The Australian National Dictionary

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The Australian National Dictionary: A Dictionary of Australianisms on Historical Principles is the historical dictionary of Australian English, recording over 6,000 English words and phrases of Australian origin and use. The first edition was edited by Bill Ramson and published by Oxford University Press in 1988. As of February 2012 a second edition was in progress.[1]


The first lexicographer to attempt a systematic documentation of Australian English words was Edward E Morris whose Austral English was published in 1898.[2] The next significant works on Australian words were Sidney Baker’s The Australian Language (1945) and GA Wilke’s Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms published in 1978. The first general dictionary of Australian English that did not label Australian words specifically was Grahame Johnston’s Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1976) and the Heinemann Australian Dictionary (1976). Five years later, the Macquarie Dictionary (1981) was published, based on the American Hamlyn’s Encyclopedic World Dictionary (1971), which in turn was based on the American College Dictionary (1947).

Work on the Australian National Dictionary was motivated by a lack of lexicographic work on Australian English on strictly historical principles, in the tradition of the Oxford English Dictionary. With the collaboration of Oxford University Press – publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary – the Australian National Dictionary was begun by William (Bill) Ramson in 1978 and published ten years later in 1988 to coincide with the bicentenary of Australia’s settlement. It was the first comprehensive, historically based record of the 6,000 words and idioms that make up the Australian contribution to the English language. It records the historical development of Australian words and phrases, from their earliest use to the present day, providing evidence of this history in some 60,000 dated and referenced quotations drawn from over 9,000 Australian sources. The trials and tribulations of this process are outlined in Ramson’s book Lexical Images (OUP, 2005).

Australian National Dictionary Centre

The Australian National Dictionary Centre was established in 1988 at the Australian National University as a research centre for the continuation of the dictionary project. The Centre also produces the Australian Oxford Dictionary, which is a general reference volume with definitions based on evidence from Australian documents, titles devoted to regional Australian English, and works that deal with special vocabularies associated with specific events and periods in Australian history.


  1. "The Australian National Dictionary: A Dictionary of Australianisms on Historical Principles". Australian National University. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Wykes, Olive (1974). "Morris, Edward Ellis (1843–1902)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University

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