If you’re a fan of the BBC or Netflix shows like Bake Off, Derry Girls, or Peaky Blinders, then chances are you’ve encountered some British slang. You know how the closer you are to a friend, the more nicknames you have for each other and the things you talk about that no one else can really understand? Well, that’s pretty much what slang is but for entire regions of people tied together by their culture.
Slang words in Britain are a little different than what you might be used to even if you are fluent in American English. Some things can sound vulgar but actually, mean something completely normal and some things can sound casual but actually take on a much more vulgar meaning. If you want to speak conversational English with people from across the pond, then you need to learn their slang.
Knowing these words can not only help you understand and communicate better, but it can also tell you a lot about their culture. For example, the sheer number of British words for bars and drinks tell you that British people love their alcohol while the whimsical and musical Cockney rhyming slang shows the region’s love of cheeky wordplay.
After reading this article, you’ll know to be careful calling someone a chav, how to tell a bugger to clear off and be able to have a chat with the first bloke you see at the pub. Let’s get cracking, shall we?
Most Common British Slang Words
Used for emphasis
Eg. You are a bloody genius mate.
Eg. That is absolute bollocks.
Vulgar slang for a silly or annoying person also used to refer to someone you feel bad for
Eg. The poor bugger has nowhere to go tonight. Let’s help him.
Playful, amusing, or a bit rude.
Eg. She was being real cheeky with the boss. They must go way back.
Hello; goodbye; thank you; no thank you; congratulations; have a good one; formal or informal toasts at the bar
Eg. Cheers, Frank, see you tomorrow.
Eg. Making good time on the freeway gets me chuffed
Attractive or sexy
Eg. That guy is so fit.
Eg. We’ve been mates since we were toddlers.
Eg. Want to have a pint with me after work?
Amorous kissing and caressing
Eg. I caught them snogging on the couch this morning.
More British Slang Words You Should Know
Aggravation; also, more uncommonly, aggression
Eg. He’s gotten nothing but aggro from his parents lately.
2. Apples and pears
Rhyming slang for stairs
Eg. Just go up the apples and pears and you should find the bathroom on the left.
3. Banged up
be put in jail or incarcerated
Eg. My cousin’s been banged up for something he didn’t do.
Literally means bread rolls, also a euphemism for breasts
Eg. When a construction worker yells “Nice baps!” at a woman, he’s not complimenting her on her bread rolls.
5. Battle cruiser
Rhyming slang for pub, rhymes with boozer
Eg. I had a pint down the old battle cruiser last night.
A jerk or someone acting stupid, literally means the tip of a penis, variation of the American “dickhead”
Eg. I don’t care how rich he is, he’s a bellend.
Enthusiastic opinion of a person, place or thing, used as a compliment
Eg. She’s a belter, that Rachel, you’d like her.
Intoxicated, from the word bevvy, short for “beverage”
Eg. He looked proper bevvied last night
9. Bin lid
Rhyming slang for child/kid
Eg. She has two bin lids at home.
Man, a equivalent to the American term “dude”
Eg. Francis is a good bloke. I trust him.
11. Boat/ Boat race
Rhyming slang for face
Eg. Stupid am I! Look into my boat and say that again!
12. Bob’s your uncle
Everything’s going to be okay; also used to emphasize that something can be done easily
Eg. Just sign up, pay the fee, and Bob’s your uncle.
13. Bog roll
Eg. Do you have any bog roll left?
14. Bog standard
Eg. My old stove was just a bog standard model
Eg. If you like a proper boozer and a chat with friends go to the Red Lion.
16. Bunk off
Eg. We used to bunk off school as kids.
Derogatory term used to describe troublemaking lower-class youth typically dressed in sportswear or casual clothing
Eg. That guy yelling at the referee? He’s a chav.
18. Clear off
Eg. The owner told me to clear off.
19. Clever clogs or Clever boots
Similar to “smartypants,” a phrase that is used to refer to someone intelligent but is typically spoken with sarcasm
Eg. It’s amazing what these clever clogs have come up with.
20. Colonel Gadaffi
Rhyming slang for a café
Eg. Let’s meet up at the Colonel Gadaffi!
Eg. The way both teams are playing, I think it will be a cracking game.
22. Cream crackered
Rhyming slang for tired (knackered)
Eg. I don’t want to go out tonight. I’m cream crackered/knackered.
Stupid or foolish
Eg. Don’t be so daft. He’s obviously lying to you.
24. Diamond geezer
A very nice or good man
Eg. My late husband was a real diamond geezer
25. Dinner jacket
Eg. He looked great in that dinner jacket.
26. Do a runner
Exit a restaurant or place of business without paying, equivalent to American “dine & dash”
Eg. Those two did a runner and haven’t been back since.
27. Dog and bone
Rhyming slang for telephone
Eg. As soon as a job has become available, he’s on the dog and bone.
