While the term 'binge drinking' has no definitive definition, it is commonly used in lay conversation and mass media communication campaigns. It is important to understand how the general population interprets the term, and their positive and negative perceptions of this behaviour.A convenience sample of 549 participants from two Australian towns completed a survey on perceptions of binge drinking; 221 adolescents, 104 parents of adolescents and 224 adult community members.Across all three groups, binge drinking was defined using broad descriptors; few respondents referred to specific consumption levels and those who did varied widely in the quantities specified. The majority of respondents described binge drinking negatively and, in most cases, more negatively for adolescents than adults. However, both adult groups perceived binge drinking to be more enjoyable and pleasant for adolescents than for adults, and more enjoyable and pleasant than adolescents did themselves.There is a need for shared understanding of terms to ensure that educational interventions and communication campaigns are using the same definitions as their target audiences. There is also a need to ensure adults are not providing young people with mixed messages about excessive alcohol consumption.