Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Australian Slang - Local Lingo

Unique Phrases - Memorable Quotes - C


CABBAGE GARDEN - name applied to state of Victoria by Sir John Robertson, Premier of NSW in contempt for its size (Morris)

CABBAGE HEAD - NSW term for a person from Victoria

CABBAGE TREE HAT - unique colonial hat made from cabbage tree palm leaves

CABBAGE TREE HAT MOB - Rebels. Australian-born boys (Currency Lads) who began to identify themselves as United Australians in 1830s and 1840s. Their attire included cabbage tree hats

CABBAGITES - members of the Cabbage Tree Hat Mob

CAB SAV – Cabernet Sauvignon

CACTUS – useless, broken; malfunctioning equipment (WW2)

CACKY HANDED - left handed

CAD (native cad)- name for the green Cicada (QLD)(Morris 1898)

CADY or CADDIE - bush name for the slouch hat or wide-awake hat

CAKE HOLE - mouth

CALICO YARD - a kind or corral; expression used by drovers (Lentzner 1891)

CALL IT A DAY - finish for the day

CALL IT QUITS - to stop

CAMP DRAFTING - unique Australian sport involving a horse and rider working cattle

CAN - toilet (dunny can)

CANARY - a convict (because of his yellow suit)

CANDLE-NUT TREE - native tree to Qld

CANNING STOCK ROUTE - the world's longest stock route. Used to drive cattle from the Kimberley to the railhead at Wiluna, WA early 1900s

CAN'T PUT IN WHAT GOD LEFT OUT - without natural talent

CAN'T TAKE A TRICK - unlucky

CANVAS WATER BAG - invented in 1846 by Sir Thomas Mitchell while exploring in South-Western Queensland. As an experiment he sewed pieces of canvas together to make a bag which he greased with mutton tallow

CAPTAIN'S CALL - decision made by a leader without consultation

CAPTAIN COOK - have a look

CAPTAIN'S PICK - same as Captain's Call

CARBIE - carburettor

CARBORA - aboriginal name for the native bear (Morris 1898)

CARDIE - cardigan


CARPET SHARK - Wobbegong


CASTLE HILL REBELLION - convict uprising in 1804

CASER - derived from Yiddish. Gaol term. Can mean either five shillings, five pounds or a sentence of five years

CASCADE - in Tasmania beer is called Cascade as it is made from cascade (artesian) water

CASTENET CLUB - The Castanet Club were a group of local artists, actors, comedians and musicians who formed a vaudeville troupe in their hometown of Newcastle that lasted for nine years c. 1980s

CASTIEAU'S HOTEL - thieves patter, the Melbourn jail, so called from Mr. J. B. Castieau, the governor


CATHOLIC FROG - lives in the inland parts of NSW. In times of drought in burrows, and feeds on ants. So called because of the cross on it's back (Morris 1898)

CAT'S PYJAMAS - very special

CAT O'NINE TAILS - whip used by scourgers in convict days. Had nine thongs as thick as the tip end of the little finger. Each thong had several knots with lead inside Also called Rogue's Cat

CATTLE DUFFER - cattle rustler; stealer of cattle

CATWALK - wired alleyway between compounds (Army 1945)

CAWBAWN - also cobbon; big (indigenous).

CELESTIAL - an immigrant from China during gold rush days

CENTURY - 100 pounds (criminal slang 1950s)

CHAR - tea (WW2)

CHAIN GANG - consisted of twice convicted men who toiled in irons making roads and bridges and slept in boxes at night, often with fetters on

CHALKIE - a schoolteacher; or a clerk who used to chalk up the prices at the Stock Exchange

CHALK UP TO - to debit a person. Put it to an account. From the custom of the keeper of an ale house making a note of the various drinks consumed in a drinking bout by scribbling them down with chalk upon the wall (Leland 1897)

CHANNEL COUNTRY - a Region of outback Australia in Queensland South Australia, Northern Territory and NSW. The name comes from the numerous intertwined rivulets that cross the region

CHARDONNAY SOCIALIST derogatory for someone who enjoys affluent lifestyle but espouses left wing views. Also Champagne Socialist

CHARGE LIKE A WOUNDED BULL - charge a high price for something

CHARGE OF THE 4TH LIGHT HORSE AT BEERSHEBA - Known as the Battle of Beersheba. 31 October 1917. Remembered as the last great cavalry charge

CHARLIES - women's breasts


CHATS THE TOM - speaks to a woman

CHATTER BOX - Lewis gun (soldier slang WW2)

CHATTY - Affected with French vermin (soldier slang WW1)

CHAUVEL, MAJOR HARRY - senior officer of the AIF who fought at Gallipoli and during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in the First World War. As commander of the Desert Mounted Corps, he was responsible for one of the most decisive victories and fastest pursuits in military history

