held in January and results in the People's Choice winner. There is also a word selected by a committee.


A number of smaller versions are available, including a pocket edition, as well as companion volumes such as a thesaurus. The latest edition of the main complete version of the Macquarie Dictionary is the seventh, published in 2017. The Macquarie Australian Slang Dictionary published in 2004 is an up-to-date record of Australian slang. A range of dictionaries from the complete to a small dictionary is available as an iOS application.

Macquarie Dictionary Online

The Macquarie Dictionary Online was initially the digital version of the print fourth edition. From 2013 it is the most complete version of the dictionary with greatest coverage of encyclopedic and non-encyclopedic entries. It offers spoken pronunciations. It is available by subscription.


  1. "Reference". University of Melbourne. Archived from the original on 2015-01-03.
  2. Richards, Kel (2015-03-01). The Story of Australian English. NewSouth. ISBN 9781742241906.
  3. "Macquarie Dictionary, uni split amicably". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2015-11-17.
  4. "Take a bow, Sue Butler". Word for Word. Macquarie Dictionary. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  5. Coulthard, Malcolm; Johnson, Alison (2010-03-30). The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics. Routledge. ISBN 9781136998720.
  6. Kachru, Braj; Kachru, Yamuna; Nelson, Cecil (2009-02-17). The Handbook of World Englishes. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781405188319.
  7. "News | The University of Sydney". Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  8. "Macquarie update: new words for a new age". Illawarra Mercury. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  9. "Macquarie Dictionary Seventh Edition". Pan Macmillan. Retrieved 2017-03-31.
  10. "Macquarie Dictionary Seventh Edition". Pan Macmillan. Retrieved 2016-12-06.
  11. Nieuwenhuizen, Agnes (August 9, 2014). "A timely word from the wise, Susan Butler". The Australian. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
  12. "Macquarie Dictionary Seventh Edition". Pan Macmillan. Retrieved 2017-03-31.
  13. "Macquarie Dictionary Search Word program". / Macmillan Publishers Group Australia. 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
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