We should probably write this article about the meaning of Down Under without finger-tapping and humming the lyrics, “Do you come from a land down under?” but what would be the fun in that? The term Down Under has become a mainstream colloquialism for Australia, but why?
In this article, we’re exploring the meaning behind the term “Down Under,” who uses it, and why it’s so popular. Ready to head south of the Equator to one of the most climate-diverse countries in the world? You know, where “women glow and men plunder?” Okay, that’s the last reference to the song… for now.
Let’s dive into the meaning of Down Under.
You’ve heard of places like the Big Apple, Cali, and Down Under, right? Well, each of these locations has an official name, but tourists and foreigners love to play along with the kitschy nicknames.
For example, New York City locals don’t call their city the Big Apple, but thanks to catchy tourist marketing, it’s synonymous with NYC.
The same goes for Cali, a word you’ll hear from camera-toting tourists, but never from a native. And what about Australia’s famous term of endearment, Down Under?
It seems the entire world refers to Australia as the land Down Under, but you’ll not hear it slip from an Aussie.
So, why is Australia called Down Under, and what does the term mean? Let’s hop on the global map to learn more.
Australia’s location is in the Southern Hemisphere, along with New Zealand, Fiji, French Polynesia, and an array of other islands and archipelagos.
During European exploration and colonization, explorers sought a land located as far South as they could reach at the time. Not much was known South of Asia, so when explorers discovered Australia, they coined it “Down Under.”
The reasoning is simple: the location was unknown, and located in the Southern Hemisphere, below most known countries. Australia is under the equator, another factor contributing to the nickname.
Of course, we now know that other countries exist “Down Under,” including New Zealand. That said, when someone says Down Under, it’s generally understood that they’re referencing Australia.
However, another name coined this uncharted territory first:
This phrase translates to “unknown southern land.” As you can imagine, Australia’s discovery was a revelation, as explorers hadn’t yet ventured so far South. Over time, the phrase that stuck was “Down Under.”
Down Under is the popular nickname for Australia, similar to the New World nickname for the Western Hemisphere. Before these countries became globally incorporated, they were unknown mystery locations, and on the spot handles were a primitive way of naming the place before it received a country name.
Other factors play into nicknames as well, including how other countries perceive these locations.
Outside of its Southern geographical location, Down Under became a pop culture reference:
The Men At Work hit, “Down Under,” highlights notable aspects of Australian lifestyle and culture.
Australian boxing star Kostya Tszyu’s stage name is “The Thunder From Down Under.”
However, 200 million years before Australia became the land Down Under, it was attached to the Gondwana Supercontinent. Every country we know today was attached to this massive continent, but slowly, the continent split apart over time.
Africa and South America separated first. The last to detach were Australia and Antarctica, and they split off into the Southernmost continents.
Did you know that Australia is still moving? Only, it’s encroaching north instead of south at a rate of about seven centimeters per year. While none of us will be around to see it, there could be a future where Australia isn’t actually so far Down Under anymore.
We’ve covered the global viewpoint of Down Under, but what do Aussies think of the term? Not surprisingly, Australia isn’t “Down Under,” to locals, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a native who uses the term.
When foreigners or tourists use the phrase, it’s well-meant, and a term of endearment to express fondness for the country. Thankfully, Australians are infamously friendly and warm.
If you use the term Down Under while traveling Down Under, you’re unlikely to offend. Just don’t expect locals to reciprocate the nickname while describing their homeland.
Australia is a beautiful country encircled by oceanic winds and miles of wild flora and fauna. One of the most unique features of Australia is that it’s a country, continent, and island. Because it’s surrounded by seas, it’s humid, dry, and populated by unique wildlife.
In fact, most of the country’s wildlife and foliage are native to Australia. One of our favorites? Kangaroos, which hop across every corner of the country.
Another key product of Australia’s climate and geography is opals! Australia is the leading source of opals, supplying 95-97% of the world’s supply.
Why is Australia optimal for opal fields? We can thank the splitting of the Supercontinent for these fiery gems! When Australia separated millions of years ago, the entire continent was covered in a watery sedimentary sea basin. Over time, the water dried up leaving behind silica deposits in the cracks and crevices of the earth. Over 20 million years, the silica formed into glistening opal specimens!
Thanks to this unique geological composition, the world’s largest opal fields are in Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia.
Australia is one of the most fascinating countries on the planet, which is why 9.4 million tourists visited in 2019.
Is Australia on your travel radar? We can see why! Who can resist the exotic beaches, rugged Outback, unique wildlife, and friendly locals?
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