Australians and tradies have a long history of adapting the English language to something uniquely our own. But sometimes, the slang and local phrases can be tougher for tradies or clients from different backgrounds to wrap their heads around (understand). On the other hand, if you’re a tradie who loves to throw around a bit of slang, then this “urban dictionary” might help you explain what you mean next time you get a blank look from someone!

The Lingo

Ankle biter — an ankle biter is a child, usually aged five years or younger, who might be at the household when the tradie is working. The phrase refers to their short height and the fact their teeth are close to ankle level.

Example: “How old is the little ankle biter?”

Arvo — a nice and easy one. Arvo simply refers to the afternoon.

Example: “It’s meant to be a hot one this arvo.”

Bail/bailed — a term used to describe a person who has cancelled plans or an appointment, often at the last minute.

Example: “The sparky was supposed to come this arvo but he’s just bailed on me.”

Brekky — used to refer to the first meal of the day, breakfast. Tradies have been stereotypically known to procure their morning meal (typically of poor nutritional value) from a service station.

Example: “Want to swing past the servo (service station) for some brekky?”

Chop out – to give someone the help they need to finish a job.

Example: “Are you free on Thursday? I really need a chop out.”

Dunny — used to refer to or inquire about the toilet. A tradie may request that he or she be allowed to use the facilities.

Example: “Could you point me in the direction of the dunny?”

Esky — a portable insulated cooler that will typically be used to store the tradie’s lunch and drinks. May also act as a footrest, speaker holder and rubbish bin at various points of the day.

Example: “I’ll just grab my esky out of the ute.”

Flat out — used to describe a situation where a tradie is very busy with work with very little spare time. May be used to apologise in a situation for lateness.

Example: “Very sorry that we ran late, we’ve been flat out all week, and things were delayed.”

Maccas — a particular localised way that Australians refer to the global restaurant chain “McDonald’s”.

Example: “Want to head to Maccas for lunch?”

Shoot through/hit the road/head off — all various ways that tradies may indicate that they have completed their job for the day and will be leaving shortly.

Example: “I’m about done here so I might shoot through/head off/hit the road.”

Not the sharpest tool in the shed — used to describe a person of questionable intelligence.

Example: “We had a new contractor working with us the other day. Don’t think he was the sharpest tool in the shed.”

Kiwi, Pom, Saffa — a term used to describe a person of New Zealand, English or South African heritage, respectively.

Example: “We hired a new tradie the other week, he’s a Kiwi/Pom/Saffa.”

Cold one/coldie — a cold drink, usually a beer. May be given or shared at the end of a job as a token of thanks between client and tradie.

Example: “Finished a job for a great family the other week — they even offered all of us a cold one before we left!”

Talk directly with thousands of local tradies (using whatever slang you like!) on goodwork.


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