Macquarie Dictionary


Understanding an entry

Dictionary entries can contain any number of different elements, which are described below. These include examples of where each of these items is displayed within an entry.

The entry

All information within one complete entry has been arranged for the convenience of the user. In general, information about spelling and pronunciation comes first, part of speech next, meanings, then the etymologies, and words derived from the headword last. If there is a usage note, it comes right at the end of the entry.


The headword is the word or words which are being defined in a particular entry. It appears in large bold-face type at the top of the entry.

lemon-scented gum

noun a tall slender tree, Corymbia citriodora, of Queensland, bearing foliage with a strong lemon perfume especially when crushed.

Separate entries are made for all words which, although spelt identically, are of quite distinct derivation. In such cases, each headword is followed by a small superscript number, as, for example, in bush1 and bush2.


/əstreɪliˈanə/ (say uhstraylee’ahnuh), /ɒs-/ (say os-)

plural noun items, especially of historical interest, originating in or relating to Australia, as early books, furniture, paintings, etc.


/əstreɪliˈanə/ (say uhstraylee’ahnuh), /ɒs-/ (say os-)

adjective → Aussie (def. 2). [FOOD]

[Australi(an)1 + -ana common Italian ending] 

Variant spellings

Definitions always appear under the most common spelling of a word. Less common variants cross-refer to the main headword. For example, the word cipher has a variant cypher which is also listed as a headword followed by an arrow and a link to cipher to show that the entry is at the main spelling cipher. If the variant is restricted in some way, whether by being used in a particular field of study or activity or by belonging to a particular region, it will be labelled accordingly. Otherwise the variant spelling should be taken to be an acceptable form occurring less frequently than the main form. Sometimes this is only slightly less frequently, sometimes it is a much rarer occurrence, but it is, nevertheless, an acceptable variation.

Capital letters are, of course, regularly used with the proper names in encyclopedic entries, but they are a variable part of certain common words which originated as proper names. Those long-established, such as furphy and frangipani, are now always written without a capital, whereas those embodying geographical names tend to keep it rather longer, as in Venetian glass. Even in such cases, the capital gets used less and less as the geographical link gets weaker, and so venetian blind appears without a capital as the headword. The point at which the capital disappears is not clear-cut, and intermediate stages are shown with notes such as often lower case or sometimes upper case.

In some cases, the separation between the lower-case and upper-case words is so complete that they appear as two separate headwords linked by an etymology. So, for example, sphinx, with literal and figurative meanings, is separated from the Sphinx, the particular statue in Egypt.

The full stops which mark abbreviations are also a variable item in writing. There is a general trend away from using them in abbreviations with capital letters, and so they do not appear in headwords such as ACTU and PhD. We have, however, retained them in lower-case abbreviations, such as anon. and l.b.w.

Hyphens are the most variable detail of all in the writing of words, and again subject to diversity of opinion. British style tends to use them where American style would avoid them by means of either spaced or set-solid alternatives. Australian practice itself is variable and the dictionary reflects this. In the headword list hyphens are shown where they are most necessary to link or separate the elements of a word compound which would otherwise be difficult to read or ambiguous, as in de-escalate and re-mark (‘to mark again’, as opposed to remark) but writers are at liberty to add them as they see fit. Note that hyphens should be added whenever a compound is used in a new grammatical role, as when low season becomes a compound adjective in low-season airfares.


/ˈbaladʊŋ/ (say ‘bahlahdoong)

noun 1.  an Australian Aboriginal people of an area north-west of Northam in south-western WA.

2.  the language of this people.

adjective 3.  of or relating to this people or their language.

Also, Baladon.


A number of entries have a spoken pronunciation guide. This is indicated by a speaker symbol which can be clicked to access the pronunciation.

The appropriate pronunciation of each headword is indicated by the sequence of symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet which appear between slant brackets following the headword. A key to these symbols appears below each entry.

Following this pronunciation guide is a different version, using a simplified respelling.

