A Traveller’s Guide to British Slang Words & Phrases

london uk

COVID-19: The information in this post is updated as much as possible in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Please check the status of flights, activities etc. before you depart, as entry requirements and restrictions are constantly changing at a fast pace.

For many outside the British Isles, the English language can be a tad difficult to grasp.

A tourist could master the basic range of vocabulary to successfully order themselves a portion of fish and chips. However, a complex system of spelling, and unwritten rules of pronunciation, make sounding like a Brit slightly trickier.

Added to that is the existence of another, almost completely new language, deeply entrenched in British culture: British Slang.

“Nah, you’re alright love.”

The above is a very common response to a question, usually an offer. It’s a polite way of turning down someone, usually of the opposite sex (but is meant in a friendly, not an intimate, manner).

While many people are able to decipher the difference between American and British English, the slang of the latter is completely different from that of the former.

Across the English-speaking world, American slang tends to be more widely known as opposed to British slang, due to the popularity of American pop culture.

Indeed, British shows are hugely popular worldwide, and while we export many of our tv dramas and actors to America, our shows are often adapted to make them more understandable to American audiences.

More recently, British shows have started incorporating Americanisms which has allowed them to become hugely successful globally (Game of Thrones, Killing Eve, Black Mirror etc.)

So, I’ve put together a compilation of the most popular, fascinating, funny, and downright rude slang words phrases, plus 100 commonly-used British slang words and phrases along with their meaning.

With time and practice, you’ll speak like a proper Brit.

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
LinkedIn

Contents

popular phrases

Click here to download your printable British Slang Words with Meanings PDF file

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Commonly used terms

So, what are some common British phrases? There are hundreds of slang words and phrases in use, and below I’ve listed some of the most popular.

  • Bog standard – completely ordninary, average, with no frills (ie: a bog standard car)
  • Chuffed —  Overjoyed; full of pride. 
  • Cream crackered – extremely tired (originally a Cockney Rhyming slang term)
  • Cuppa – a cup of tea. Offering a ‘cuppa’ always refers to a cup of tea. The Brits do love their tea after all!
  • Balls-up – a messed up situation
  • Cheesed off — Annoyed or displeased.
  • Dodgy — Used to describe something a little bit suspicious or questionable.
  • Kip – A short power nap, the English word for a snooze.
  • Wazzock – an idiot
  • Legless – extremely drunk
  • Gobby – being a loud mouth and/or offensive
  • Grim – either really boring, disgusting, or even  distasteful.
  • Tosh – nonsense
  • Minted – to be wealthy
  • Mum – mother. The slang word ‘mom’ originated from the Black Country region, and is still in use there.
  • Waffle — To endlessly drone on about nothing. 
  • Lost the plot – used to describe someone who has stopped acting rationally.

Example sentences using British slang words

Using the common slang terms, I’ve put together some example sentences that are commonly used by your average Brit:

  • Oh you’ve upset him, he’s cheesed off.
  • A bloke came in the pub and he was a bit gobby.
  • My weekend was pretty bog standard really.
  • I’ve been up there, it’s pretty grim.
  • Elton John ended an eight-year feud with his mum.
  • Politics is a load of tosh to me.
  • I heard you got the promotion. Congratulations! You must be chuffed.
  • I’m going to take a kip and I want you to clean this kitchen!
  • I’m totally cream crackered mate, was working all last night.
  • Would you like a cuppa?
  • He’s a dodgy bloke, you’d be better off avoiding him.
  • I crawled out of that bar completely legless.
  • The show was graced with another balls-up tonight.
  • He is not going to take you to court for calling him a ‘wazzock’.
  • He’s lost the plot he has.
  • After he started a new business, he is minting a lot of money.
  • She was just waffling on about nothing.

What do Brits mean by geezer?