CHEAP AS CHIPS - very cheap

CHEAP DRUNK - person who becomes drunk quickly

CHECK IT OUT - look at that

CHECK OUT CHICK - supermarket cashier

CHEEKY GRIN - Double chin

CHERIOS - small sausages from delicatessen

CHEESED OFF - annoyed about something

CHESTY BOND - Bond's advertisement tradesmark c. 1938; symbol of the Australian male who always fought in his singlet

CHEWING THE FAT - having a talk

CHEW IT OVER - talk it over

CHEWY- chewing gum

CHIACK - to tease or jeer

CHICK - girl

CHICKEN OUT - too scared to join in

CHICK FLICK - a movie that women like


CHICKEN SALT - flavoured salt to sprinkle on chips etc

CHICKEN STRANGLERS - soldiers capable of living off the land

CHICKEN WING TACKLE - A move in Australian rules football and rugby league, in which a player locks an opponent's arm so that he or she cannot legally move the ball. Coined by Fox Sports NRL Producer Geoff Bullock in 2008

CHIKO ROLL - deep-fried snack food

CHILDERS BACKPACKERS HOSTEL FIRE - On 23 June 2000, the backpackers hostel was destroyed by a deliberately-lit fire. Eighty-eight people occupied the hostel at the time of the fire; fifteen died

CHIN WAG - a long talk

CHIPPIE - carpenter

CHIT-CHAT - a talk

CHIV - Port Arthur prison slang for stabbing c. 1909

CHIVEY - face (prison slang c. 1893)

CHIVVY - back talk, lip (WW2)

CHOCCY BICKY – Chocolate Biscuit

CHOCOLATE CRACKLES - children's party food made from rice bubbles


CHOCK AND LOG FENCES - rough timber fences made in 1860s before the use of wire became widespread

CHOCKERS - full up

CHOCS - soldiers who were believed to be unwilling to fight (WW1)

CHOOF OFF - leave

CHOOK– Chicken

CHOOK RAFFLE - held in the local pub

CHOOK SHED – Chicken shed

CHOOM - English soldier - WW1

CHOPPERS - teeth

CHOP UP - division of spoils

CHRISSIE – Christmas

CHROME DOME - a bald man

CHROMO - prostitue

CHUCK - prison ration food c. 1893

CHUCK - throw

CHUCK A CHARLEY - throw a fit; lost your temper

CHUCK A LEFTY - turn left

CHUCK A SICKIE - to take a sick day off work when you're not actually sick

CHUCK A SIX - throw a fit; lose your temper

CHUCK A SPAZ - angry; tantrum

CHUCK A TANTY - have a tantrum

CHUCK A U-EY - do a U-turn

CHUCK OFF AT - to sneer at

CHUCK UP - vomit

CHUCK UP - to relinquish (Digger Smith; C.J. Dennis)

CHUCK A WOBBLY - throw a tantrum

CHUCKING A DUMMY - fainting on parade (soldier slang WW1)

CHUMP - a simpleton

CHUNDER - vomit

CHY-ACK - or CHI-IKE - to cheek or tease (Morris 1898)

CICADA - insect remarkable for the loud chirruping whirr of the males in summer

CIGGY– a Cigarette


CLAGGED OUT - worn out

CLANCY'S GONE TO QUEENSLAND DROVING, AND WE DON'T KNOWN WHERE HE ARE - line from Banjo Paterson's poem Clancy of the Overflow

CLANGER - make an ill-timed or inappropriate comment

CLAP - gonorrhoea

CLAY-PAN - slight depression of the ground where deposit of fine silt prevents the water from sinking in to the ground as it does elsewhere (Morris1898)

CLAYTONS - substitute for the real thing

CLEAN UP AUSTRALIA DAY - rubbish cleanup campaign done by volunteers co-founded by Ian Kiernan and Kim McKay

CLEAN SKIN - a new crook who has had no previous convictions (1950s)

CLEAR AS MUD - complicated, unclear

CLEARING LEASE - small piece of land that settlers were allowed to retain possession of for the labour of clearing the land

CLEAR SKINS (also CLEANSKINS) - unbranded young stock running wild

CLEAR OFF - be off with you (WW1)

CLICK GO THE SHEARS - iconic Australian bush ballad. 1890s

CLINCH - agree; clinch a deal

CLINER - young unmarried female

CLINK - gaol

CLIP - all the wool shorn in one shed or on one property

CLOBBER - suit of clothes eg prison clothes

CLOBBER - gear or pack (Army 1945)

CLOCK-BIRD - another name for the laughing jackass or kookaburra (Morris 1898)

CLOCK, (Settlers' Clock) - clock-bird (Morris 1898)

CLOCK YOUR MUG - gaol term - have photo taken for prison records (1946)

CLODHOPPERS - heavy shoe or foolish awkward person

CLOUT - hard blow

CLOWN - fool, idiot

CLUCKY – feeling maternal

C'MON AUSSIE C'MON - World Series Cricket slogan

COACH - to decoy wild cattle or horses with tame ones (Morris 1898)

COALOPOLIS - refers to the city of Newcastle

COAST - to loaf about from station to station (Morris 1898)

COASTER - loafer, a sundowner (Morris 1898)

COATHANGER - Sydney Harbour Bridge

COBAR SHOWER - dust storm

COBB & CO. - Pioneered road transport in Australia. Their horse-drawn coaches carried passengers and mail from 1853 to the 1920s.