In words of more than one syllable, the syllable bearing the most prominent stress is preceded by the symbol ˈ. In words of many syllables, the syllables bearing the next most prominent stress may be preceded by the symbol ˌ. This device is not invariably applied since this information tends not to be needed in many cases by an English speaker. It has been applied only where it has been felt that it would be useful.


Pronunciation of quokka /ˈkwɒkə/ (say ‘kwokuh)

noun a small wallaby, Setonix brachyurus, found in considerable numbers on Rottnest and Bald Islands, off WA, and as small colonies in south-western mainland WA.

[Australian Aboriginal; Nyungar kwaka]

In general, headwords consisting of one or two words are given pronunciation guides. Headwords of three or more words are only given pronunciations for those parts for which a guide cannot be found elsewhere in the dictionary.


The grammatical category of the headword is indicated by an italic part-of-speech or word-class label, such as noun, adverb or conjunction. In some cases, further subclasses are given in brackets, for example, pronoun (personal) and verb (t), which identifies a transitive verb.

waratah/wɒrəˈta/ (say woruh’tah), /ˈwɒrəta/ (say ‘woruhtah)

noun a shrub or small tree of the eastern Australian genus Telopea, especially T. speciosissima, the floral emblem of NSW, which has a dense globular head of red flowers surrounded by red bracts.

[Australian Aboriginal; Dharug warata

An explanation of the grammatical terminology can be found at the entries for those terms in the dictionary.

If the headword is used in more than one grammatical form, the part-of-speech label precedes each set of definitions to which it applies.

For help with grammar, please visit the Grammar guide.

Inflected forms

If a headword has irregularly inflected forms (any form not made by the simple addition of the suffix to the main entry), the summary of these forms is given immediately after the relevant part of speech. Regularly inflected forms, not generally shown, include:

1. Nouns forming a plural merely by the addition of -s or -es, such as dog (dogs) or class (classes);
2. Verbs forming the past tense by adding -ed, such as halt (halted);
3. Verbs forming the present tense by adding -s or -es, such as talk (talks) or smash (smashes);
4. Verbs forming the present participle by adding -ing, such as walk (walking);
5. Adjectives forming the comparative and superlative by adding -er and -est, such as black (blacker, blackest).

Regular forms are given, however, when necessary for clarity or the avoidance of confusion.

The past tense, past participle and present participle are given as the inflected forms of verbs. Where, as commonly happens, the past tense and past participle are the same in form, this form is shown once. For example, the inflected forms indicated for love are lovedloving, where loved is both the past tense and past participle.

If necessary, variants of inflected forms are labelled as to level of usage or distribution.

jackaroo/dʒækəˈru/ (say jakuh’rooh)

noun 1.  a young man working on a sheep or cattle station, to gain practical experience in the skills needed to become an owner, overseer, manager, etc. Compare jillaroo.

2. Qld Obsolete a white man living away from a settlement. 

verb (i(jackarooedjackarooing) 3.  to work as a jackaroo: he’s jackarooing in Queensland this year. 

Also, jackeroo. [origin unknown] 

Restrictive labels

Entries that are limited in usage as to the level of style, region, time or subject, are marked with such labels as Colloquial, Archaic, US, Agriculture, etc.

Abbreviations have been kept to a minimum, but the full form of any abbreviated label may be found by looking up the abbreviation in the dictionary.

If the restrictive label applies to the entire entry, it appears before the definition(s) at the beginning of the entry. If however the restrictive label applies to only one grammatical form, it appears after the part-of-speech label to which it applies and before the definition(s). If the restrictive label applies to only one definition, it appears before that definition, after the definition number.

This dictionary has incorporated material gathered from the Australian Word Map project, established by Macquarie Dictionary and ABC Online to collect information about regional variation within Australian English. Items showing this variation are given regional labels to indicate their area of use. These labels range from a coverage of a large portion of Australia (such as Eastern States), through states and territories and capital cities, down to some quite specific regions (such as Gippsland and Broken Hill).

