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Definition: Can be used to refer to something that is authentic or genuine. Used most commonly with ‘Fair’ – ‘Fair Dinkum’ expresses approval.

Pronunciation: Say it like you see it: Din-kum

Origin: No prizes for guessing the origin of this word. That’s right, just like ‘Brumby’, ‘Jumbuck’ and ‘Chunder’, this one comes from Australia (Note: ‘Brumby is a wild horse, ‘Jumbuck’ a sheep and ‘Chunder’ is, rather charmingly, vomit). Dinkum began to appear in print about the year 1890. It has an obscure origin – though two competing theories have arisen: the first, according to Melvyn Bragg, that it was an old word from the English Midlands meaning ‘work’, the second theorizing that it came from Chinese gold prospectors in Australia – Din Kim apparently meaning ‘good gold’.

Why This Word:  The reach of the English language means that countless linguistic experiments have taken place. We have been able to see what happened when English encountered the landscapes of places such as America, Ireland and Africa. But Australia is something of a unique experiment as it takes place in the furthest possible place on the planet from the birthplace of the English language. And there have been some odd – yet melodic – results. A friend of mine who spent a year in Australia picked up the phrase ‘Flamin’ Gull-ah’ to refer to an idiot.

‘Fair Dinkum’ happens to be a favorite of mine – as it encapsulates all there is to know about Australian English. The words are playful and obscure – yet they carry an innate meaning.

Look at these examples:

“He won a million dollars on the lottery – but fair dinkum – he donated a lot to charity”.

“You Flamin’ Gull-ah! You’ve spilled it everywhere!”

Australian English is quite user-friendly as the words it has added to the English language are sentence enhancers rather than meaning-changers.

How to use this word:

The easiest way is by example:

Dinkum as ‘authentic’: “I found gold in the mountain – it was real – bloody dinkum”.

The truest use of dinkum, however, is still with the word ‘Fair’. And if you are ever that tourist in Australia trying to fit in – don’t be afraid to endear yourself to the local population by throwing in a few Ozzie words. Seems like fair dinkum to me.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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