Diminutives in Australian English

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In Australian English utility vehicles are almost always referred to in the diminutive as a ute.

Diminutive forms of words are commonly used in every-day Australian English. While many dialects of English make use of diminutives, Australian English uses them more extensively than any other.[citation needed] Diminutives may be seen as slang, but many forms are used widely across the whole of society. Some forms have also spread outside Australia to other English speaking countries.[1] There are over 5,000 identified diminutives in use in Australian English.[2][3][4]


Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is well known for using Australian colloquialisms such as diminutives.

In Australian English, diminutives are usually formed by taking the first part of a word, and adding an a, o, ie, or y. Alternatively in some cases no ending may be added. While the form of a diminutive is arbitrary, their use follows strict rules. Diminutives are not used creatively. For example, an ambulance paramedic is called an ambo, and is never pronounced ambie or amba. The use of the -ie ending, for example in bikie (a motorcycle club member), does not carry a connotation of smallness or cuteness as it does in other English dialects.

Some diminutives are almost always used in preference to the original form, while some are rarely used. Others might be restricted to certain demographic groups or locations. The use of diminutives also evolves over time with new words coming into use and falling out of favour. Some diminutives have become so common that the original form has fallen out of common usage. For example, Salvos has begun to replace the name Salvation Army to such an extent that some Australians do not recognise the Salvation Army name.[5][6] Deli has become so universal that delicatessen is rarely used. Some words, such as ute, from utility vehicle, a car with a tray back, have become universal.

There is common usage of the diminutive forms of people's names; Hargrave → Hargie; Wilkinson → Wilko; John → Jonno; David → Davo; Hogan → Hoges; James → Jimmy → Jim → Jimbo; Benjamin → Ben → Benno; Barry → Bazza. This is usually a display of affection and acceptance rather than belittlement.

Organizations and businesses will often embrace the diminutives given to them by Australians, using them in their own advertising and even registering it as a trademark. McDonald's Australia, for example, has registered and uses the name Macca's, rather than the term McDonald's still seen on its restaurants in Australia.

Some diminutives are rarely used, but widely recognised. For example, chalkie means teacher, but most Australians simply call a teacher a teacher.

Diminutives are often used for place names, and are only recognised by people in the local area, for example, cot for Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Parra for Parramatta in Sydney and Broady for Broadmeadows in Melbourne. Pub and hotel names in particular are often shortened. For example, pubs called the Esplanade Hotel, such as the Esplanade Hotel in St. Kilda, will often be called The Espy.

List of diminutives[edit]

This list contains noteworthy and commonly understood diminutives from Australian English.

Those marked ‡ are also very common in British English.[verification needed][citation needed]


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  • Barbie, a barbecue, the cooking apparatus itself or the event of cooking food on a barbecue[3]
  • Barra, a barramundi or the 4l straight 6 built by Ford Australia
  • Beauty, Beaut, or Bewdy, beautiful. Used in a much wider sense than the beauty, e.g. fantastic or excellent.
  • Bickie or bikkie, a biscuit[3]
  • Bidgie, the Murrumbidgee River[9]
  • Bikie, a member of a motorcycle club, with a connotation of involved in criminal activity. This is equivalent to biker in other forms of English. A motorcycle club is called a bikie club. Outlaw motorcycle clubs may also be called bikie gangs.[10]
  • Blowie, a blowfly. A large buzzing fly common in Australia.[3] Also a blow-job (fellatio).
  • Bolshie, from Bolshevik, meaning of a person or attitude, deliberately combative or uncooperative.
  • Bookie, a bookmaker[11]
  • Boardie, a boardshort, worn by surfers
  • Bottlo, a bottle shop or alcohol store
  • Bowlo, a lawn bowling club
  • Brekkie or Brekky, breakfast[2]
  • Brissie or Brizzie, Brisbane, the capital of Queensland[3]
  • Brickie, a bricklayer[12]
  • Broadie or Broady, Broadmeadows
  • Brushie, a brushtail possum
  • Budgie, a budgerigar[3] Called a parakeet in the US. Male swimming briefs are called budgie smugglers.[13]
  • Bundy, Bundaberg, Queensland,[3] Bundaberg Rum

