Swimmers? Bathers? Swimsuits? What is the right term for Swimwear?

Swimmers? Bathers? Swimsuits? What is the right term for Swimwear?

One thing you notice when you work with swimwear, love the water, or are just generally keen on linguistics, is that everyone seems to have a different word for what they wear during their aquatic activities. With regional differences and personal preferences, there are a plethora of terms to choose from to describe your swimmers/bathers/togs etc. So, we at Olga Valentine have decided to rank some of our favourite names for these summertime staples – from the silly to the standard.

A collage titled “Olga Valentine’s Swimwear Terminology” displaying several different cartoon females wearing swimwear. Text of various swimwear terms is foregrounded including Budgie Smugglers, Swimmers, Swimsuit, Bathers, Cozzie, Togs, Bathing Suits and Swimming Costumes

WARNING! Those with unusually strong feelings about swimwear terminology might not want to read on…

Swimwear – 8/10

Starting with a classic. Formal, simple, and universally understandable across the English-speaking world. What’s not to love about the word swimwear? As an umbrella-term for all manner of water-based attire this does the job pretty well, and you’ll hear no complaints from us regarding its usage; In fact, I’m sure you could find plenty of examples of it being used across the Olga Valentine website! An unproblematic favourite.

Swimmers – 10/10

A true staple of our personal summertime dictionary. Like swimwear, this word is simple and straight to the point, however, it’s a little more relaxed and fun. Evoking images of splashing through Bondi waves or childhood trips to the local swimming hole, ‘swimmers’ as a term embodies everything we love about summer. Fun fact – ‘swimmers’ is the most commonly used term for swimwear in New South Wales, and with Olga Valentine’s strong roots in Sydney, we just HAVE to love that.

Swimsuits – 5/10

Look, there’s nothing WRONG with the term swimsuit but hear us out. It’s a good umbrella term to cover all manner of aquatic attire, but so is swimwear. And while swimwear is, admittedly, a little formal, ‘swimsuit’ feels next level. Like, Olympic swimmer professional. Whilst other terms evoke images of sunny summer fun, this induces memories of swimming laps of butterfly stroke at squad training at 5:30 in the morning. It paints a picture of district school swimming carnivals and shivering on the side of the pool while you wait for your race to be called. But if you want to be the next Michael Phelps – we love you, we support you, and enjoy your swimsuits.

Togs – 5/10

Ah togs, how very Aussie you are. We feel guilty rating such an iconic piece of Australian slang so low, but when a word is hardly used outside of the state of Queensland, and isn’t even understood outside of the country, it sadly loses practicality points. It’s not personal. ‘Togs’ is actually derived from a 16th-century word for coat, ‘togeman’, according to the BBC. It got shortened to ‘togs’ overtime, and usually referred to any type of clothes. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that it came into use to refer to swimming attire. So, we’ll give it props for being the new kid on the block. And for any die-hard Queenslanders reading this – we love your quirky slang and gorgeous beaches (and we’re sorry for the low score. No offense!).

Bathers – 6/10

Well, we had our Queensland slang – this one is for the Victorians, Tasmanians, and the South and Western Australians. So, basically half the country. This one comes in at slightly higher than togs, mainly because of its impressive geographical reach as half of Australia’s preferred term for swimwear. But unfortunately, it is a little less fun than it’s QLD counterpart. It also doesn’t translate well outside of Australia – use this term in the US and they’ll think you’re referring to the people in the water, rather than their attire. It’s a decent score, a pass, but there’s just nothing too remarkable to bump it up to a truly good grade.

Bathing suits – 2/10


Uh oh, this feels controversial… But hear us out. There’s just something a little too fancy about the whole thing. Can you picture Prince William ordering his family to chuck on their togs for a quick dip in the creek because it’s been a scorcher today at Buckingham? It’s a difficult image to conjure. But Will and Kate, delicately laying out their children’s ‘swimsuits’ for royal swimming lessons? That feels natural. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with this – if you want to feel like a character in Downtown Abbey all summer long, this might be the term for you. But we’re sticking with our silly Aussie slang for now.

Swimming costumes – 10/10

While you might think we’d give this the same treatment as ‘bathing suits’ – too fancy, too royal etc., here’s the thing. Lots and lots of people still USE the term bathing suits. It feels fair to pile on for being too fancy when you know it has a strong support system of elegant, posh, water-lovers behind it. ‘Swimming costumes’ doesn’t have that. And it feels fancy and old-fashioned in a certain way. It’s quaint. It reminds us of old black and white photos of women on Bondi Beach in the 1930’s, with woolen swimmers (yes, a very real thing back then) going down to their knees, decorated with sweet frills and collars. The term itself is a nostalgic piece of history, and we think it’s pretty neat.

Cozzie – 7/10

Another classic piece of New South Wales slang! This term is fun, silly, and very rarely written down. (Google could not definitively tell us the correct spelling, so just choose what feels right to you. Cozzy? Cossie? You tell me.) Slang derived from one of our favourite terms – swimming costume – ‘cossie’ unfortunately loses points, like other pieces of Australian slang, for its lack of universality. Outside of Australia, it wouldn’t mean much to the average beach goer. But that’s ok, because grades aren’t everything, and we can still use this term to our hearts content, just maybe not with our international friends.

Budgy Smugglers – 11/10

Pleasant to look at? Depends on the wearer. Hilarious to say? We certainly think so. Iconic? Most definitely. And honestly, we don’t feel the need to explain its rating any further. Long live the budgie smugglers!

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