The Macquarie Dictionary was first published in print in 1981 and has been online since 2003. Its reputation has gone from strength to strength and it is now nationally and internationally regarded as the standard reference on Australian English.

The Macquarie Dictionary Online gives you access to the Macquarie Dictionary Sixth Edition (published in October 2013), annual updates of new words, along with its companion reference the Macquarie Thesaurus.

Features

The Macquarie Dictionary & Thesaurus Online features the following:

  • the complete record of English as it is used in Australia, from the colourfully colloquial to the highly technical
  • thousands of new words and senses, such as fiscal cliff, social reading, apera, green tape, fugitive emissions, hobo glove, konjac, mummy blog, fibro majestic, blade runner, computer forensics. Words are constantly coming into use in Australian English, from many different sources
  • words relating to business, science and technology such as guanxi, rogue robot, silo mentality, growth hacking, crowdfunding, citizen science
  • words and phrases from regional Australia, many gathered from Australian Word Map, a joint online project of Macquarie and ABC Online, such as black snow, hydro pole, maisonette, marron, musset hut, nointer, schnitter
  • encyclopedic entries such as Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, Ban Ki-moon, Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Haiyan                                            
  • easy, comprehensive and interactive searching of over 138,000 headwords and phrases and over 210,000 definitions, with the ability to search either the dictionary, thesaurus or both
  • annual updates of words, definitions and encyclopedic entries
  • illustrative material from Ozcorp, Macquarie's database of Australian writing, which continues to be increased and updated
  • etymologies for words as well as for some of the more interesting phrases in English. Where does 'save someone's bacon' come from? And what about 'on the wallaby'?
  • extensive usage notes, audio pronunciations and extra features including grammar and punctuation guides, crossword resources, Word of the Day and Aussie Word of the Week

Macquarie Dictionary Sixth Edition

The cultural items present on every page of the big green book are not merely facts occupying their proper spaces in the text, but supporters of each other, fine-tuning a picture of the nation as a mental habitat consistent with itself and with Australian experience over the two centuries since European settlement. – Les Murray

 

The Sixth Edition was published in October 2013 and features:

  • a comprehensive record of English as it is used in Australia, with evidence from corpus data, including Macquarie’s own corpus of Australian English, Ozcorp
  • new words and senses, such as fiscal cliff, social reading, apera, green tape, fugitive emissions, hobo glove, konjac, mummy blog, fibro majestic, blade runner, computer forensics
  • words relating to business, science and technology, such as guanxi, rogue robot, silo mentality, growth hacking, crowdfunding, citizen science
  • illustrative phrases, many from Australian literature, which clearly show how a word is used in context
  • words and phrases from regional Australia, such as blacksnow, hydropole, maisonette, marron, musset hut, nointer, schnitter
  • words, both formal and informal, that date back to the Australian military experience of WWI, such as Anzac soup, cacolet, iodine king
  • extensive usage notes
  • etymologies of words and phrases
  • foreword by Australian poet Les Murray

Macquarie Dictionary Sixth Edition  Published Oct 2013, RRP $99.99

 

Foreword

Words Aren’t Neutral

Starting from its historic first edition in 1981, the Macquarie Dictionary has become an essential treasure house of Australian culture.  Five successive editions have gathered the nation’s distinctive words and phrases, refining their definitions and adding copiously to their number.  Etymologies, skimpy at first, have become more assured, and Indigenous content has increased markedly from edition to edition.  The whole dictionary is framed from an Australian point of view with Australian meanings and usages given preference in selection and presentation over purely overseas ones.  A simple example is that the definition of the Australian magpie comes first and that of the European magpie second. 

Over the decades, people have sometimes asked why we need a specifically Australian dictionary, rather than a general one with some Australian terms included as add-ons in the way they used to be.  The answer is at once numerical and cultural.