COBBER – Very good friend.

COBBER - Chocolate coated caramel lolly

COBBLER - a sheep that is difficult to shear, often wrinkled; last sheep to be shorn

COBRAH - Bush Tucker. Obtained from timber which had been in the river. Small round looking beetle which changes to become a large whitish looking worm ; teredo navalis

COCK AND BULL STORY - a tall tale

COCKATOO - a person posted to keep lookout during illegal activities. esp. during two-up; also a nit-keeper

COCKATOO FARMER - a small farmer or selector; term of contempt used by large land holders

COCKATOO FENCE - a rough fence made of logs and saplings before the use of wire became widespread

COCKATOO WEATHER - fine by day, rain at night

COCK-EYED BOB - thunderstorm; small whirlwind; also called willy-willy or dust-devil (Western Australia)

COCKY/COCKIE - Native Australian bird

COCKIE - person who owns a small farm

COCKROACH - person from NSW

COCKY'S JOY - golden syrup spread

CODS WALLOP - unbelievable

COLDIE– Beer. ‘Come over for a few coldie’s mate.’

COLONIAL GOOSE - a boned leg of mutton stuffed with sage and onions (Morris 1898)

COLOURS - mining term; originally the gold visible after washing

COLONIAL - patronizing term used by the British to describe Australians. Used until about 1914-18

COMB DOWN - (to). to ill-treat, thrash

COME A CROPPER - to fall; or have a setback

COME ACROSS - bestow sexual favours

COME A GUTZER/GUTSER - fall heavily (WW1)

COME-DOWN - a disappointment

COME GOOD - turn out alright

COME IN ON THE GROUTER - take advantage of the misfortune of another

COME IN SPINNER - call at gambling game two-up when all bets are placed and the coins are ready to be tossed.

COME TO BLOWS - altercation resulting in a physical fight

COMFORT FUNDS - shells (soldier slang WW1)

COMFORT FUNDS - women's groups worked to provide knitted socks, tobacco, cakes, condensed milk, lollies, biscuits and other luxury items to service men overseas (WW1)

COMPO - workers compensation

CONCHERS- up country; tame or quiet cattle

CONCHIE - conscientious objector during war time

CONCRETE MACAROON - army biscuit (WW1)

CONDAMINE - cattle bell with a distinctive high note first made in the Condamine region of Qld

CONK - nose

CONVICT ATTAINT - (felony attaint) - In England condemned criminals were not allowed to give evidence in court, act for another person or sue in the civil courts. As well their goods were forfeited to the crown. Convict attaint was not removed when sentences were commuted to transportation to a penal colony. Only the expiry of the sentence or a pardon could remove the attaint

COOEE - call out; bush-cry. Published in John Hunter's Journal of native words in 1790 as the term Cowee meaning to come.

NOT WITHIN COOEE - figuratively a long way

COOEE MARCH - Recruiting march in WW1

COOK THE BOOKS - falsify accounts

COOLABAH TREE - eucalyptus tree

COOLAMAN - a word adopted from aborigines to describe their drinking vessels and then applied generally

COOLGARDIE SAFE - uses evaporation to keep food inside cool while protecting it from flies and scavengers. Invented in Coolgardie on W.A. Goldfields in the 1890's by Arthur McCormick

COON CHEESE - Iconic Australian trademark of a cheddar cheese first launched in 1935 by Fred Walker. Coon cheese was named after its American creator, Edward William Coon of Philadelphia

COOT - a person of no account, an outsider

COP - policeman

COP A SERVE - be on the receiving end of a rebuke after doing something wrong

COP IT SWEET - accept defeat with good grace

COP OUT - to back out after agreeing to take part in; or to take the easy way

COPPER - nickname for Australian penny

COPPER - police man or woman

COPPER TAIL - less privileged person; opposite of silver tail

COP SHOP - police station

COP THIS - take a look at this!

CORANDERRK - aboriginal name for the Victorian dogwood. An aboriginal station was called after this name because the wood grew plentifully there (Morris 1898)

CORKER - something that is excellent

CORNER - or sling - have a share in a haul (criminal slang 1950s)

CORNSTALK - boy or girl born in Australia, in the past of convict parents

CORNSTALK - Victorian name for a person from New South Wales.