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  • Cab Sav, Cabernet Sauvignon wine[1]
  • Cardie, a cardigan[3]
  • Ceno or Cenno , the Centrelink office. Also used to refer to a weekly payment (pension or otherwise) from the Centrelink office.
  • Chalkie, a teacher. From chalk used on blackboards. Previously applied to employees of the Australian Stock Exchange who wrote stock prices on chalk boards prior to computerisation.
  • Chardy, chardonnay wine
  • Chewy, chewing gum[3]
  • Chippie, a carpenter. From wood chips
  • Chockers, full to overflowing, derived from "chock-a-block"
  • Chockie, chocolate
  • Chrissie or Chrissy, Christmas[3]
  • Ciggie, a cigarette
  • Cockie, a cockatoo. Commonly a sulphur-crested cockatoo. By extension, a farmer, e.g. "cow cockie" for dairy farmer. Also slang for Cockroach[3]
  • Connie, a bus or train conductor[9]
  • Coota, Cootamundra
  • Compo, compensation for being injured at work. Generally not used for other forms of compensation.[3]
  • Convo, conversation. Used more often in text than speech.
  • Cossie or Cozzie, a bathing costume[3]
  • Cow Bombie, Cowaramup Bombora
  • Cranie, a crane driver
  • Croc, a crocodile
  • Crownie, variously refers to Crown Lager or a Crown Prosecutor, the latter popularised by the televisions series Crownies.
  • Cuppa, a cup of tea or coffee[2][3]

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  • Dandy, Dandenong
  • Deli, a delicatessen[3]
  • Dero, a poor (often homeless) person, from derelict[1][3]
  • Devo, devastated, to be very upset over some event
  • Deso, a designated driver, refraining from alcohol
  • Doco, a documentary[14]
  • Dodge, dodgy or suspicious.

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  • Eckies, ecstasy. From the street name for MDMA.
  • Erko, the Sydney suburb of Erskineville
  • Esky, a portable insulated container. From the Eskimo brand, which was later shortened to esky.[15]

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  • Jocks, men's briefs (underwear), from the brand name "Jockey"
  • Journo, a journalist[3][19]
  • Jindy, short for Jindabyne

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  • Kanga, a kangaroo
  • Kero, kerosene
  • Kindy, Kinda or Kinder, kindergarten[3]

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  • Lebo, or Leb, for Middle Eastern immigrant, specifically from Lebanon, sometimes pejorative.
  • Leftie, a person with left wing views
  • Lezzo, a lesbian
  • Liftie, a ski lift operator
  • Lippy, a lipstick[3]
  • Lappy, a laptop computer

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  • Nasho, a conscript in the army. Derived from national service. Used especially around the Vietnam war. In the Army it was used in a derogatory sense.[15] The term has fallen out of use as conscription in Australia ended in the 1970s. Common use is now Nationality
  • Newie or Newy, Newcastle

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  • Parra, Parramatta
  • Parma, Parmi or Parmy, depending on area, for chicken parmigiana, a pub food staple
  • Paro, Paranoid.
  • Pav, pavlova[22]
  • Pinky, a young, hairless brushtail possum that still resides in its marsupial mother's pouch, newborn rats and mice
  • Pokie, a poker machine[3][22]
  • Pollie, a politician[3]
  • Pom or pommie, a pejorative term for English people
  • Postie, a postman or postwoman[3]
  • Povvo or Pov, a poor or cheap person. From poverty
  • Preggo or ‡preggers, pregnant[3]
  • Prezzies, gifts, presents; use widespread outside Australia
  • Probs, probably, also used for problem in the phrase "no probs"
  • Prozzies, prostitutes

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  • "R"ie, also rissole, RSL club
  • Ref, referee (noun), or to referee a game (verb)
  • Reffo, a pejorative term for a refugee
  • Rego, a vehicle registration[3]
  • Reso, a reservation
  • Ressie or Ressy, the Melbourne suburb of Reservoir
  • Rellie or Relo, a relative[3]
  • Rents, parents
  • Rocky, Rockhampton
  • Roo, a kangaroo[23]
  • Rotto, Rottnest Island

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  • Saltie, a saltwater crocodile, as opposed to a freshie, a freshwater crocodile[24]
  • Salvos, Salvation Army. The term is used officially by the Salvation Army in Australia.[25]
  • Sanga or Sanger, a sandwich. Originally sango, but evolved to its current from by the 1960s.[26][27]
  • Savvy B, Sauvignon Blanc wine
  • Selfie, a self-shot photograph. This term originated in Australia and has been adopted worldwide via the internet. It became The Oxford Dictionary's 2013 word of the year.[28][29]
  • Semi, a semi-trailer truck, also a semi-final
  • Seppo, a pejorative term for an American. Seppo is a diminutive of septic tank which is in turn rhyming slang for yank, which is a diminutive of yankee.
  • Servo, a petrol station, service station[2]
  • Shottie, a shotgun; also the act of riding in the front passenger seat of a vehicle, sometimes announced as "I call shotgun/shottie", to indicate that a person has claimed this seat.
  • Sickie, a sick day[3] Often with a connotation of there being insufficient medical reason for missing work[26]
  • Smoko, a smoking break while at work. Since smoking has been banned in many workplaces, a smoko has come to mean any rest break at work.[30][31]
  • Snag, Sausage
  • Spag bol, Spaghetti Bolognese
  • Sparkie, an electrician. From sparking, electric arcing
  • Straya, Short for Australia
  • Stubby or Stubbie, a small, wide bottle of beer
  • Subi or Subie, a Subaru car[2] Also the suburb of Subiaco, in Perth
  • Subbie, a subwoofer speaker or a subcontractor[32]
  • Sunnies, sunglasses[2]
  • Super, superannuation. In Australia, all employers are obliged to set aside a percentage of a worker's wages in a superannuation fund.
  • Surfie, a surfer[33]
  • Susso, from sustenance payments, a form of welfare during the Great Depression in the form of food coupons. The word has fallen out of use.
  • Suss, suspicious.
  • Swaggie, a swagman