‘Geezer’ is slang term used to define a man, similar to the terms ‘bloke’ and ‘chap’. In the UK, it means a guy or a person in general, ie: “that geezer over there in the blue coat”. It’s sometimes used as a complimentary phrase, ie: “he’s a proper geezer, him.”

telephone box

100 British Slang Words & Phrases

Below is an A-Z of 100 of the most common British slang and dialect still in use:

  1. All right? — Used most commonly as a greeting and one that doesn’t require a response.
  2. Anorak – someone who’s a bit geeky, with strong interests or expertise in a specific niche.
  3. Bagsy — One of the first words learned by children throughout the British Isles, shouting bagsy is a way of staking a claim on something. The the equivalent of calling “shotgun” or “dibs” when something, like the front seat of the car, is offered up to a group.
  4. Bloke — A guy, equivalent of a dude in American English. Often used with good added (eg: he’s a good bloke.)
  5. Baccy — tobacco, the kind you use to roll your own fags with.
  6. Bog —  A toilet. British people will often find themselves bustin’ for the bog.
  7. Bog roll — The paper you use in the bog.
  8. Bender – if someone is on a spree of excessive drinking and mischief, they are “on a bender.” (Sometimes a bender may last 24 hours).
  9. Blinder – When someone “pulls a blinder” it means they achieved something difficult faultlessly and skilfully.
  10. Brolly – an abbreviation of umbrella.
  11. Builders tea – the name for a strongly-brewed mug of English breakfast tea with milk and sugar, the way tea is most commonly drunk in the UK.
  12. Cack handed – Describes a task that is performed in a clumsy and awkward or uncomfortable way. ‘cack’ is an old fashioned term for faeces. 
  13. Chips — If you order a fish and chips, don’t expect a side of Lays. In the UK, chips are deep-fried, chunky strips of potatoes. In the US, thin bastardised versions of British chips might call themselves french fries.
  14. Chock-a-block — A place that is very busy. A road, street, or shop full to the rafters could be described this way.
  15. Chin wag – A “good old chinwag” is a good chat, catch up, or gossip with someone.
  16. Codswallop — A load of rubbish, something often made up for dramatic effect.
  17. Collywobbles – a feeling of acute nervousness
  18. Daft — A bit stupid. Not particularly offensive, just mildly silly.
  19. Dim – Someone that lacks common knowledge might be described as “dim,”
  20. Dosh — Money. Cash. Slang for all types of currency.
  21. Doddle – An easy task is a “doddle.”
  22. Easy peasy — If something is not difficult then it is loudly pronounced as being easy peasy.
  23. Faff — Faffing around is a typical British pastime. It’s involves taking unnecessary time over something that should be straightforward.
  24. Fag — A cigarette.
  25. Filch — To steal.
  26. Flog — To sell something – usually cheaply and quickly
  27. Fluke — If something happens purely by chance then it is a fluke. It’s a lucky occurrence that doesn’t often happen.
  28. Flutter — 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.
  29. 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.
  30. Gallivanting — To “gallivant” means to roam, or to set off on an expedition, with the sole intention of having some light-hearted fun.
  31. Gander — To take a look around.
  32. Give us a bell — Calling somebody on the telephone. In this instance ‘us’ actually means ‘me’.
  33. Gobsmacked — Completely and utterly awestruck in amazement.
  34. Gormless — A person who has little clue or idea about what is going on around them.
  35. Gutted — Not to be confused with literally being disembowelled, someone that says they’re “gutted” is devastated or extremely upset.
  36. Hanky panky — In American English this would be known as making out.
  37. Half past – While Americans are more likely to say “seven thirty” or “five fifty,” Brits will more often than not refer to times in “minutes past” the hour. Eg, “half past seven,” and “ten to six.”
  38. Hard lines — A way of saying bad luck.
  39. Honking — Used to mean being violently sick.
  40. Jammy — Consistently being on the right side of good fortune. If you are repeatedly lucky you might be described as jammy.
  41. Knackered – tired and exhausted
  42. Khazi — British slang for the toilet. Don’t forget your bog roll.
  43. Knees up — A proper British party, full of warm beer and loud music. Just don’t end up honking.
  44. Knickers in a twist – to become upset about something thats not very important.
  45. Leg it — To run away, usually from trouble.
  46. Lovely Jubbly – to express delight or approval.
  47. Lurgy — If you have the dreaded lurgy then you are unwell with either the flu or a cold.