CORROBBERY - aboriginal name for a dance, sacred, festive or warlike (Morris 1898)

COTTON-BUSH - name applied to two trees called salt-bush. Fodder for stock in times of drought

COTTON ON TO - realise; become friendly

COSSIE - swimsuit; togs; swimmers

COULD HAVE BLOWN ME DOWN WITH A FEATHER - expression of astonishment







COUNTER LUNCH - pub lunch

COUNTRY MILE - a long way

COVE - a man; bloke

COW - it stinks (WW2)

COWARD'S CASTLE - When parliament is used to vilify, abuse others while under parliamentary privilege

COW LICK - piece of curly hair

COW OF A THING - something broken; difficult to fix

COWRA P.O.W CAMP OUTBREAK - On 5 August 1944 Japanese prisoners of war (POWs) housed in the detention camp in Cowra a mass outbreak

CRABS - pubic lice

CRABS - bomb or shelfire; to bring the crabs around - to expose yourself to enemy fire (WW2)

CRACKS - The best stockmen - the best whip crackers.

CRACKER JACK - a good thing

CRACKER NIGHT - Celebrated on the Queens Birthday long weekend. Now Banned

CRACK A BOO - is to divulge a secret

CRACK HARDY - to suppress feelings

CRACK ON TO - to hit on someone; make their acquaintance

CRACK ON TO - understand

CRACKSMAN - safe cracker

CRACK THE WHIP - used to describe someone who is being bossy or strict in a situation

CRACK UP - become exhausted;

CRACK UP - laughing

CRAPPER - toilet

CRAWCHIE - freshwater crayfish (Qld); yabby

CRAW-FISH - variant of crayfish

CRAWLER - sheep left behind on the road

CRAWLER - an obsequious bloke; one who cosies up to the boss; flatterer; first used c. 1857 - Australia, a country where the strongest reproach was to be a crawler

CREAMED - to be defeated (sport)

CRIB - a house

CRIB - worker's lunch

CRIKEY MATE - Steve Irwin's catch phrase

CROAK - die

CROCK - a load of nonsense

CRONK - sick, unwell; boxer who lets himself be beaten through unfitness (1890s)

CRONK - dishonest

CROOK– Being ill, things are crook in Tallarook

CROOK AS ROOKWOOD - extremely ill, nearly dead

CROOKED AS A DOG'S HIND LEG - criminal connections

CROOK SPIN - run of bad luck

CROPPER - fall; come a cropper

CROPPY - an Irish convict of the 1790s-1800s, so called because the Irish rebels of 1798 cropped their hair short like the French revolutionaries

CROPPY - Aboriginal English; runaway convict; bushranger,

CROSS - illegal; breaking the law; illegally come by

CROW - street woman, chromo, prostitute (criminal slang 1950)

CROW EATER - person from South Australia

CROW EATER - a lazy fellow who will live on anything rather than work (1895)

CROW TO PLUCK - to take issue with someone (Maitland 1833, but probably earlier English origin)

CRUDDY - poor quality

CRUELLED THE PITCH - upset arrangements

CRUISY - easy; relaxed

CRUSH - part of a stockyard, narrow at the end, for branding cattle

CRUSHER - bushranger term for police trooper

CRUST - earn a crust; earn a living

CRY BABY - sook; easily upset

CULLIN-LA-RINGO - a station near Springsure in Queensland, the site of the bloodiest massacre of whites by black tribesmen in 1861. Victims Horatio Wills and family

CUNNING AS A DUNNY RAT - very cunning

CUPPA - cup of tea

CUR - cowardly; mean or dishonest

CURL-A-MO - excellent, bonzer

CURLY - bald headed man

CURRENCY LADS AND LASSES - The first generation of free children born to convicts in Australia.

CURTIN'S COWBOYS - North Australia Observation Unit (NAOU), nicknamed the Nackeroos or Curtin's Cowboys, was created in mid-March 1942. They were given the task of patrolling northern Australia to look for signs of enemy activity (AWM)

CUSHY - easy

CUT GRASS - grass with long narrow blades whose thin rigid edge will readily cut flesh if incautiously handled; also sword-grass

CUT HIS LUCKY - made tracks; made himself scarce; moved on

CUT LUNCH - sandwiches

CUT LUNCH COMMANDO - a public servant; a soldier who seldom served in the front lines (used during WWII 1939-45)

CUT OUT - to separate cattle from the rest of the herd in the open

CUT OUT THE MIDDLE MAN; FIND SOMEONE YOU HATE AND BUY THEM A HOUSE - quote from mockumentary film Kenny 2006

C.W.A. - Country Women's Association

CYCLONE SEASON - cyclone season starts in mid-December and finishes at the end of April

CYCLONE TRACY - Tropical Cyclone Tracy, category 4, struck Darwin in the early hours of 25 December 1974. 71 deaths