The English language is notoriously difficult to get to grips with. Sure, you can master the basic range of vocabulary to successfully order yourself a portion of fish and chips, but a complex spelling system and seemingly nonexistent rules of pronunciation make sounding like a local a little more tricky. To further muddy the waters, entrenched in British culture there exists a language within a language. The art of British slang. We guide you through 100+ words and phrases from the English dictionary that may well have an entirely different meaning to what you first imagined. Learn the lingo and you’ll soon be conversing like a true Brit.
101 Must-Know British Slang Words and Phrases
Used most commonly as a greeting and certainly not one that requires a response. Brits will welcome friends and family members alike by grunting these two words to one another.
There could be an entire English dictionary devoted to variations of this single word. Referring to what in the US would be your ass, this word can be coupled with a variety of other words to create whole new realms of British slang (see below).
Arse over tit
The undignified process of falling over, most commonly occurring when completely arseholed (drunk).
See above. Be sure not to fall arse over tit.
In the British English dictionary, this is not really a curse word, just a donkey. You have been warned.
One of the first words learned by children throughout the British Isles, shouting bagsy is a way of staking a claim on something. The equivalent of calling shotgun, a successful Bagsy is legally binding in an English court of law (not really).
A man. What in American English might be called a dude.
The tobacco that you use to roll your own fags (no, that’s not what you think it is — see below).
Not a muddy marsh, unless you’ve got digestive problems, but a toilet. British people will often find themselves bustin’ for the bog.
The paper you use in the bog.
Something that has not gone according to plan.
If someone calls you this then they’re not being kind, it means you are bonkers (see below).
It means you are a bit barmy (see above!).
Annoyed or displeased. The British population spends most of their time cheesed off with the weather.
Many an American has come ashore and innocently ordered chips, only to be right royally cheesed off. In the UK, chips are deep-fried strips of potato, and chunky ones at that. In the US, thin bastardized versions of British chips might call themselves french fries.
A place that is very busy. A road, street, or shop full to the rafters could be described this way.
Thrilled to bits. Happy. Delighted. Just don’t show it outwardly, we’re British, remember?.
A load of rubbish, something that is clearly nonsense.
A bit stupid. Not particularly offensive, just mildly silly.
A person, usually male, who is very good-looking. David Beckham could be described as dishy, or in fact, a bit of a dish.
Used to describe something a little bit suspicious or questionable. The American English equivalent is shady.
Money. Cash. Slang for all types of currency.
A strange but surprisingly popular term in British slang. If something is exceptionally good it is known as the dog’s bollocks.
If something is not difficult then it is loudly pronounced as being easy peasy.
Faffing around is a very British pleasure. It’s taking unnecessary time over something that should be straightforward. A Brit likes nothing more than a good faff.
A harmless curse word held in reserve solely for use by British grandmothers. Dropping a vase of freshly cut daisies could result in a gently whispered fiddlesticks.
Simply to steal.
To sell something.
If something happens purely by chance then it is a fluke. It’s a lucky occurrence that doesn't often happen.
To bet or place a wager. Most usually used to describe someone who likes to have a small stake on a horse race, for example, Mr. Smith likes to have a flutter.
Full of beans
Someone who is full of energy might be described as being full of beans. It’s possessing endless quantities of get up and go, almost to the point of annoyance.
Strutting or striding about with a seemingly endless supply of confidence.
To take a look around.
Give us a bell
Calling somebody on the telephone. In this instance ‘us’ actually means ‘me’.
Completely and utterly awestruck in amazement.
A person who has little clue or idea about what is going on around them.
Being incredibly upset about something. If your favorite sports team has just lost then you might be gutted.
To negotiate or argue over the price of something, entering into a heated and lengthy discussion about its value and worth.
In American English this would be known as making out.
The British slang definition of hard is somebody who is ready to take on anyone or anything in a fight. Usually a self-inflicted state of mind after several pints of British ale, a hard man is someone to be avoided.
A way of saying bad luck.
Her Majesty’s pleasure
While this sounds like a pleasant invitation to tea at the Palace, it’s best to avoid a stint at Her Majesty’s pleasure, as it means spending time in prison.