  48. Mate — A good friend or acquaintance. Regularly used as a greeting or term of affection.
  49. Miffed – Slightly irritated or annoyed.
  50. Mufti — A military term that has seeped its way into British slang to mean casual or civilian clothes.
  51. Mug — If you are a bit of a mug then you are gullible, and will believe anything.
  52. Mush — Slang for your mouth, i.e. shut your mush.
  53. Naff — In old times it used to mean someone who is heterosexual. Now it’s used to describe something lacking in style or good taste.
  54. Narked — Cheesed off, irritated. If you’re in a bad mood you might be labeled as narked or even a bit narky.
  55. Nick — 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.
  56. Nitwit — An inoffensive way of describing someone a bit silly.
  57. Nosh — Food! You might describe a tasty meal as a good nosh up.
  58. 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.
  59. Nowt — 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.
  60. Nut — To headbutt someone. Not pleasant.
  61. Off-colour — Sick, poorly, or generally under the weather. If you are looking off-colour then the chances are you don’t look well.
  62. Off your trolley — Someone who is described as such is usually behaving in a crazy manner.
  63. On your bike — A not so polite way of telling someone to go away.
  64. Pants — Slightly tricky one for our American cousins, but British pants are our undergarments. They go underneath our trousers. Pants can also mean something that’s rubbish.
  65. Parky — Used to describe cold weather. Not drastically cold, just a bit chilly.
  66. Pear-shaped — When something has not gone entirely to plan, it is said to have gone a bit pear-shaped.
  67. Piece of cake — When something is easy peasy it could be described as a piece of cake. No food or confectionery necessary.
  68. Pinch — Another word for stealing, or purchasing something at a heavily discounted rate.
  69. P*ssed — “P*ssed” usually means “angry” in the US. However, in the UK, someone that’s “p*ssed” is most probably drunk.
  70. Plastered — Another British slang term for being drunk. Anyone would think the Brits like a drink.
  71. Porkies — Spreading lies. Anyone not being straight with the truth could be accused of telling porkies.
  72. Porridge — Doing a stretch in porridge means serving time in prison.
  73. Prat — A low-key curse work for a stupid person. Pratting around could also be used to describe someone behaving in a foolish way.
  74. Put a sock in it — This is a fairly rude way of telling someone to be quiet.
  75. Quids in — Someone who’s “quids in” has invested in an opportunity which is probably going to benefit them massively.
  76. Rubbish — Everything a Brit throws in the bin is called rubbish. Not trash or garbage, but rubbish.
  77. Round – You might buy a “round” of drinks for your friends at the pub, in the understanding that they will each buy you a drink as part of their “rounds” later on.
  78. Shambles – A disorganised mess or chaotic environment might be described as a “shambles.”
  79. Scrummy — A word to describe something deliciously tasty.
  80. Skive — To skive off work or school is to bunk off or play truant. Hopefully not getting caught in the process.
  81. Sloshed — drunk again. Or pissed, blotto, trashed, plastered.. eg: “I had a few too many sherberts last night mate, I was sloshed.”
  82. Smarmy — Someone that comes across as scheming or untrustworthy might be described as “smarmy.”
  83. Snog — A kiss.
  84. Snookered — 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.
  85. Sod’s law — A British axiom that boils down to the idea that: “If anything can go wrong, then it definitely will go wrong.”
  86. Shirty — Someone who is demonstrating signs of irritability might be described as getting shirty.
  87. Splash out – To “splash out” means spending significant amounts of money on a particular item or event.
  88. Squiffy — On the way to being drunk. Not quite sloshed but only a few drinks away.
  89. Starkers — Nude. Naked. Without clothing.
  90. Strop — A public display of displeasure might be described as having a strop.
  91. Swear — In the United Kingdom to swear is the same as to cuss or curse.
  92. Ta — Short for thanks.
  93. Twee — Small, dainty, or quaint. A very British term to describe lots of aspects of life in the United Kingdom.
  94. 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.
  95. Tickety boo – in good order, fine
  96. Welly — If you give something welly you’ve given it a really good go.
  97. Wobbler — To have a tantrum or throw a strop.
  98. Yakking — Talking too much.
  99. Yonks — A general term for a long period of time, i.e. We haven’t visited there for yonks.
  100. Zonked – Exhausted; tired.

