Hilarious Australian slang words that baffle foreigners

Tell a person who has just landed in Australia that your “lappy is cactus” or they’re a “flaming galah” and see how well that goes down.

It’s not until you converse with someone from another country that you begin to appreciate just how zany the Australian vernacular is.

In our story last week about things that shock travellers about Australia, we discussed how many elements of our speech leave foreigners scratching their heads (for example, our habit of adding ‘o’ to the end of places, like “servo” and “bottle-o”).

Since then, we’ve discovered a charming article done up by travel visa website Byevisa, that attempts to explain the most confusing Aussie slang terms to people embarking on a trip down under. Here they are …

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Yep. Our version of 'thongs' really baffles visitors

Yep. Our version of 'thongs' really baffles visitors.

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1. Thongs

This one really baffles visitors, especially those from the United States. In the USA a thong is a piece of underwear. In Australia, it’s what they call flip-flops. Sometimes they also call them “double-pluggers”. If they break their flip-flops you may hear them exclaim that they just had “a blowout in their double-pluggers”.

Barbie means a few different things Down Under.

Barbie means a few different things Down Under.

2. Barbie

It’s not a plastic doll. Down under a “barbie” is short for barbecue. There is actually a whole range of confusing terms you may encounter at an Australian barbecue. An “avo” is an avocado, a “chook” is a chicken, an “Esky” is a portable cooler, “snags” are sausages, “sunnies” are sunglasses and a “tinnie” is a can of beer. And if they say “bring a plate” they don’t mean bring your own empty plate because they don’t have enough crockery. They mean bring a plate of prepared food to share.

Yep, in Australia cactus doesn't always mean the plant.

Yep, in Australia cactus doesn't always mean the plant.

3. Cactus

What you think it means? A spiky plant. What it means in Australia? Broken, or not functioning. For example, “I can’t drive us down the coast this weekend, my car is completely cactus”.

4. Shark biscuit

Believe it or not, this is not a type of Animal Cracker cookie. This is someone who is not very good at surfing.

A Lappy is not what it sounds like, rather it’s a type of computer device.

A Lappy is not what it sounds like, rather it’s a type of computer device.

5 . Lappy

Not to be confused with an erotic dance, this is what Australians call their laptop computer.

Nope, an ankle biter is not a small dog.

Nope, an ankle biter is not a small dog.

6. Ankle biter

Many people will think this is in reference to a small, angry, vicious dog, but this is how Australians refer to young children.

Togs, bathers, swimmers. You’ve heard it, we say it.

Togs, bathers, swimmers. You’ve heard it, we say it.

7. Swimmers

In most parts of the globe, this term means people partaking in the activity of swimming. In Australia it is often used to refer to a swimming costume. Eg “I’ll come to your pool party, I just need to find where I left my swimmers”.

Ta can mean both thank you and takeaway. Simple. Picture: iStock.

Ta can mean both thank you and takeaway. Simple. Picture: iStock.

8. Ta

People think this means goodbye, as in “ta-ta”. But in Australia “ta” is also short for “thank you”.

Tea to drink or tea to eat. Make sure you know the difference.

Tea to drink or tea to eat. Make sure you know the difference.

9. Tea

If an Australian says to you “I have to be home in time for tea,” they are not necessarily referring to a hot beverage. They are probably referring to dinner.

Yep. Stuffed has a fair few meanings down under.

Yep. Stuffed has a fair few meanings down under.

10. Stuffed

In many countries on Christmas Day people will say that they are “stuffed” (full) and couldn’t eat another thing. In Australia “stuffed” often means tired. Eg “I can’t come around to your house tonight, I’m utterly stuffed after work”.






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