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City Tips

105 British Slang Words & Phrases You Should Know (2024)

January 30, 2024

Unlock the British lingo vault and dive into a world of colourful expressions and quirky phrases! In our comprehensive British slang guide, we’ll take you on a linguistic journey through the streets of the United Kingdom. From cheeky idioms to charming colloquialisms, get ready to discover the delightful nuances of British English that add character and charm to conversations. So, grab a cuppa, and let’s embark on this language adventure!

The Origins of British Slang

British slang has a rich and diverse history, often reflecting the social, cultural, and historical context of the United Kingdom. The origins of British slang can be traced back to various sources:

Historical events: Many British slang words and phrases have their roots in historical events, such as wars, colonisation, and trade. For example, terms related to the British Empire, like “bloke” (meaning a man) and “chap” (referring to a person), were influenced by interactions with different cultures and languages during colonial expansion.

Social classes: The British class system has played a significant role in the development of slang. Different social classes often had their own slang words and phrases as a way to distinguish themselves from others. Cockney rhyming slang, which originated in East London’s working-class communities, is a notable example of class-based slang.

Criminal underworld: The criminal underworld has contributed many slang terms to British English. Words like “copper” for a police officer and “nick” for a police station have their origins in the language of criminals and law enforcement.

Regional variations: The United Kingdom is known for its diverse regional accents and dialects, and slang often varies by region. Words and phrases can be specific to certain areas, reflecting the local culture and history. For instance, “bobby” is a slang term for a police officer in the North of England, while it’s “copper” in London.

Pop culture and media: Television, film, music, and literature have also contributed to the evolution of British slang. Popular culture can introduce new words and phrases or popularise existing ones. For example, the British TV series “Peaky Blinders” has brought attention to Birmingham slang from the early 20th century.

Youth culture: Young people often create their own slang to establish identity and communicate within their peer groups. Youth culture, including music genres like punk, hip-hop, and grime, has influenced slang development in the UK.

Wordplay and creativity: British slang is known for its creativity and wordplay. Cockney rhyming slang, for instance, involves substituting a word or phrase with a rhyming phrase, and it often requires some knowledge or decryption to understand.

Read: The Irish Slang Guide

105 British Slang Words and Phrases

  1. Ace

Definition: Excellent or very good.

Example: “That concert last night was ace!”

  1. Aggro

Definition: Aggressive behaviour or trouble.

Example: “We had some aggro with the neighbours last night.”

  1. Alfresco

Definition: Outdoor dining or eating in the open air.

Example: “Let’s have lunch alfresco on the patio.”

  1. All mouth and no trousers

Definition: Someone who talks confidently but doesn’t follow through with actions.

Example: “He’s all mouth and no trousers; he never delivers on his promises.”

  1. Arse

Definition: A more colourful word for buttocks.

Example: “I slipped and landed right on my arse.”

Slippery
  1. Arse Over Tit

Definition: Used to describe a person falling or tumbling over, often in a clumsy or ungraceful manner.

Example: “She tripped on the uneven pavement and went arse over tit.”

  1. Bagsy

Definition: Used to claim or reserve something for oneself before others.

Example: “I bagsy the front seat on the ride to the amusement park!”

  1. Bangers

Definition: Sausages.

Example: “We’re having bangers and mash for dinner.”

  1. Bellend

Definition: An insulting term for a foolish or annoying person.

Example: “That guy is such a bellend; I can’t stand him.”

  1. Bevvy

Definition: A drink, especially alcoholic.

Example: “Let’s go for a few bevies at the pub.”

Orange bevvy
  1. Bird

Definition: A colloquial term for a woman or girlfriend.

Example: “I’m going out with my bird tonight.”

  1. Blimey

Definition: An expression of surprise or shock.

Example: “Blimey, I didn’t expect to see you here!”

  1. Bloke

Definition: A man.

Example: “The bloke over there is a famous actor.”