Want more British Slang?

Check out the following useful posts for more regional slangs and dialects around the UK:

Weird, Rude, Funny and Peculiar Slang Words

British Slang is abundant with all sorts of hilariously rude and weird words, many of which are euphemisms, have double meanings, and some simply just leave it to the imagination.

Here’s a collection of weird, rude, peculiar and funny terms

Arse — Known as ‘ass’ to Americans, this word can be coupled with a range of other words to create entire new realms of British Slang (see next example).

Arse over tit — The undignified process of falling over, most commonly occurring when completely arseholed (drunk).

Arseh*led — See above. Be sure not to fall arse over tit.

Barmy — If someone calls you this then they’re not being kind, it means you are bonkers (see below).

Bonkers — It means you are a bit barmy (see above).

Taking the Piss – meaning to be joking, to mock someone or take liberties at the expense of others.

Blighty – Just another word for Britain

Plonker – an absolute idiot

Muppet – someone who is stupid and/or gullible.

Bell-end – Penis

Dog’s B*llocks — A strange but surprisingly popular term in British slang. If something is exceptionally good it is known as the dog’s b*llocks.

See a Man About a Dog – Either to a deal or take a dump.

Meat and Two Veg – Male genitalia.

 Up for it – Willing to have sex.

On the Pull – Someone that’s “on the pull” has gone out, usually on a night out, with the intention of attracting a sexual partner.

Up the Duff – Pregnant

Strawberry Creams – Womens’ breasts.

Shag – to screw.

Her Majesty’s pleasure — While this sounds like a pleasant invitation to tea with the Queen, it’s best to avoid a stint at Her Majesty’s pleasure. It actually means spending time in prison.

Gentleman Sausage – Another word for a penis.

Daft Cow – A stupid person.

Chav (or pikey) – What might be described as ‘white trash’ in America.

Knob – Meaning penis, a popular term to describe an idiot.

A word of caution:

Some plain ordinary words in British English may be deemed offensive in American English, so it’s not uncommon for Americans to discover to their horror, explicit words being used in public.

A common one is “f*g”, which means a cigarette, nothing more.

So when a Brit says he’s popping out to “smoke a f*g”, this may come as a complete shock to an American due to meaning something totally different.

Another example is “pork f*ggots“. Again – this term sounds offensive Stateside for obvious reasons, but it’s literally the name of a type of food commonly eaten in parts of the UK. 

london

So, how do you swear in British?

Now we’ll move onto swear words and British insults that are widely used across the British population.

Word of advice: While many of these are used to offend, you’ll also find that even the most vulgar and offensive swear words will often be used in a cheerful and friendly manner between Brits.

Yep, someone could call their friend the C-word, though only between close friends, of course. The beauty of British insults is that the same words can be used either in a friendly, or an insulting manner.

So here’s some of the common British swear words and phrases:

  • Arseh*le – ‘Assh*le’
  • T*sser – A masturbator. Also an idiot. This term is the same meaning as the one below, but not as explicit, so it can be used in media publications and ads.
  • W*nker – As above, slightly more explicit.
  • P*llock – used to describe someone who is somewhat idiotic and oafish.
  • S*d Off – a slightly less derogatory alternative of  ‘P*ss off’
  • C*nt – female genitalia, and arguably the most offensive word in the English language. Also used as a more offensive alternative of ‘assh*le’ or ‘w*nker’.
  • Tw*t – same as above, but less offensive. Brits often precede this word (and the C-word) with ‘you daft..’ or ‘you utter..’
  • B*llocks – Testicles (Balls)
  • Knob Head – Idiot/D*ckhead

Why do British say Bloody?

 

“Bloody hell” or “Bleeding heck”

This intensifier can be added to practically any sentence in order to express incredulity or anger.

Some people consider “bloody” offensive (the origins of the word are widely disputed, so we can’t be sure why) and it was considered a profanity until the mid-20th century.

The origins of the word are widely disputed. Some believe the word is a contraction of the 17th century phrase “by our lady,” and thus blasphemous. This theory has been disproved by the slang’s documentation predating the popularity of the term, “by our lady.”

Nowadays, “bloody” is used widely – it’s even used in children’s films like Harry Potter, and is arguably one of the most quintessentially British words on the list.

“That was bloody good.”