Being violently sick.
Consistently being on the right side of good fortune. If you are repeatedly lucky you might be described as jammy.
British slang for the toilet. Don’t forget your bog roll.
A short power nap, the English word for a snooze.
A proper British party, full of warm beer and loud music. Just don’t end up honking.
To run away, usually from trouble.
If you have the dreaded lurgy then you are unwell with either the flu or a cold.
A good friend or acquaintance. Regularly used as a greeting or term of affection.
A military term that has seeped its way into British slang to mean casual or civilian clothes.
If you are a bit of a mug then you are gullible, and will believe anything.
Slang for your mouth, i.e. shut your mush.
Something that is a bit uncool would be described as naff.
Cheesed off, irritated. If you’re in a bad mood you might be labeled as narked or even a bit narky.
To steal or take something that doesn’t belong to you. If you are then caught by the police/law/fuzz then you would be nicked.
An inoffensive way of describing someone a bit silly.
Food! You might describe a tasty meal as a good nosh up.
Not my cup of tea
A classic British phrase that is trundled out to describe a situation or circumstance that does not bring one pleasure.
Originating in the North of England (another instance where an entire subcategory of British slang terms could be procured) this word has entered mainstream language to mean nothing.
To headbutt someone. Not pleasant.
Sick, poorly, or generally under the weather. If you are looking off-colour then the chances are you don’t look well.
Off your trolley
Someone who is described as such is usually behaving in a crazy manner.
On your bike
A not so polite way of telling someone to go away.
Tricky for our US cousins to get their heads round, but British pants are our undergarments. They go underneath our trousers. To show one's pants is very uncouth.
Used to describe cold weather. Not drastically cold, just a bit chilly.
When something has not gone entirely to plan, it is said to have gone a bit pear-shaped.
Piece of cake
When something is easy peasy it could be described as a piece of cake. No food or confectionery necessary.
Another word for stealing, or purchasing something at a heavily discounted rate.
This doesn't mean annoyed or angry as in American English. It means blind drunk.
Another British slang term for being drunk. Anyone would think the Brits like a drink.
Spreading lies. Anyone not being straight with the truth could be accused of telling porkies.
Doing a stretch in porridge means serving time in prison.
A low-key curse work for a stupid person. Pratting around could also be used to describe someone behaving in a foolish way.
Put a sock in it
This is a fairly rude way of telling someone to be quiet.
Slang word for a British pound.
Everything a Brit throws in the bin is called rubbish. Not trash or garbage, but rubbish.
A word to describe something deliciously tasty.
To skive off work or school is to bunk off or play truant. Hopefully not getting caught in the process.
Yep, another way to describe being drunk, pissed, blotto, trashed, plastered…
A person, usually male, who is too smooth for their own good and comes across not as charming, but saccharine sweet to the point of repulsion.
Appearing in the English dictionary thanks to the ancient game of snooker, to be snookered means you are in a situation from which you can see no obvious escape.
when something can go wrong, it will, owing largely to Sod’s law.
Someone who is demonstrating signs of irritability might be described as getting shirty.
Spend a penny
This means going to the bathroom. Originating from a time when public toilets charged one penny for their services.
On the way to being drunk. Not quite sloshed but only a few drinks away.
Nude. Naked. Without clothing.
A public display of displeasure might be described as having a strop.
In the United Kingdom to swear is the same as to cuss or curse.
Short for thanks.
An old English word that means goodbye.
Small, dainty, or quaint. A very British term to describe lots of aspects of life in the United Kingdom.
Taking the biscuit
if you are taking the biscuit when you are starting to push your luck. A similar phrase in American English is to take the cake.
To endlessly drone on about nothing. Someone talking incessantly would be described as waffling on.
If you give something welly you’ve given it a really good go.
To have a tantrum or throw a strop.
Talking too much.
A general term for a long period of time, i.e. We haven't visited there for yonks.
– is used when someone is sleeping or by someone who is expressing they are super tired.
So there you have it, 101 British words and phrases to liberally sprinkle across your daily dialogue. Which are your favorites and how do you like to use them? And let us know in the comments below if you think we’ve missed any proper corkers.
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