Australian Abbreviations

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In my series of posts on Australian expressions and idiosyncrasies, I realize that I have left you, dear readers, sadly in the dark. You see, I have just now unlocked one of the secrets to speaking like an Aussie in no time. In a way it is so simple that I adopted it without realizing it; in another way it was one of the largest initial barriers in my ability to follow a fast-paced conversation: the clever use of Australian abbreviations.

This post was originally published in 2009. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content. 

“a”

Chop off the last half of a word and replace it with “a”, and you’ve got the basics. Here are a few examples:

Cuppa = cup of tea or coffee

Macka = Mackenzie

Maccas = McDonalds (although you will also hear it pronounced as Mackers)

“er”

This follows the same principle as above (which is the basic principle of Australian abbreviations!). The sticky part is that it can be tough (with my Canadian ears) to differentiate between an Australian saying “a” and “er”, so there may well be some leeway between this category and the “a” one.

Chuckers = nun chucks

Mackers = McDonalds

Sanger = sandwich (yup – I had trouble making the leap from sandwich to sanger the first time myself)

“ie” or “y”

This one of the more common forms of Australian abbreviation as I can tell, with some very popular words in the repertoire, such as:

Aussie = Australian

Barbie = barbeque

Bikkie = biscuit/cracker/cookie (yes, all three)

Brissie = Brisbane

Footy = football

Greenie = environmentally friendly person

Linnie/Lindie = Linda

Mozzie = mosquito

Tradie = tradesman

Uni = university (it’s not an “ie” or “y” abbreviation, but it’s close)

“o”

Arvo = afternoon (I’m not sure where the “r” came from)

Avo = avocado (not to be confused with arvo/afternoon, which I’ve done frequently – it gets messy)

Bizzo = business

Bottle-O = bottle shop / liquor store

Doco = documentary

Johnno = John

Journo = journalist

Smoko = smoke break

“za”

This, I’ve only recently tuned in to hearing and identifying the roots of, so examples from my vocabulary are slim. (Australian readers, please help me out!)

Sharon = Shazza (which also happens to be a descriptive term for a woman who is basically trailer trash – I pity the girl named Sharon)

Many of these abbreviations are not specific to any particular generation or class of individual; instead they are commonly used terms in Australian dialogue, on television (not that television is the be-all and end-all of culture, but it’s even on the news), and even in writing. I’ve probably used the word “Aussie” about a thousand times to date on this website alone.

I know there are many more Aussie abbrevos (?-maybe it’s abbrevvies), so mates, pony up: how do you minimize those pesky unnecessary syllables?

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27 thoughts on “Australian Abbreviations”

  1. How about Cossie (short for costume) for a swimsuit. That one got me when I first lived there. Oh, 2 others I thought of, Ta for thanks, and Snag for sausage. I love sanger ~ something about saying that instead of sandwich really amused me when I was younger.

    Reply
    • @Deb – Ooh! Ooh! Good ones! I like “snags” too, but it doesn’t actually fit the Aussie-abbreviation-formula!
      Cossie also sounds like Kozzy – which is the short form for Mt Kosciuszko!
      Thanks for sharing….

      Reply
  2. “The sticky part is that it can be tough (with my Canadian ears) to differentiate between an Australian saying “a” and “er””

    This is because there is in fact no difference – they sound exactly the same in Australian (as well as New Zealand, South African, English and Welsh) English. This is because in all these varieties of English, the /r/ sound is not pronounced at the end of the word; there is only a vowel sound, known as “schwa”. This is unlike in your Canadian English (most North American English is the same in this respect, as well as Scottish, Irish and some Carribean English), where if there is an “r” in the spelling, then it is also found in the pronunciation.

    As for the “r” in “arvo”, this is not pronounced, but is only used in the spelling to indicate a lengthening of the vowel as in Australian (also NZ, SA, and Southern English English) “after”, “fast”, “bath” etc.

    You may also be interested to know that most of the abbreviations that you give ending in “ie” or “y” are also used in England (where I’m from). Sorry if this turned in to a bit of a lecture, but I hope it’s informative. 🙂

    Reply
    • @Sam – Thanks for the background info! It’s awesome. Cheers!

