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The digger's dictionary

Fear of various disasters to the country and to society arising from the discovery of gold.

To fossick, especially in previously worked ground, in the hope of discovering particles of gold overlooked by the former diggers.

Californian Widow (also called a Turon Widow)
A woman left husbandless for a long period of time because her husband has left for the goldfields.

An immigrant from China, especially one engaged in goldmining. Based on the term "Celestial Empire", an early Australian term for China.

Thieves slang for a method of robbery in the goldfields.

An ex-convict from Tasmania

The wife or female companion of a digger.

Drop on it
To strike it lucky, to come upon gold.

An unproductive shaft or hole that produces little to no gold.

A condition of complete failure.

Duffer rush
A rush to a goldfield that proves unproductive.

Gold lace
A sneering term for officials, especially those connected with the diggings.

Gunya (also called a Mia Mia)
A term used in the NSW diggings for a temporary shelter usually made from sheets of bark and or branches, borrowed from the Aboriginal Dharuk language. The term Mia Mia was used on the Victorian Gold Fields, borrowed from the Wathawurung and Wuywurung languages.

A miner who works independently, rather than in a partnership.

To stupefy a person with drugs, especially by means of drugged liquor, for a criminal purpose.

To carry a load, especially on one’s back.

Hungry Quartz
Quartz with a very low yield of gold.

Jewellers Shop
A rich deposit of gold.

A mocking name for a policeman or trooper/
A cry warning the approach of such a person.
A term of derision or abuse, especially as applied to a person whose appearance, dress etc is not that of a miner.

Mining refuse.

New Chum
A novice digger, a newcomer to the goldfields.

New Chum Gold
A name given to any of several mineral substances commonly mistaken for gold.

Paint Gold
Gold in thin paint-like strips.

Pepper (also called salting)
To make a mine appear profitable by fraudulently introducing samples of mineral sought.

Poor Man’s Diggings
Terrain from which gold may be mined without substantial capital investment.

Roll Up
To assemble for a meeting.
A mass meeting of gold miners called to consider an individual grievance or an issue of common concern.
A summons to attend such meeting.

Tent Cutting (also called Tent Ripping)
Cutting a hole in a digger’s tent in order to steal the gold he had mined.

Tinned Dog
Canned meat. This term is especially associated with the Western Australian goldfields, where there was a shortage of fresh meat.

In the phrase "do the trick on the quiet", having found a source of gold, to keep it a secret and work it secretly.


From Bruce Moore Gold! Gold! Gold! : a dictionary of the nineteenth-century Australian gold rushes, Oxford University Press, 2000.


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