Origins Of Bonza

Bonza is an uniquely Australian word, meaning excellent, attractive, pleasing, remarkable or wonderful.  For an Australian to call something bonza is considered high praise indeed, but where does the word come from?

It seems to have entered use around 1900-1905.  The first time it was used in print, with the alternative spelling of bonzer, seems to be from the great Australian poet C. J. Dennis, in his 1915 poem Songs of a Sentimental Bloke:

This ev’nin’ I was sittin’ wiv Doreen,
Peaceful an’ ‘appy wiv the day’s work done,
Watchin’, be’ind the orchard’s bonzer green,
The flamin’ wonder of the settin’ sun.

Synonyms in Australian are bottler and ripper.

The word bonza probably entered the Australian vernacular from the Spanish word bonanza, by way of American English.

Bonza Tales, therefore, are tales of good fortune for people who deserve it.

Categories: Humour

Tags: , ,

9 replies

  1. Ah, first a writer, now a linguist, a jack-of- all-trades? Just kidding.:-)

    I do have a question for you about Australian “slang” words.

    I received a proffered comment the other day from Australia, but, and perhaps even prematurely, did not approve the comment because I like to see a webpage or blog associated with a person, which is a pet peeve of mine.

    The person writes something to effect about a Chinese invasion of the “land of oz.” You may or may not be laughing your head off, but I am serious.

    The Question: Is this an actual “slang” word for Australia?


    • Yes. Short for Australia. We also refer to it as the land down under, or just “down under” That can get some interesting looks, depending how it is used in a sentence 🙂


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