Comparing Australian English to American and British Englishes

August 2, 2020joelleva

This article will discuss some of the key characteristics of Australian English, as compared to other Englishes from around the world.

American English:

American English spelling difference

One key distinction between Australian English and American English in terms of orthography (spelling) is the use of, ‘s,’ as opposed to, ‘z.’ For example, in America, words such as, ‘specialise,’ ‘authorise,’ and, ‘analyse,’ are spelt with a, ‘z,’ as opposed to the, ‘s’ that is used in Australian English. From a personal perspective, this is one of my biggest pet hates when I see students (or any Australian really) spelling words in this way, and it is also marked as incorrect in your writing unless you are quoting/comparing (it is not Australian English). Moreover, American English also does not use the letter, ‘u,’ as much as Australian English does. For example, ‘colour,’ and, ‘favourite,’ are spelt without, ‘u,’ in American English.

Differences in pronunciation

Phonetically, Australian and American Englishes also differ. As you would know, the Australian accent has a non-rhotic /r/ sound, meaning that it is almost hidden when people pronounce certain words. On the other hand, American English has a rhotic, /r/, meaning that it is emphasised more when people pronounce those words. If you want an example, listen to an American say words such as, ‘butter,’ ‘Karl/Carl,’ or, ‘hard,’ and then listen to an Australian say it and notice the difference in the way that the words are pronounced. If you want to show off in your essay, the IPA for, ‘butter,’ pronounced with a rhotic /r/ is /ˈbʌtər/, whereas the non-rhotic is /ˈbʌtə/ and for, ‘hard,’ the IPA for the rhotic /r/ is /ˈhɑːrd/ and the non-rhotic is /ˈhɑːd/.

Additionally, in unit 2, you would have probably discussed the process of yod dropping, where the /j/ sound has been dropping out of the way people pronounce words and this change is much stronger in American English than it is in Australian English. For example, Australian English has retained the yod (/j/) in words such as, ‘new,’ or, ‘stupid,’ whereas it has dropped out of those words in American English.

British English:

British English spelling differences

Australian English resembles British English more closely than it does American English, particularly in terms of spelling.

One of the biggest differences between Australian English and British English is the yod dropping, which is not happening as much in British English. For example, the yod has dropped out of the way most Australians pronounce, ‘blue,’ however it has still been retained by most British English speakers.


I have deliberately isolated lexicon as Australian English is often distinct from American English, which is equally distinct from British English. One example of this is what Australians call lollies, which are referred to as, ‘candy,’ in the United States and, ‘sweets,’ in the United Kingdom. Further, what Australians call tomato sauce is referred to as ketchup in America and as red sauce in the United Kingdom (I do realise that ketchup is a distinct product from tomato sauce in Australia).

Moreover, some words also have different connotations in Australian English, as compared to other Englishes. One example of this is, ‘root,’ which has sexual connotations in Australian English but does not in other varieties of English. (This comes under semantics as it is a comparison of what words mean).

Useful resources to find examples:

These websites will be useful for you to be able to make comparisons between Australian English and other Englishes, and to find examples.

This website lists Australian terms which are different in American English:

This website discusses some of the ley differences between Australian, British and American Englishes:

This video also gives some of the differences between Australian, British and American lexicon:

A simple Google (or especially YouTube) search will help to give you a myriad of fresh and current examples to quote in your essays.

Anyway, I hope that this article is helpful for you.

If you loved this article, you will LOVE all of our other articles, such as: What To Expect As A First-Year University StudentSocial Purpose and How it Relates to Informal Language and Formal Language

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