Macquarie Dictionary


A deadly cut above the rest

The word deadly with its current meaning was originally coined in the 1900s. It was then adopted into Aboriginal English in the 1970s and from then into general use.

Excellent, fantastic, cool: That movie was deadly! It is also used as an adverb, as in: he sang deadly.

Interestingly, deadly is also used in Ireland with the same positive meaning. Where you hear the lyrical tones of the many Irish migrants to Australia, a shout of deadly won’t be far behind. There is also the term for a bicycle in Australia dating from the 1960s, deadly treadly, though the origin of this term is unknown.

In Australia, there are also the well-known Deadly Awards, which are annual awards made in Australia recognising excellence in music, sport, entertainment, and community achievement among Indigenous Australians; established in 1995.

Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.

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