  1. Bob’s your uncle

Definition: An expression meaning “everything is all right” or “there you go.”

Example: “Just add some milk, stir it up, and Bob’s your uncle, you’ve got a cup of tea.”

  1. Bog

Definition: A restroom or toilet.

Example: “I’ll be right back, I need to use the bog.”

Bog sign
  1. Bog off

Definition: To go away or leave.

Example: “Just bog off and leave me alone!”

  1. Bonkers

Definition: Crazy or insane.

Example: “The party last night was absolutely bonkers.”

  1. Boot

Definition: The trunk of a car.

Example: “Put the groceries in the boot, please.”

  1. Boot sale

Definition: A sale of second-hand items or antiques typically held in the trunk (boot) of a car.

Example: “I found this vintage record player at the boot sale.”

  1. Brass monkeys

Definition: Extremely cold weather.

Example: “It’s freezing out there; it’s brass monkeys!”

Brass monkeys
  1. Brassed off

Definition: Annoyed or fed up with something.

Example: “I’m absolutely brassed off with this weather.”

  1. Brilliant

Definition: Fantastic or very good.

Example: “You did a brilliant job on that project.”

  1. Brolly

Definition: An umbrella.

Example: “It’s raining outside; don’t forget your brolly.”

  1. Bugger

Definition: A mild expletive or term of annoyance.

Example: “Oh, bugger! I left my phone at home.”

  1. Builders’ tea

Definition: A strong cup of tea with milk and sugar.

Example: “I’ll have a builders’ tea, please.”

Builder's tea
  1. Cheeky

Definition: Playfully impudent or saucy.

Example: “She gave me a cheeky wink.”

  1. Chin up

Definition: An expression of encouragement to stay positive.

Example: “Chin up; things will get better.”

  1. Chinwag

Definition: A chat or informal conversation.

Example: “We had a good old chinwag about our weekend plans.”

  1. Chippy

Definition: A fish and chip shop.

Example: “Let’s grab some fish and chips from the chippy.”

  1. Chuffed

Definition: Proud or pleased.

Example: “She was chuffed to win the award.”

Chuffed woman
  1. Cobblers

Definition: Nonsense or something not true.

Example: “That’s a load of cobblers; I don’t believe it.”

  1. Cock-up

Definition: A mistake or mess-up.

Example: “I made a real cock-up of that presentation.”

  1. Codswallop

Definition: Nonsense or foolish talk.

Example: “His explanation is pure codswallop.”

  1. Cuppa

Definition: A cup of tea.

Example: “I could use a cuppa right now.”

  1. Curry house

Definition: A restaurant that serves Indian cuisine.

Example: “Let’s go to the curry house for dinner.”

Curry house food
  1. Dodgy

Definition: Suspicious or unreliable.

Example: “I wouldn’t buy a used car from that dodgy dealer.”

  1. Doll

Definition: A woman or girl, sometimes in an affectionate or endearing way.

Example: “She’s a lovely doll, always so kind and friendly.”

  1. Donkey’s years

Definition: A very long time.

Example: “I haven’t seen her in donkey’s years.”

  1. Dosh

Definition: Money or cash.

Example: “I’m a bit short on dosh this month.”

  1. Faff

Definition: To waste time or dawdle.

Example: “Stop faffing around and get to work.”

Someone watching time
  1. Fag

Definition: A derogatory term for a cigarette.

Example: “Can I bum a fag off you?” (asking for a cigarette)

  1. Fancy

Definition: To have a desire for or be attracted to.

Example: “Do you fancy going to the cinema tonight?”

  1. Fiver

Definition: A five-pound note.

Example: “Can you lend me a fiver until payday?”

  1. Flog

Definition: To sell something.

Example: “I need to flog some old clothes on eBay.”

  1. Full monty

Definition: The complete or whole thing.

Example: “I ordered the full monty breakfast.”

Full monty breakfast
  1. Gaff

Definition: A house or place of residence.

