Favorite Australian Slang: Mate vs. Partner


This is part of an ongoing series of posts on my favorite Aussie slang. Be sure to check back for updates, or subscribe to my RSS feed to get updates to your reader automatically.

dictionary pagesIt’s a strange world we live in, and Aussie slang just takes it one step further. There’s this interesting mix-up as I like to call it between the words “mate” and “partner” and how they are used.

Everyone in the world knows that the Aussies like to use “mate” to refer to a friend or even just a random person on the street. It’s like the ultimate catch-all word that you can use in most situations, even if you forget someone’s name.

“G’day, mate.”
“Cheers, mate.”
“I’m meeting up with a couple of my mates.”

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>> If you need help with your pronunciation and accent, be sure to check out my Australian Language Guide

My objection to this term only comes after contemplating the definition. What does it mean to mate? In the animal kingdom, we choose a mate to procreate, and that is just not something I would do with a friend. So, it seems a bit strange that the Aussies have chosen to go with this word.

Even stranger is the use of the term partner, which in Australia is used to talk about your romantic partner (shouldn’t that be mate?).

I always think of the phrase, “Howdy, partner!” when I hear people call their loved ones their partner. It makes me think of a business partner instead of a boyfriend/girlfriend. To me, an American, I wouldn’t really use the word, but now that I’ve been in Australia, I am much more likely to. In fact, my boyfriend and I are actually in the processing of getting (hopefully) the partner visa so that I can stay in this lovely little country forever.

Still, does this whole mate versus partner thing have you as confused as I am?

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