Waltzing Matilda

This page is to honour an early Australian poet, Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (1864-1941), and to provide a view of some Australian terms that were used then and now. Australians have many words that are unique to them, and make frequent use of "rhyming-slang", which is believed to have originated in London. Collectively, this form of speech is referred to as "Strine", a corruption of the word "Australian". Click on the words in blue to jump to their meaning below.


Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong under the shade of a coolibah tree
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?

Along came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong. Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag, you'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred. Down came the troopers, one, two, three.
Whose is that jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag? You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me!
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Up jumped the swagman and leapt into the billabong. You'll never catch me alive, said he.
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by the billabong, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?
Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled, Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?

Picture of Australian swagman
Swagman
Picture of a billabong
Billabong
Picture of squatter, backed up by troopers
Squatter and troops

Here are explanations of some of the words used in the song.


Swagman A homeless person who wanders the outback looking for food and shelter
Billabong A pool of water in a dried-up river bed
Coolibah A type of eucalyptus tree
Billy A steel can with a wire handle used to boil water over a camp fire
Waltzing Travelling around searching for food and shelter, as a swagman does (not often used in this context now)
Matilda A swagman's comfort-goods: blanket, groundsheet etc. (this term is not often used now)
Jumbuck A sheep (this word is not often used now)
Tucker-bag A traveller's food bag, often a flour bag or sugar bag. Early-days recycling?
Squatter A land-owner, usually a sheep or cattle farmer. Also now an unauthorized occupant of a building
Thoroughbred A squatter's (usually expensive) horse
Trooper Early Australian Policeman (not often used in this context now)



Some other rhyming-slang terms used in Australia are:


on the dog and bone on the phone
trouble and strife wife
have a butcher's hook (or just have a butcher's) have a look
use your loaf (of bread) use your head
Barney Rubble trouble

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