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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Nardoo sporocarp of plant used by aboriginals as food.
Nark annoy.
Nark an obstinate man; an informer.
Nark, to to cause annoyance.
Native bear a small marsupial animal with grey fur and full expressive face
(see koala).
Native cat
distinguishable from the domestic animal by its head, which is rat shaped, while its snout is narrow.
Natty neat.
Neck, to get it in the to receive a reverse; punishment.
Neddy a horse.
Needful, the money.
Nelson's blood rum.
Nerve-bravery impertinence.
Never-never the outback.
New chum any person from abroad unacquainted with Australian life and customs.
Nice physical fitness.
Nine's, dressed up to the showy attire.
Nip beg.
Nipper a child.
Nix a warning; nothing.
Noah's are a park.
Nobbler glass of alcohol.
Nobblerise to drink frequently.
Nose around to be inquisitive.
Nosey to be inquisitive.
Nullah nullah a kind of hardwood club used by the Australian aboriginals.
Oats, wild an indigenous grass.
Oh I say exclamation of surprise.
Oiled intoxicated.
O.K. in order.
Old chum experienced person.
Old Dutch a wife.
Old man father; boss.
Onkus unpleasant; absurd.
On the shelf a spinster.
Out to be unconscious.
Out, all exhausted; determined.
Outer, on the to be poor; to be outside.
Out-run distant part of a sheep station.
Overlander a drover of stock.
Over the odds exorbitant.
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