Diminutives in Australian English
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. 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. There are over 5,000 identified diminutives in use in Australian English.
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. 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
This list contains noteworthy and commonly understood diminutives from Australian English.
- Barbie, a barbecue, the cooking apparatus itself or the event of cooking food on a barbecue
- Barra, a barramundi
- Beauty, Beaut, or Bewdy, beautiful. Used in a much wider sense than the beauty, e.g. fantastic or excellent.
- ‡Bickie or bikkie, a biscuit, also found in 'big bickies', a large amount of money
- Biffo, a fight
- 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.
- Blowie, a blowfly. A large buzzing fly common in Australia. Also a blow-job (fellatio).
- ‡Bookie, a bookmaker
- Boardie, a boardshort, worn by surfers
- Bottlo, a bottle shop or alcohol store
- Bowlo, a lawn bowling club
- Breckie or Brekky, breakfast
- Brissie or Brizzie, Brisbane, the capital of Queensland
- ‡Brickie, a bricklayer
- Broadie or Broady, Broadmeadows
- Brushie, a brushtail possum
- ‡Budgie, a budgerigar Called a parakeet in the US. Male swimming briefs are called budgie smugglers.
- Bundy, Bundaberg, Queensland, Bundaberg Rum
- Cab Sav, Cabernet Sauvignon wine
- ‡Cardie, a cardigan
- Ceno, 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.
- Chewy, chewing gum
- ‡Chippie, a carpenter. From wood chips
- Chockie, chocolate
- Chrissie or Chrissy, Christmas
- ‡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
- Coota, Cootamundra
- Compo, compensation for being injured at work. Generally not used for other forms of compensation.
- ‡Cossie or Cozzie, a bathing costume
- 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
- Erko, the Sydney suburb of Erskineville
- Esky, a portable insulated container. From the Eskimo brand, which was later shortened to esky.
- Firie, a fireman
- Footy, football, which may refer to the sport of football, the ball itself, or a specific game. Generally, footy refers to Rugby League in Queensland and New South Wales, and to Australian Rules Football in the other states. Association football is either called football or soccer, but never footy. Rugby Union is generally not referred to as footy either. The Nine Network runs two longstanding variety television shows called The Footy Show, one for AFL and the other for Rugby League.
- Freshie, a freshwater crocodile, as opposed to a saltie - a saltwater crocodile
- Gabba, Woolloongabba. The Brisbane Cricket Ground in the suburb is also commonly called the Gabba.
- Garbo, a garbage collector
- Glady, the gladioli family of plants. The term was popularised by Barry Humphries in character as Dame Edna Everage.
- Gong, Wollongong
- Greenie, an environmentalist. From the green movement
- Maccas, McDonald's fast food restaurants This is also reflected in McDonald's corporate branding.
- Maggie, magpie
- Metho, methylated spirits
- Mo, a moustache Contributed to the portmanteau "Movember".
- Mong, an insult for someone is restarted mongoloid
- Mozzie, mosquito
- Mushie, mushroom
- Muzzies, a pejorative term for Muslims
- 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. The term has fallen out of use as conscription in Australia ended in the 1970s.
- Newie or Newy, Newcastle
- Parmy or Parma, depending on area, for Parmigiana, a pub staple
- Paro, Paranoid.
- Pav, pavlova
- Pinky, a young, hairless brushtail possum that still resides in its marsupial mother's pouch
- Pokie, a poker machine
- Pollie, a politician
- ‡Postie, a postman or postwoman
- Povvo or Pov, a poor or cheap person. From poverty
- Preggo or preggers, pregnant
- ‡Prezzies, gifts, presents; use widespread outside Australia
- Prozzies, prostitutes
- Nopro, no problem
- Saltie, a saltwater crocodile, as opposed to a freshie, a freshwater crocodile
- Salvos, Salvation Army. The term is used officially by the Salvation Army in Australia.
- Sanger, a sandwich. Originally sango, but evolved to its current from by the 1960s.
- 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.
- Semi, a semi-trailer truck
- 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
- 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 Often with a connotation of there being insufficient medical reason for missing work
- 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.
- Schmick, stylish, well tailored, well made
- Snag, Sausage
- ‡Spag bol, Spaghetti Bolognese
- Sparkie, an electrician. From sparking, electric arcing
- Stubby or Stubbie, a small, wide bottle of beer
- Subi or Subie, a Subaru car Also the suburb of Subiaco, in Perth
- Subbie, a subwoofer speaker or a subcontractor
- Sunnies, sunglasses
- 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
- 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
- Tassie, Tasmania
- ‡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 tradesman
- Trackies, track pants or a tracksuit. Track pants are also known as trackie dacks, dacks being a colloquial word for trousers.
- Towie, tow truck or a tow truck driver
- Truckie, a truck driver
- Turps, alcohol, from turpentine, a toxic solvent historically used to adulterate gin. Usually used to say a person is "on the turps" (drinking heavily).
- ‡Typo, a typographic error
- Umpie, an umpire at a sporting game See also Ref
- ‡Undies, underwear. This word is used widely outside Australian English.
- ‡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.
- "Australian slang is not dying, it's making its way up in the world".
- "Why we shorten barbie, footy and arvo". australiangeographic.com.au.
- "A word in your ear: Diminutives". abc.net.au.
- "Transcript". latrobe.edu.au.
- "Aussies diminutives". ABC Sydney.
- "McDonald's to become 'Macca's' in Australia". 8 January 2013. Archived from the original on 9 January 2013.
- 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'.
- "A brief history of the selfie". abc.net.au.
- "Selfie: Australian slang term named international word of the year". the Guardian.
- The Australian Tobacco Timeline Archived 2009-10-24 at the Wayback Machine., University of Sydney
- Glossary of common industrial relations terms, Department of Employment and Industrial Relations (Queensland)