Macquarie Dictionary


A zambuck is an old term for an ambo

Sirens blaring in the distance. Here come the zambucks! An old slang term for a St John’s ambulance officer, the term zambuck originated in the 1910s. The name arose from the proprietary name of an antiseptic ointment commonly used by paramedics at the time. 

Our slang has been updated since the 1910s. Ambo is the most likely phrase you will hear these days. It describes either the ambulance officer or the vehicle itself. Meat wagon is also a term that refers to ambulances, though hopefully you won’t have to hear that one too often. 

You might see an ambulance chaser, a chiefly US name given to lawyers who seek out clients who have been involved in accidents, running alongside an emergency vehicle. Once the ambulance gets you to your destination you might be greeted by a quack, not the avian variety but rather, a doctor. 

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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