Aussie terms we didn’t realise were Australian


Waratahs – a staple feature in many native gardens

Oxford Dictionaries recently announced the largest ever quarterly update of Australian English on, with over 500 entries added to the free online dictionary of English.

These aren’t new terms; they have been added because they represent a historical and cultural breadth of the use of English in Australia. It certainly has been an education for us here at Oxford Australia; there are words and terms included in the update that we never realised were specifically Australian!

We’ve included a selection below. How many of these did you know started in Australia?

play lunch ▶noun Austral./NZ a snack eaten by schoolchildren during their mid-morning break: she was always snatching things from him, eating half his play lunch in exchange for secrets. A mid-morning break for schoolchildren: I was put into third class and sat there till play lunch.

long service leave ▶noun [mass noun] Austral. a period of paid leave granted to an employee who has served a specified period of continuous employment: it was an opportunity to spend time as a family while her husband was on long service leave.

lolly water ▶noun [mass noun] Austral./NZ informal non-alcoholic or weak alcoholic drink: all three of them were on the lolly water—apparently they had early starts | an ice-cold, full-strength can of beer rather than some lolly water.

muck-up day ▶noun Austral. informal an end of year celebration for school students, especially those in their final year: he spent muck-up day squirting people with a water pistol. – origin 1960s: from the phrasal verb muck up in the Australian sense ‘misbehave’ (see muck).

mum and dad investor ▶noun Austral. a small-scale risk-averse shareholder, typically the average person with a mortgage and family: these companies are collapsing and thousands of mum and dad investors are in jeopardy.

pharmaceutical benefits scheme ▶noun Austral. a government scheme which provides medicines at a subsidized price: we need to put the country’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme on to a sustainable basis.

native garden ▶noun Austral. a garden consisting entirely or mostly of indigenous plants: there’s a preference for native gardens, rather than the European-style gardens of the past.

meat tray ▶noun Austral./NZ a prize in a raffle consisting of a tray of different cuts of meat: the winner receives a $50 meat tray from Prime Meats.

neenish tart /ˈniːnɪʃ tɑːt/ ▶noun Austral./NZ a small sweet pastry case filled with cream or mock cream and topped with coloured icing: Jess has a very sweet tooth and loves her neenish tarts. – origin late 19th cent.: origin unknown, but later variant spellings including nenische and neinich suggest the possibility of an origin in a European Germanic language.


*The terms included were chosen from an Australian English Dictionary, but selected by a team at Oxford University Press in the UK.

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