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  • Taz or Tassie, Tasmania(n)[3]
  • Tellie or Telly, a television
  • Tinnie, historically referred to a beverage can (usually a beer can) but today generally refers to an aluminium flat-bottomed boat. From tin can
  • Tradie, a tradesperson
  • Trackies, track pants or a tracksuit. Track pants are also known as trackie dacks, dacks being a colloquial word for trousers.[34]
  • Toonie, Toongabbie, a historic suburb in Western Sydney
  • Towie, tow truck or a tow truck driver
  • Truckie, a truck driver[35]
  • Turps, alcohol, from turpentine, a toxic solvent historically used to adulterate gin. Usually used to say a person is "on the turps" (drinking heavily).[34]
  • TV, a television, a common word outside of Australian English
  • Typo, a typographic error

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  • U-ey ,U'ie (you-eee) To turn 180 degrees when driving a vehicle, U-Turn.[36]
  • Ump or Umpie, an umpire at a sporting game[3] See also Ref
  • Undies, underwear. This word is used widely outside Australian English.[37]
  • Uni, university
  • Ute, an abbreviation of "utility"; a passenger vehicle with a cargo tray in the rear. Festivals that involve gatherings of utes are popular in rural areas and are called ute musters.

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  • Westie, resident of a western suburb (several capital cities)
  • Wharfie, a docks worker
  • Wheelie bin, a household waste bin on wheels
  • Wino, an alcoholic, from wine
  • Woolies, Woolworths supermarkets[2]

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See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Australian slang is not dying, it's making its way up in the world".
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Why we shorten barbie, footy and arvo". australiangeographic.com.au.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag http://alldownunder.com/australian-slang/dictionary-diminutives.htm
  4. ^ "A word in your ear: Diminutives". abc.net.au.
  5. ^ "Transcript". latrobe.edu.au.
  6. ^ "Aussies diminutives". ABC Sydney. Archived from the original on 2014-10-20. Retrieved 2014-10-15.
  7. ^ "A famous Sydney restaurant has been forced to change its menu, with a breakfast item named after a derogatory term used to refer to Aboriginal children". Retrieved 2020-01-04.
  8. ^ "'Abo' is not just an abbreviation of 'Aboriginal'". 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2020-01-04.
  9. ^ a b c "Australian Word Map - Riverina". Macquarie Dictionary.
  10. ^ http://andc.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/Word%20of%20the%20Month%20%27bikie%27.pdf
  11. ^ http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/bookie
  12. ^ http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/brickie
  13. ^ http://andc.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/WOTM%20budgie%20smugglers.pdf
  14. ^ http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/doco
  15. ^ a b School, Head of; admin.slll@anu.edu.au. "Australian National Dictionary Centre". ANU School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics. Retrieved 2020-05-07.
  16. ^ http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/garbo
  17. ^ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/greenie?s=ts
  18. ^ Jaclyn Hendricks. "Naomi Watts has coronavirus isolation meltdown after appliances break". news.com.au.
  19. ^ http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/journo
  20. ^ "McDonald's to become 'Macca's' in Australia". 8 January 2013. Archived from the original on 9 January 2013.
  21. ^ Garone, Adam (November 2011). "Healthier men, one moustache at a time" (Video with transcript). TED.com. TED Conferences, LLC. Retrieved 2 November 2014. So in Australia, 'mo' is slang for mustache, so we renamed the month of November 'Movember'.
  22. ^ a b http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins?field_alphabet_value=211
  23. ^ http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/roo
  24. ^ http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/saltie
  25. ^ https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/
  26. ^ a b http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins?field_alphabet_value=241
  27. ^ "Australian Word Map". Macquarie Dictionary.
  28. ^ "A brief history of the selfie". abc.net.au.
  29. ^ "Selfie: Australian slang term named international word of the year". the Guardian.
  30. ^ The Australian Tobacco Timeline Archived 2009-10-24 at the Wayback Machine, University of Sydney
  31. ^ Glossary of common industrial relations terms Archived 2010-03-28 at the Wayback Machine, Department of Employment and Industrial Relations (Queensland)
  32. ^ Subbie at Urban Dictionary
  33. ^ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/surfie?s=ts
  34. ^ a b http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins?field_alphabet_value=251
  35. ^ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/truckie
  36. ^ https://theculturetrip.com/pacific/australia/articles/the-australian-slang-terms-you-need-to-know/
  37. ^ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/undies?s=t