28. End of
Abbreviation of “end of story” spoken in a curt and disdainful manner
Eg. You are not going out tonight – end of!
Vulgar slang for vagina/vulva
Eg. She got kicked right in the fanny and fell over.
30. Full of beans
Bursting with energy
Eg. He’s a cheerful lad, generally full of beans
31. Get cracking
To start doing something quickly
Eg. Let’s get cracking before we miss the train.
Eg. My brother is the world’s biggest git.
Eg. Keep your gob shut about what you saw here.
34. Going to see a man about a dog
A phrase used to conceal one’s true destination (eg. to the bathroom, to buy a drink, etc.)
Eg. I’ve got to go, going to see a man about a dog.
Eg. Don’t listen to that gormless git.
Short for “gossip”
Eg. Have you heard the hot goss?
Upset and disappointed
Eg. She was absolutely gutted after seeing her team lose.
38. Guv/ guv’nor
Short for “governor,” it is a polite way to address an elder or superior, can also be used sarcastically or pejoratively
Eg. So glad you could make it, Guv.
39. Gypsy’s (kiss)
Rhyming slang for piss
Eg. I’m just going out for a quick gypsy’s.
Meaningless all-purpose suffix; performs the same function as “Know what I’m saying?
Eg. That’s a good job, innit?
41. Jam jar
Rhyming slang car
Eg. This Audi is the best jam jar I’ve ever owned.
Eg. You jammy bastard!
A moment, a short period of time
Eg. I’ll be right with you in a jiffy.
Eg. That girl in the red jumper is my sister.
45. Knock it on the head
Stop doing something, give something up
Eg. We need to knock this on the head before it goes too far.
Usually referring to a younger man, another equivalent to the American term “dude”
Eg. I’m going out with the lads tonight!
47. Leg it
Run, run for it
Eg. We legged it as soon as we heard the noise.
Eg. He shouted down my lughole so loud it hurt.
49. Mad for it
Very enthusiastic about something
Eg. She loves wrestling. She’s mad for it.
Food and drink; to eat
Eg. I’m going home to visit my parents and have a nosh.
Form of greeting; declaration of aggression
Eg. Oi! Eyes up here mate.
Feeling a little under the weather
Eg. Are you feeling okay? You’re looking a bit peaky.
Referring to a gay man, often used derogatorily
Eg. Look at that poof with the handbag.
54. Pull a sickie/ chuck a sickie
Pretend to be ill to get yourself out of from work
Eg. I decided to pull a sickie today.
55. Scooby (Doo)
Rhyming slang for clue
Eg. I don’t have a Scooby how he did that.
56. Shell suit
Eg. That guy in the shell suit with the perm is my stepbrother.
Well-dressed, smart, and attractive
Eg. She’s wearing a very snazzy pair of shoes.
58. Take a butcher’s
Rhyming slang abbreviated from “butcher’s hook “meaning to take a look
Eg. I hear the new park just opened, you want to take a butcher’s?
59. Taking the piss
Joking with someone, lying or being sarcastic in an obvious manner
Eg. I was only taking the piss mate!
A ten-pound note
Eg. I found a tenner on the street on the way here.
61. The Bill/ The Old Bill
The police, after William Wilberforce, the lawmaker who first proposed a national police force
Eg. When I joined the force way back, there was some respect for the Old Bill.
62. The Business
Universal complement that may be used to express appreciation for any specific individual, thing, piece of art, or food
Eg. Marie, these banana muffins are the business!
Undershirt, or singlet
Eg. We have guests and you’re wearing nothing but a vest?
Eg. Button up your waistcoat and let’s go.
Small, tiny; urine or to urinate
Eg. Don’t you think it’s a wee bit late for brunch?
Eg. I’m well pleased with how it turned out.
67. Well in it
Eg. Oh, we’re well in it now thanks to you.
Eg. Keep your willy in your pants.
69. Wind up
Lie to or trick someone for the purposes of gaining amusement from their frustration
Eg. That can’t be true. You’re just winding me up!
Talking too much about something uninteresting to you
Eg. My neighbour kept yakking on all afternoon about his new car.
How do you learn British slang?
If you want to learn British slang, the best way to do it is to get exposure from listening to or reading the words of native speakers. If you don’t have a British friend or roommate to talk to the media is the next best thing. Whether it is TV shows, podcasts, music, or radio. Even novels and comics can provide great examples for you to experience the use of informal language in its proper context. So the language in a courtroom drama will be very different from a sitcom primarily set in a local dive bar for example.
Bloody easy, innit?
Slang is the heart of a language and its culture. It’s a great thing to learn because once you can intuit the differences between regional slang and formal language, you will be able to navigate your way through any Conversational English situation. There are many ways to learn English. Advanced English classes can be a good way to practice, learn, and test yourself at the same time. Here’s a great article about learning English to put you on the right track.
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