Check out the video below by Anglophenia to learn how to swear like a Brit:

Other common British slang terms

Some more slang words and phrases used by Brits to describe friends, as well as terms of British people in general, and slang words describing Americans.

Some of the terms below are widely used in the United States as well as in British slang. Here’s a list of British slang words that mean ‘friend’:

  • Mate – the most common term for a friend, used casually. In fact ‘mate’ is used much more than ‘friend’, the latter being slightly more formal.
  • Buddy – sometimes ‘Bud’ instead, though Buddy is more common in the States than in Britain.
  • Bestie – also known as ‘Bezzie’, both are short for ‘best mate/friend’
  • BFF – an acronym for ‘best friends forever’, it evolved into a noun that refers to a close friend.
  • Best Pal – or sometimes ‘pal’ for short, another term that’s well-known in the US.
  • Chum – a slightly old-fashioned term thats not widely used, though ‘chummy’ is sometimes used.
  • Partner (or partner in crime) – often refers to friends who have been involved in endeavours or business opportunities together, sometimes thrilling adventures or activities that might be illegal (hence the ‘in crime’ term).
  • Our kid – this term is used exclusively in the midlands (ar’ kid) and the north of England, an endearing term though usually denotes a younger brother or sister.

The term, “Bob’s your uncle” is commonly used around the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Commonwealth countries, meaning “Hey Presto!”, there you go!”, or “and there you have it”. It’s typically spoken to conclude a set of simple instructions, or when a result is reached.

 
  • Brilliant!
  • Superb!
  • Splendid!
  • Fabulous!
  • Smashing! 
  • Bostin’! – this slang term is only used in the Black Country region (aka the Midlands) and so isn’t recognised elsewhere in the country.

Brit – the most common term for a British person in British slang. 

Briton – coming a close second, Briton is a more formal word rather than a slang word, and is used in media reports and on TV.

Limey – an old term from the 1850s widely used in the Royal Navy, its since been used to describe British immigrants to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and is considered an offensive term (though many Brits don’t find it offensive).

Pommy (or Pom) – more commonly used in Australia, this was another term that is deemed “often derogatory” in the Oxford English Dictionary, though is used in a playful and affectionate manner by the Australians.

Tommy – an old-fashioned slang word originating from World War One to describe the British soldiers, still in use in the British Army today.

Yank (or Yankee) is a popular term for an American, and in the Cockney Rhyming Slang of East London its ‘septic tank’.

If you enjoyed this post, share it on Pinterest so your followers can enjoy it too!

british slang words
popular phrases

Thank you for reading my post:

A Traveler’s Guide to British Slang Words & Phrases

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and learned some cool new slang. Let me know what you thought in the comments!

 


 

 

Further Reading: UK Travel

 

Travel Itineraries

 

UK Facts & Knowledge Posts

Book Your Trip to the UK: Budget Tips & Tricks

 

Flights:

As always, I source the cheapest flights on the web from Skyscanner and Kiwi.com. They are considered the top flight search engines for the best deals.

Accommodation:

I use Booking to find fantastic cheap stays with free cancellation options. 

Travel Insurance:

Travel insurance will protect you from theft, injury, illness, and cancellations. A safety net in case anything goes wrong, I never leave without it. World Nomads is my favourite agent for total peace of mind.

Tours:

I book all my fave activities and guided tours on Get Your Guide & Viator – they do superb deals whilst offering excellent customer support.

Head over to my Travel Tools page for all my best travel tips & advice and everything you need for your trip.

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
LinkedIn
Billy

Billy

Lover of epic adventures, budget travel, and fine coffee. When not travelling, Billy teaches dance, and creates performances on commissioned projects.

All Posts »

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Profile Image

Hey there! I’m Billy, the guy behind BRB | Gone Somewhere Epic. I’ve been travelling around the world for six years, having an absolute blast going on epic adventures, without breaking the bank. Click here to read more about the art of budget travel.

RECENT POSTS

WHERE I'VE BEEN

GET YOUR FREE 16-PAGE TRAVEL PLANNER

Printable Travel Planner Guide

START YOUR ADVENTURE

SEARCH CHEAP FLIGHTS

TRAVEL INSURANCE

NEED A VISA?

WEBSITE LANGUAGE

FOLLOW ME

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.