Sometimes a regional label is qualified by Chiefly or Especially. The use of Chiefly implies that the particular item is used mainly in the area specified, and only in relatively small numbers in other regions. Especially also indicates that the item is used more heavily in the named region, but that the word is used quite widely in other areas as well.

assignment system

/əˈsaɪnmənt sɪstəm/ (say uh’suynmuhnt sistuhm)

noun Australian History a system under which convicts were assigned to settlers as servants and labourers, discontinued in 1841.


/ˈagəsi/ (say ‘ahguhsee)

noun (plural argosies)

Poetic a large merchant ship, especially one with a rich cargo.

[Italian Ragusea a vessel of Ragusa, former Italian name (until 1918) of Dubrovnik, seaport in S Croatia] 


/ˈtɪli/ (say ’tilee)

noun (plural tillies)

Especially Qld and Rural Northern NSW Colloquial a utility (def. 4a).

Also, til. [(u)til(ity) + -l- + -y2

Some headwords are marked with the restrictive label taboo. This indicates that the word itself may give offence essentially because of its taboo nature. This label is also used if there is a particularly crass and offensive meaning given to a usually neutral word. Taboo words are to be differentiated from words which are intended to denigrate another person (labelled derogatory), and words which are racist (labelled racist). Some words can attract a combination of these restrictive labels.


Definitions are individually numbered, with numbers appearing in a single sequence which does not begin afresh with each grammatical form. The central meaning of each part of speech is put first – this is generally the most common meaning. The usual order after the central meaning is: figurative or transferred meanings, specialised meanings, obsolete, archaic or rare meanings. However, this order has been broken where, for example, it is desirable to group related meanings together.

In some cases in which two definitions are very closely related, usually within the same field of information, they are marked with bold face letters of the alphabet under the same definition number.

bangtail muster

noun 1.  a round-up of animals for counting, during which the tails of the animals are banged as they are counted so that none is counted more than once. 

2.  a carnival or sports day in a country town.

Special effort has been made to indicate fixed or extremely common collocations wherever possible. Thus the customary prepositional forms following certain words are often shown either as part of a phrase listed as a secondary headword or with a note indicating a particle commonly occurring with the headword.

Secondary headwords

Idiomatic phrases, prepositional phrases, etc., are placed at the entry for the key word, and are listed in secondary bold-face type alphabetically at the end of the entry following the label phrase.

Secondary elements of an encyclopedic headword, such as given names and geographical categories, appear in bold immediately before the relevant definition.

barmy/ˈbami/ (say ‘bahmee) Colloquial

adjective (barmierbarmiest1.  lacking reason; irrational.

phrase 2. barmy as a bandicoot, remarkably irrational or eccentric.

[originally: full of froth, from barm

The definitions for geographical entities like Mount Everest, Lake Eucumbene and Cape Tribulation are to be found at the headwords EverestEucumbeneTribulation, and so on, with their geographical categories (MountLake and Cape, in these cases) given in bold before the definition. Under each biographical headword the definitions are arranged alphabetically by given names, when they occur. Family entries are the only exception to this, in that they are arranged chronologically.

Illustrative material

Illustrative phrases appear in italics after a colon at the end of a definition.


/ɪnˈhæbətəd/ (say in’habuhtuhd)

adjective 1.  lived in: an inhabited island.

2. Internet (of virtual reality environments) accessible to public participation: inhabited digital spaces.

In some cases, examples of usage are given from Australian writing, drawn from the Macquarie Dictionary’s corpus of Australian English, Ozcorp, as well as from news texts. These examples are indicated by an asterisk. The source of this illustrative material is indicated by the author or source and date immediately following the quotation. The relevant publication can be found in the bibliography. It should be noted that, because the author or editor may in some cases have been quoting someone else, the author’s or editor’s name is simply an indication of the publication. If the date of the publication is unknown, the abbreviation ‘N.D.’ is used.

matilda/məˈtɪldə/ (say muh’tilduh)

noun Colloquial a swag: *I’ve done a bit of droving of cattle and of sheep, / And I’ve done a bit of moving with `Matilda’ for a mate –anon, bush songsn.d.

