voices from the past



A Dictionary of Australian Words and Terms

By Gilbert H. Lawson, published in the 1920's in Sydney, Australia

Tip ... mouse over words in table will turn on highlighting

Although this dictionary is over 80 years old, it gives you a glimpse into the way people spoke in that era. Some words have the same meaning today, while others may have changed or are seldom used anymore.

If you're reading Australian literature from this time period and earlier, such as works by Banjo Paterson, you may find this dictionary very helpful.


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Baal aboriginal term expressing disgust or disapproval.
Babbling brook a cook.
Back blocker (see way back).
Back-blocks the far west.
Back out impertinent answer.
Back out to retreat from a difficulty.
Backer one who bets.
Back in one's cart to intrude.
Back up to bet higher.
Bag of fruit a suit.
Bags a big quantity.
Bail arrangement for confining cow's head.
a small marsupial animal differing from the kangaroo in many ways, particularly in tail (which resembles the rat).
Banjo a shovel.
Banker, running a river overflowing its banks.
Bantam a hot-tempered person.
Barcoo-grass pasture grass; common in Queensland.
Barge in intrude; approach.
Barger an uninvited guest.
Barney fair hair.
Barrack to jeer.
Bash to hit.
Bat tool used in "two-up."
Bathurst burr small Australian plant; also an annoying person.
Beak a magistrate.
Beal aboriginal drink.
Beano a feast.
Beans money.
Beat it move off quickly.
Beat up to give a thrashing.
Beef it out to exclaim in a loud voice.
Beer-swiper an inebriate.
Beer-up a drinking bout.
Bell-bird so-called from resemblance of its notes to tinkle of bell.
Bell-topper tall silk hat.
Biddy-biddy kind of burr.
Biff to strike hard.
Big smoke city.
Big sugar big money.
Big wig an authoritative person.
Billabong channel coming from river and returning.
Billy bushman's kettle.
Bingy the stomach.
Bint a woman.
Bird quaint person.
Bird, to get the to be greeted derisively.
Bite to ask for a loan.
Bite his lug to cadge.
Blackfellow aboriginal.
Black swan
a large black aquatic bird of the duck family with very heavy body and exceptionally long neck.
Black-tracker aboriginal used to track criminals.
Blighty England.
Blim' my exclamation.
Blinker a black eye.
Blithered foolishly drunk.
Blitherer annoying person.
Block head.
Bloke an adult male.
Bloody an expletive; distasteful.
Blotto drunk.
Blow to boast.
Blubber to cry.
Bludger a man who lives upon the proceeds of prostitution.
Bluebell Tasmanian flower.
Blue-gum species of gum tree.
Blues out of sorts.
Bluey a blue blanket; a swag.
Bluff bumptious.
Bluff-stakes deceitful attempt to convince.
Bobby a policeman.
Boko the nose.
Bonzer the best; good.
Boob a prison.
Boodle money.
Bookie abbreviation of bookmaker.
a curved or angular wooden weapon used as a missile by the Australian aboriginals.
Booze alcoholic drink.
Borer destructive insect.
Boronia genus of fragrant plant.
Bosker good; first class.
Boss cockie Australian farmer.
Bott person who borrows.
Bounce assertive
Boundary rider station hand who keeps fences in order.
Bouquet a compliment.
straps or string tied below the knee outside the trousers, to give the leg freedom.
Box-on a brawl; to resume.
Bracelets handcuffs.
Brass coin.
Bread and jam tram.
Break-it win money when destitute.
Break the ice to start.
Breeze-up to be afraid.
Broads a pack of cards.
Brolga a bluish-grey bird of the crane specie, with very long legs.
Brolly an umbrella.
Brumby a wild horse with long matted mane and tail and of ill-breeding.
Brummy false.
Buck to resist.
a horse when apeing the contortionist and vigorously leaping, from place to place at the same time.
Buckshee free.
Buck up to gain courage.
Buffer an elderly person.
Bully a braggard.
Bummer a cadger.
Bumper butt of cigarette.
Bun, to take the ironically win the prize.
Bundle, to drop the to show cowardice.
Bung cheese; also a publican.
Bunnies rabbits.
Burl to try anything.
Bushranger robber who ranges the bush.
Bust, on the to run wild.
in colour and in shape of head distinct from the wild turkey. The bustard lives in the scrub, the wild turkey on the plains.
Butcher bird
name given the family of Australian shrikes, distinguished for their habit of hanging prey to "ripen," and for their powers of song.
Butt in to intrude.
Buttinski an intruding person.
Buzz-off to go away.
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