Example: “We’re having a small get-together at my gaff tonight. Feel free to drop by!”

  1. Gander

Definition: A look or a brief inspection.

Example: “Take a gander at this interesting article.”

  1. Geezer

Definition: A man, typically an older one, but can also be used for a guy or a person in a friendly or informal manner.

Example: “I ran into that old geezer from the neighbourhood today. He’s still full of stories from back in the day!”

  1. Gobby

Definition: Talkative or mouthy.

Example: “He’s always so gobby in class.”

  1. Gobsmacked

Definition: Astonished or completely surprised.

Example: “I was gobsmacked when I heard the news.”

A gobsmacked man
  1. Grub

Definition: In slang, “grub” is a casual term used to refer to food, especially a meal or something to eat.

Example: “Let’s grab some grub at the new burger joint downtown.”

  1. Gutted

Definition: Extremely disappointed.

Example: “I was gutted when I missed the concert.”

  1. Hen night

Definition: A bachelorette party or a night out for women before a wedding.

Example: “We’re having a hen night for Sarah before her wedding.”

  1. Hols

Definition: Vacation or holidays.

Example: “I’m off on my hols to Spain next week.”

  1. Jumper

Definition: A sweater or pullover.

Example: “It’s cold outside; don’t forget to wear a jumper.”

Woman wearing a jumper
  1. Kit

Definition: Clothing or equipment.

Example: “I’ve packed all my camping kit.”

  1. Knackered

Definition: Extremely tired or exhausted.

Example: “After the long hike, I’m absolutely knackered.”

  1. Knees Up

Definition: Used to describe a lively and often informal social gathering or party, typically involving music, dancing, and celebration.

Example: “We’re having a knees up at the local pub to celebrate her birthday.”

  1. Leg it

Definition: To run away quickly.

Example: “The police arrived, and they all legged it.”

  1. Legless

Definition: Extremely drunk.

Example: “He had too much to drink; he’s absolutely legless.”

Legless pink panther
  1. Loo

Definition: Another term for a restroom or toilet.

Example: “I’ll be right back, I need to use the loo.”

  1. Lost the plot

Definition: To become confused or irrational.

Example: “I think he’s lost the plot; his ideas are all over the place.”

  1. Malarkey

Definition: Nonsense or foolishness.

Example: “I don’t have time for your malarkey.”

  1. Mate

Definition: Friend or buddy.

Example: “Hey mate, fancy a pint at the pub?”

  1. Minger

Definition: An unattractive or unpleasant person.

Example: “That guy is a real minger.”

Minger
  1. Muck in

Definition: To help out or contribute to a task.

Example: “Everyone needs to muck in and clean up.”

  1. Muppet

Definition: A foolish or incompetent person.

Example: “You’re such a muppet for losing your keys.”

  1. Naff

Definition: Unfashionable or tacky.

Example: “That outfit is a bit naff, don’t you think?”

  1. Nicked

Definition: Arrested or stolen.

Example: “His bike got nicked last night.”

  1. Nosh

Definition: Food or a meal.

Example: “I’m starving; let’s grab some nosh.”

Nosh
  1. Numpty

Definition: A foolish or stupid person.

Example: “He’s such a numpty for losing his keys again.”

  1. Nutter

Definition: A crazy or mentally unstable person.

Example: “That guy on the street corner is a total nutter.”

  1. Off one’s rocker

Definition: Crazy or mentally unstable.

Example: “He’s been acting so strangely lately; I think he’s off his rocker.”

  1. On the pull

Definition: Trying to pick up or flirt with someone.

Example: “He’s out tonight, trying to be on the pull.”

  1. Pants

Definition: Underwear or bad.

Example: “These pants are uncomfortable” or “That movie was pants.”

Pants on a line
  1. Pear-shaped

Definition: When something goes wrong or becomes a mess.

Example: “The party went pear-shaped when the power went out.”