[special use of the female name Matilda


There are several forms of cross-referencing in this dictionary. The arrow  indicates that the headword which precedes it is not defined in this place but that a suitable definition is to be found under the headword to which a link appears after the arrow.

The word ‘See’ directs the reader to information relevant to the current definition but to be found within a different part of the dictionary.

The word ‘Compare’ is similar in function but limited to those cases where the information is in some way complementary or matching.

barking jackass

/ˌbakɪŋ ˈdʒækæs/ (say .bahking ‘jakas)

noun → kookaburra (def. 2).

Australian Stock Exchange

noun (formerly) the main Australian market for trading equities, government bonds and other fixed-interest securities, formed in 1987 by the amalgamation of the six state exchanges. Abbrev.: ASX See Australian Securities Exchange. 


Etymologies appear in square brackets after the definition or definitions of the entry.

In general, italic type following a language name indicates a word from that language. Text in roman type following this word gives a translation of the word. If a language name is followed by a colon, the text that follows is a translation and indicates that the form in the other language is the same as the headword.


/grəˈvɪliə/ (say gruh’vileeuh), /-jə/ (say -yuh)

noun any shrub or tree of the very large, mainly Australian, genus Grevillea, family Proteaceae, many of which are attractive ornamentals and a number, as G. robusta, silky oak, useful timber trees.

[botanical Latin; named after Charles F Greville, 1749–1809, Scottish botanist, a founder of the Horticultural Society, London] 

On the whole, abbreviations have been avoided. If an abbreviation does appear in an etymology, the full form can be found by looking up the abbreviation at the appropriate place in the headword list of the dictionary. An asterisk (*) is used to indicate a hypothetical form.

Cross-references in etymologies are indicated by a link in small capitals. Additional etymological information may be found at the entry for the word(s) shown in small capitals.

Some phrases have been given etymologies. These appear immediately following the definition of the phrase, within square brackets, with the heading Phrase Origin. The style of these etymologies is a little more discursive than those for headwords.

wild horse

/waɪld ˈhɔs/ (say wuyld ‘haws)

noun 1.  a horse not tamed or broken in.

phrase 2. wild horses couldn’t drag one away, (a humorous expression indicating a reluctance to leave something which has aroused keen interest.) [Phrase Origin: with reference to the medieval method of torture in which horses were used to stretch a prisoner]

3. wild horses wouldn’t keep one from …, (a humorous expression indicating a determination to do whatever is specified.)

Run-on headwords

Words which are derivatives of the headword and which are simple extensions of the meaning are run on after the last definition in the entry, or after the etymology if it is present. Such headwords appear in secondary bold-face type followed by an indication of their grammatical word class. Occasionally, a pronunciation guide is given if the pronunciation of the derived form is not clear from the pronunciation given for the headword.

hobby farm

noun a farm maintained for interest’s sake, usually not the owner’s chief source of income. 

hobby farmernoun

Usage notes

The dictionary does not set out to replace a style guide, but in some instances more comment is needed than can be made within the constraints of the style of the dictionary entry. In these cases usage notes have been provided at the end of the entry.


/əˈkɪdnə/ (say uh’kidnuh)

noun (plural echidnas or echidnae /əˈkɪdni/ (say uh’kidnee))
any of the spine-covered insectivorous egg-laying monotreme mammals with claws and a slender snout, occurring in two genera, the long-beaked echidnaZaglossus, of New Guinea, and the smaller straight-beaked echidnaTachyglossus, of mainland Australia, Tasmania, and southern New Guinea; spiny anteater.

[New Latin, from Greek: viper] 

Usage: In colonial Australian English the echidna was called `porcupine’. This name is still sometimes used in rural Australia, in Tasmanian regionalism and in Aboriginal English.

Encyclopedic notes

This dictionary contains a very wide range of international and Australian encyclopedic entries, that is, entries giving brief information about people, places, events, institutions, etc. Many of the Australian encyclopedic entries are expanded to provide more detailed information: concise biographies of famous Australians, including all the prime ministers; outlines of the history of cities and towns from their foundation to the present time; description of major events and institutions; information about the languages and culture of Aboriginal peoples. This expanded information appears in a screened box at the end of the relevant entry with their subject highlighted in bold type.