At least since the Second World War, when French dropped largely out of competition, English has been in effect the lingua franca of the modern world. In addition to the two grand variants on either side of the Atlantic, more or less distinctive forms of the language are scattered to the ends of the earth.  Their peculiar usages are occasionally documented in dictionaries, a few serious but mostly jocular. Webster and the complete Oxford English Dictionary have attempted coverage of all kinds of English but even those two giants fail.  As spin-offs of their main effort, these dictionaries produce separate subsidiary books of selected local terms for, say, Scots or Indian or Aboriginal English, while representing each variety of English with scatterings of its most essential terms, set token-wise in the main volume.  Getting a handle on all the ever-ramifying commercial, military, socio-political and other facts of human discourse has become impossible as the lingua franca is  simply too big to fit decently into any print container.

The computerised version has its weaknesses too.  As a neutral storehouse of data, it probably has no limits. Stars, plant species, space-travel vectors lodge in there to be retrieved and manipulated in millionths of a second – but words and expressions in human use exist in or near the atmospheres that created them, and bear echoes of their history. In other words, they have cultural dimensions.  An American term carries not just a different spoken accent from the British one, but also a different weight and provenance; behind the one lies the King’s justice, behind the other lies, however faintly, the burning of the White House in 1814.  Chickenshit is not just poultry manure.

And thus the need for the Macquarie Dictionary to record Australian English in all its detail. The big green dictionary is a thoroughly scientific text, but rescued from cold abstraction by its wealth of historical and social references.

Older and more dopey promotions of Australian slang for tourist use have declined, just as impassioned accusations of nationalism have risen. Throughout it all, the Macquarie has maintained a dignified level course above the battle. Nothing in the record of postwar or earlier immigration, on which the official policy of multiculturalism is supposed to rest, has shaken the position of English as the nation’s vernacular. Contempt for rural and old-fashioned citizenry still has to be couched in the common speech of street and TV, and has lately diminished.  Penetration of Australia by larger culture blocs may be changing a polity which has endured since posh and convict descendants sank their differences a century back, but that is still a matter for the future.

The cultural content of a dictionary is the medium in which its exactitudes are embedded. An Australian word in a British reference work is apt to look singled out, a stranger emerging from or on its way back to the attitudes of the Empire.  The cultural items present on every page of the big green book are thus not merely facts occupying their proper spaces in the text, but supporters of each other, fine-tuning a picture of the nation as a mental habitat consistent with itself and with Australian experience over the two centuries since European settlement.

Les Murray

Poet

Fellow of the University of Sydney

History

The Macquarie Dictionary was first published in 1981 after a decade of research and planning. Amid much praise from such notable figures as Manning Clark, Thomas Keneally and others, the dictionary established a firm footing in Australian culture as Australians responded warmly to the idea of having their own national dictionary.

Since 1981, a whole family of dictionaries and thesauruses have been developed from the original database. This was followed by the second edition of the complete dictionary which was published in 1991, introducing encyclopedic entries for people, places and events to the headword list.

In 1997 the third edition was published, building on the work of the previous two, and incorporating the many changes that had occurred in the Australian language since 1981. Of special interest was the range of items from the Englishes of South-East Asia, many of which made their appearance in a general dictionary for the first time. The third edition also saw the inclusion of thousands of citations drawn from Australian literature, using Macquarie's extensive language database, OzCorp.

In 2005 the fourth edition was published with expanded citations and with the origins of phrases given. Like previous editions, it included the many new words that had appeared in Australian English in a broad spectrum ranging from the international to the uniquely Australian.

The fifth edition was published in October 2009. In addition to updates of the headword list, this edition responded to the community's wish to engage with the debate on the environment by revising and expanding its coverage of environmental terms.

The sixth edition was published in October 2013. Aside from hundreds of new entries and senses, this edition also covers words, both formal and informal, that date back to the Australian military experience of WWI. 2014 will mark 100 years.

Macquarie sets the standard for English in Australia and can now be regarded as an Australian tradition. Our history is reflected in our language, and so the dictionary has the role of being a faithful record of our language choices. In addition it is an up to date language reference for contemporary words giving their spellings, pronunciations, meanings, origins and usage - all in the context of Australian English.

Our language is close to our hearts and so the Macquarie Dictionary has become an icon of Australian culture.