  1. Peckish

Definition: Slightly hungry.

Example: “I’m feeling a bit peckish; let’s grab a snack.”

  1. Posh

Definition: Elegant or upper-class.

Example: “The restaurant they picked is quite posh.”

  1. Quid

Definition: Slang term for pounds sterling (currency).

Example: “It cost me twenty quid to get this repaired.”

  1. Rubbish

Definition: Garbage or something of poor quality.

Example: “Throw that rubbish in the bin” or “The movie was rubbish.”

Rubbish
  1. Sarnie

Definition: A sandwich.

Example: “I brought a cheese and tomato sarnie for lunch.”

  1. Skint

Definition: Having no money or broke.

Example: “I can’t go out tonight; I’m skint.”

  1. Sorted

Definition: To have arranged or organised something successfully.

Example: “I’ve got the tickets; everything’s sorted for the concert.”

  1. Stag night

Definition: A pre-wedding celebration typically organised for the groom and his male friends.

Example: “John’s stag night was a wild evening filled with laughter, drinks, and memorable moments with his closest mates before he tied the knot.”

  1. Suss out

Definition: To figure something out or understand.

Example: “I need to suss out how to use this new app.”

Suss
  1. Ta

Definition: Thank you.

Example: “Ta for helping me out with that.”

  1. Taking the mickey

Definition: Teasing or making fun of someone.

Example: “Are you taking the mickey out of me?”

  1. Telly

Definition: Television.

Example: “I’m going to watch some telly.”

  1. The dog’s bollocks

Definition: Something excellent or outstanding.

Example: “This new car is the dog’s bollocks.”

  1. Tickety-boo

Definition: Going well or smoothly.

Example: “Everything’s tickety-boo with the project.”

Tickety boo
  1. Tits Up

Definition: Used to describe a situation or plan that has gone horribly wrong or failed miserably.

Example: “We had high hopes for the project, but it went tits up after the budget was cut.”

  1. Toad in the hole

Definition: A traditional British dish of sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding batter.

Example: “I love a good toad in the hole for dinner.”

  1. Toff

Definition: A person from an upper-class background.

Example: “He’s such a toff with his posh accent.”

  1. Tomfoolery

Definition: Foolish or playful behaviour.

Example: “Stop the tomfoolery and focus on your work.”

  1. Tosh

Definition: Nonsense or rubbish.

Example: “Don’t listen to his tosh; he’s just making things up.”

Tosh
  1. Uni

Definition: University.

Example: “I’m studying biology at uni.”

  1. Up the creek without a paddle

Definition: In a difficult or hopeless situation.

Example: “If we don’t find a solution soon, we’ll be up the creek without a paddle.”

  1. Waffle

Definition: To talk aimlessly or ramble.

Example: “He tends to waffle on and on about nothing.”

  1. Wally

Definition: A silly or foolish person.

Example: “He’s such a wally for forgetting his keys.”

  1. Wanker

Definition: An insulting term for a foolish or obnoxious person.

Example: “He’s such a wanker; I can’t stand him.”

wanker
  1. Whinge

Definition: To complain or moan.

Example: “Stop whinging and get on with it.”

  1. Wind-up

Definition: To tease or play a practical joke on someone.

Example: “I’m just having a little wind-up; don’t take it seriously.”

  1. Wonky

Definition: Unstable or crooked.

Example: “The table is a bit wonky; it needs fixing.”

  1. Yonks

Definition: A long time.

Example: “I haven’t seen you in yonks!”

  1. Zonked

Definition: Extremely tired or exhausted.

Example: “After the long hike, I’m completely zonked.

To Sum Up

British slang is a rich tapestry of expressions that reflect the unique culture, history, and humour of the United Kingdom. From ‘ace’ to ‘zonked,’ these 105 phrases add colour and character to conversations across the UK and beyond. Embrace the playful spirit of British slang and let these expressions enrich your language journey.
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