literature, society and culture
Comments 14

pass the dead horse

Yep, that’s right. ‘Pass the dead horse’ actually means something to Australians – something other than walking by/picking up and moving a horse carcass.

‘Dead horse’ is Australian rhyming slang for ‘tomato sauce’. There are a lot of examples of rhyming slang – ‘Joe Blake’ for snake, ‘trouble and strife’ for wife – but these are rarely used today by Australia’s younger generations, especially not in the cities.

Nevertheless, there are quite a few Australian slang terms that are used by everyone – young and old. Here is a smattering of the most common Aussie slang, some terms more regional than others. Hopefully by learning these you’ll save yourself from the otherwise inevitable awkward moments…

AFL = Australian Football League

arvo = afternoon

Aussie = Australian

Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi = a patriotic chant used particularly at sporting events

Aussie rules = AFL football

barbie = barbeque

barrack = cheer someone/something on (‘He barracks for Collingwood footy club’)

bathers = bathing suit

bikkie = biscuit/cookie

bloke = man

bloody oath = very true

bludger = a lazy person

bogan = this is a tricky one to explain. The word is used to describe a particular variety of Australian – something along the lines of a ‘chav’ (UK) or ‘white-trash’ (US), but the Aussie version much subtler and more varied.

bottle shop / bottle-O = liquor store

booze bus = police van set up to test the blood’s alcohol and drug levels

brekkie = breakfast

bowled over = surprised

budgie = budgerigar

budgie smugglers = Speedos (men’s bathing suit)

bung = broken (Aboriginal origin)

bush = rural areas, forest

BYO = bring your own (usually refers to alcoholic drinks)

cab sav = cabernet sauvignon

cactus = dead, broken

capsicum = (bell) peppers

cask = cask/box wine (‘Can you buy a cask?’)

chewy = chewing gum

chips = can be either french fries or crisps

chook = chicken

cleanskin = unbranded wine

cocky = cockatoo

cooee = a call (‘He’s within cooee.’ Aboriginal origin.)

dag = a funny person (‘She’s a total dag’)

daggy = out of fashion (‘Those pants are so daggy’)

deadset = completely, true (‘He was deadset against it’ = ‘He was completely against it’)

deadshit = a boring/unsuccessful person

dero = a derelict person

didge = didgeridoo

dill = silly person

dropkick = an idiot

dunno = ‘I don’t know’

dunny = toilet

esky = insulated food and drink container

fair dinkum = true/genuine (‘You fair dinkum?’ = ‘Are you being genuine?’)

fair go = to be given a fair chance

flat white = espresso with milk

footpath = pavement/sidewalk

footy = AFL football

full-on = intense (‘That movie was full-on.’)

g’day = hello

goon = cask wine

hard yakka = hard work (Aboriginal origin)

heaps = a lot

hoon = dangerous driver

icy pole = Popsicle

iffy = suspicious

journo = journalist

jumper = sweater/pullover

kanga = kangaroo

mate = friend

mozzies = mosquitoes

no worries = it’s no problem

ocker = stereotypically Australian (usually refers to men – ‘He’s a real ocker bloke’)

op shop = second-hand clothes store

overseas = refers to  any country other than Australia (‘Are you from overseas?’)

pants = trousers

pot (of beer) = 285 ml glass (half a pint)

roo = kangaroo

sav blonk = sauvignon blanc

she’ll be right = it will be ok

slip-slop-slap = the catchphrase to describe applying sunscreen

snag = can mean either a sausage or a problem (‘I’ll have another snag’ or ‘We hit a snag’)

spit the dummy = have a tantrum

Strine = ‘Australian’ said using a thick Australian accent (usually refers to Australian slang, e.g. ‘He spoke Strine’)

stumped = nonplussed

sunnies = sunglasses

take a crack = have a try

tall poppy = successful person

thongs = flip-flops

tucker = food

undies = underwear

uni = university

ute = utility/pickup truck

veg out = relax

wuss = coward

yobbo = a boorish person


Read more about Australian slang on Wikipedia and at Koala Net.

PS If you have any to add, feel free to chuck a comment in the box below…



  1. Sandrajg says

    Billy = kettle, cuppa = cup of tea, dog & bone = phone, stubbie = small bottle of beer, idiot box = TV, olds = parents, and the list goes on…great post

  2. Very useful, thank you!

    I’m surrounded by tomato sauce here on the tomato farm but haven’t heard anyone say “pass the dead horse” yet. I’m going to try it out at dinner tonight 🙂

    They call me a “pommie sheila” here. I think they mean it in an affectionate way!

    • the melbourne local says

      ‘Sheila’ — that’s one I forgot to include! Here’s a tip: pronounce ‘dead horse’ as ‘dead-orse’. They’ll understand you that way. 🙂

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    • the melbourne local says

      Aha, nice one. For all the non-Aussies out there, ‘to crack the shits’ means to get annoyed/angry. (‘I told her she couldn’t do it and she completely cracked the shits with me.’)

  5. I used to work for a company that had a US office and it was certainly interesting when we spoke with the ‘slang’ in our everyday conversations to them. Shortly followed with ‘can you please speak american as you aussies have a language of your own’

    • the melbourne local says

      ‘Can you help me find my other thong’ is one that always sends non-Aussies into either peals of laughter or terribly awkward silence!

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