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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Umbrella-bush a small bushy tree used for hedges
Umpteen an indefinite number
Upper cut an upward blow
Uppish proud
Up the spout in trouble
Up to putty no good
Up to us our duty
Urger a fraudulent race follower
Vag, on the liable under the vagrancy act
Vaseline butter
Wad a number of notes
Waddy aboriginal war implement
Wagtail a small black bird with occasional white feathers, long and fan-shaped tail, which it habitually jerks about
Wallaby small type of kangaroo. There are many species.
Wallaby, on the carrying the swag.
Wallaroo aboriginal name for large black kangaroo.
Wallop a hard hit.
Waratah bright crimson flower about three inches in diameter; emblematic of Australia.
Warrigal aboriginal word meaning dog, also wild.
Washout a failure.
to turn on the
to cry.
Wattle species of acacia. The national flower.
an Australian resident living far removed from townships and not versed in city customs.
Weed tobacco.
Well in affluent; wealthy
Welsher a fraudulent bookmaker.
Welter, to make it to be excessive.
Wet, to get become annoyed.
Whack sufficiency of drink
Whip the cat to regret.
Wild turkey
a fawn-coloured bird, with full throat, resembling the domestic turkey in shape, with flesh equally palatable.
Willy-Willy aboriginal name for whirlwind.
Wind-bag talkative person
Wind-up afraid
Wise-head a knowing individual.
Wise, to get aware of.
a burrowing marsupial with thick heavy body, short legs, rudimentary tail and in general form resembling a small bear.
Womerah aboriginal name for a throwing stick.
Yabby a small burrowing crawfish, found in most creeks and water-holes in Australia
Yacker hard work
Yap talkative
Yarrah aboriginal name for species of eucalyptus
Yowling weeping.
Zack sixpence
Ziff beard
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