The Aussie larrikin


The popular story about the origin of larrikin dates back to a Melbourne court in 1869 where an Irish policeman was giving evidence.  He offered the opinion that the youths brought before the court were larking – and said it with a rolled r as larraking.

The Irish policeman may well have pronounced larking in this way but it is not the source of the word larrikin in Australian English.  For starters, there are citations which pre-date the 1869 Irish pronunciation.  It is more likely to be from the English dialect larrikin, ‘a mischievous or frolicsome youth’  (English Dialect Dictionary) which is itself derived from the verb to lark, which the Irish policeman used, but which is a separate form. The origin of lark is unknown although it may relate to lark the bird, as is the case in skylark.

Sue ButlerComment