/ˈhoʊgən/ (say ‘hohguhn)

noun 1.  Edmund John, 1883–1964, Australian state Labor politician; premier of Victoria 1927–28 and 1929–32.

2.  Hector Dennis (Hec), 1931–60, Australian athlete; noted sprinter.

3.  Paul (`Hoges‘), born 1940, Australian actor; noted for television comedy and the film Crocodile Dundee (1986); Australian of the Year 1985.

4.  P(aul) J(ohn), born 1962, Australian film director; films include Muriel’s Wedding (1994).

Paul Hogan was born in Lightning Ridge, NSW. He worked as a rigger on the Sydney Harbour Bridge before success on a television talent quest in the early 1970s led to a career as a comedy actor, specialising in a laconic, Australian style of humour. He appeared as a comic commentator on the television news-magazine program A Current Affair and his own comedy sketch program, The Paul Hogan Show, ran from 1973 to 1984. In the mid-1980s a series of advertisements designed to promote Australia as a tourist destination made him an identity in the US. His international career was launched by the film Crocodile Dundee, featuring a crocodile hunter transported from northern Australia to New York, which he co-wrote. Later films include Crocodile Dundee II (1988), Almost and Angel (1990), Lightning Jack (1994) and Strange Bedfellows (2004).

Some of the encyclopedic notes include reference to the location of groupings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples in the period prior to European settlement. This information covers only the larger groupings of people in general terms, and should not be regarded as definitive nor as being suitable for use in native title or other land claims.

Environment notes

This dictionary contains a number of entries related to the environment. Of these, many have an encyclopedic entry expanding on the definition. This information appears in a screened box at the end of the relevant entry with their subject highlighted in bold type.

coal seam gas

noun gas, mostly methane, coming from fractures and cleats in coal seams and released when pressure on the coal seam is reduced, usually by the removal of water; mined as a source of energy. Abbrev.: CSG

Also, coal bed methane.

Coal seam gas (CSG) is a natural gas comprising mostly methane and found in coal seams beneath the earth’s surface. It is formed from the compressed remains of plants over millions of years and is currently used as part of the gas supply for millions of homes in Australia. CSG is extracted using three different methods – vertical drilling, horizontal or directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The third method is achieved by pumping pressurised water and sand into the coal seam to open fractures and free the gas contained.

The extraction of coal seam gas has caused controversy in environmental, farming and community groups. Concerns have been based on water use competition, in that the third extraction method uses water from subterranean aquifers, placing pressure on limited groundwater resources. Farming groups object to CSG extraction in that it is often conducted in areas of prime agricultural land. Environmental concerns have included those of untreated production water at the surface; contamination of underground aquifers by hydraulic fracturing; damage to wildlife habitat in sensitive areas and contamination of surface water resources in drinking water catchments.

Extra information about a word

The School Dictionary gives a very wide range of extra information about words. This appears at the end of an entry, with a heading as follows:

  • ANOTHER SPELLING/ OTHER SPELLINGS (more than one acceptable spelling)

  • A SHORT FORM / SHORT FORMS (shortened forms of the headword that may be used in its place)

  • ANOTHER WORD / SIMILAR WORDS (synonyms, often with additional information about shades of meaning)

  • THE OPPOSITE (antonyms)

  • COMPARE (a comparison between related terms such as biannual / biennial)

  • DO NOT CONFUSE (an indication of the correct usage of words that are often confused, such as alternate / alternative)

  • NOTE (extra information on the usage of a word, such as an indication that the use of the word can be offensive)

  • WORD HISTORY (the origin of the word)


The images follow the definitions they are illustrating. An example of how to view the images is below. Simply click on the green camera icon Camera icon to view the image. If there are multiple images for one definition, they will appear one below the other.

Trench entry sample definition with image icons