      @Dave & Deb – I know. Being a writer and a linguist of sorts, learning different dialects of English is great fun.

      @Itineravoy – I couldn’t make your link work! Will try again.

      Reply
  3. I love it. These are my favorite type of posts. We come from countries that speak the same language, and yet our languages are very different. I have heard of the ie’s and a’s before but the o’s are new to me. I look forward to going to Australia one day soon and trying out all of my new phrases I am learning from you

    Reply
  4. As an Aussie I find it funny how our language is considered interesting by the rest of the world. I certainly don’t use every phrase listed on a regular basis, but abbreviations like “uni”, “mozzi” and “maccas” certainly come up quite naturally in regular speech.

    I <3 my country.

    Reply
  5. wow i am so confused i live in australia although i dont know anyone bogan enough to use these terms :p you forgot one which people in perth particularly use, TRAINO which is the train station u were right it fits in your formula

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  6. This is great. Love it! Makes me miss home.

    The “za” is mostly restricted to names (I’m trying to think of other examples and can’t!). Barry = Bazza. Warwick = Wazza. Jeremy = Jezza.

    Oh, and breakfast = breakie. 🙂

    Reply
    • @Sharell – Good ones! As soon as I published, I thought of trackies, and undies is a more universal term….I hadn’t made the connection, but of course it fits the criteria!

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  7. Here’s a few that come to mind – if you’re still interested six months on from your post

    Bottle-o: A bottle shop where alcohol is bought (like liquor store)
    Servo: A service station (same as a gas station)
    Chrissie: Christmas
    Sunnies: Sunglasses
    Rego: Car registration
    Postie: Postman (mailman)
    Garbo: Garbage man
    Smoko: Traditionally a smoking break at work, often just the morning tea break.
    Sickie: A day off work when you’re sick, though normally it’s taken when you aren’t actually sick (when it’s called “chucking a sickie”)
    U-ey: U-turn, also used as “chucking a U-ey”
    Devo: From “deviant” meaning a pervert.

    Getting a bit carried away. Time to get back to work.

    Reply
  8. @A different Chris – Awesome summary, and I’m pleased to say that I recognize all of these words! (Although the term “chucking a sickie” is new…good stuff)!
    As a writer and (amateur?) linguist, I truly find this stuff fascinating, and I’m still learning stuff every day through conversation and experience.
    Cheers!

    Reply
  9. Agreed that “za” is only used for people’s names – or at least I can’t think of any -zas that are not names either.

    Great page! 🙂

    Reply
  10. i guess we are missing out on the elegance of using the native words. we should stick to the complete names instead of these absolutely funny abbreviations

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  11. @Shazza – I actually found the abbreviations to be affectionate and a quirky peek into Aussie (!) culture through linguistics. Stick with it – it’s fun!

    Reply
  12. Depending on how you pronounce “devo” (long ‘e’ or short ‘e’) it can also mean devastated, as in “I’m so devo he broke up with me”. In fact it might even be spelt “devvo” to make a distinction.

    Reply
    • Derek – Good one! I wonder if there are many Aussie abbreviations with double-meanings that could contextually get us into trouble… GRINS

      Reply
  13. Love it! Although as I know it, smoko is referring to the small break that tradies have in the morning and they have a sandwich. There’s actual smoko vans that drive around and sell the sandwiches:-)

    Reply
    • Hi Susie,
      Thanks for the clarification! I like the term smoko van. In Canada we unoriginally call them lunch trucks – despite the fact that they usually do the morning rounds just like smoko vans.

      Reply
  14. Pingback: How to speak Australian - Msz Knowitall
  15. Goodness, that’s practically another language! I would have no idea what they’re talking about. Thanks for the fun and educational post. I will have to revisit this page before I go to Australia someday! That way I could impress them with using they’re slang, eh? Oh, wait, the “eh” thing is Canada, right? Gotta get these slang things right, haha!

    Reply
    • Hey Christine,
      You’ll impress with the slang, but you’ve gotta add in a bit of the accent as well, otherwise they won’t understand you! Ha ha! Practice makes perfect. 😉

      Reply

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