Diminutives in Australian English

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. 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 used. 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.

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 the name Macca's and uses that, rather than McDonald's on the iconic golden arches sign outside many of its restaurants.

Some diminutives are rarely used, but widely recognised. For example, chalkie means teacher, however 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 The Espy.

List of Diminutives

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


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Australian slang is not dying, it's making its way up in the world".
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Why we shorten barbie, footy and arvo". australiangeographic.com.au.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 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.
  7. http://andc.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/Word%20of%20the%20Month%20%27bikie%27.pdf
  8. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/bookie
  9. http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/brickie
  10. http://andc.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/WOTM%20budgie%20smugglers.pdf
  11. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/doco
  12. http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins?field_alphabet_value=101
  13. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/garbo
  14. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/greenie?s=ts
  15. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/journo
  16. "McDonalds to become Maccas in Australia".
  17. 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'.
  18. http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins?field_alphabet_value=191
  19. 1 2 http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins?field_alphabet_value=211
  20. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/roo
  21. http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/saltie
  22. 1 2 http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins?field_alphabet_value=241
  23. "A brief history of the selfie". abc.net.au.
  24. "Selfie: Australian slang term named international word of the year". the Guardian.
  25. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Seppo
  26. The Australian Tobacco Timeline, University of Sydney
  27. Glossary of common industrial relations terms, Department of Employment and Industrial Relations (Queensland)
  28. http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/subbie
  29. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/surfie?s=ts
  30. 1 2 http://andc.anu.edu.au/australian-words/meanings-origins?field_alphabet_value=251
  31. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/truckie?s=t
  32. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/undies?s=t
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