Cockney Rhyming Slang: a Traveller’s Guide (+ FREE Cheatsheet)

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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.

Cockney Rhyming Slang is probably the most famous known dialect in the world, in part thanks to being featured in iconic films such as Ocean’s Eleven, Snatch, and the Austin Powers movies, as well as TV shows like Only Fools and Horses, and Eastenders.

 

Loved for its witty, catchy and humorous appeal, the Cockney Rhyming Slang is rooted in British humour and culture, it has become somewhat of a curiosity worldwide, and especially to those who visit London.

A Cockney refers to the working class Londoners of the East End. Famous Cockneys include: Charlie Chaplin, Michael Caine, David Bowie, Bob Hoskins, Phil Collins, David Beckham, and more.

“Would you like a cuppa Rosie Lee when you go up to Uncle Ted?”

The above translates as: “Would you like a cup of tea when you go up to bed?”

Nobody knows for certain whether Cockney Rhyming Slang was a linguistic accident, a game, or a cryptolect (secretive language) developed intentionally to confuse non-locals.

If it was deliberate, it may have also been used sustain a sense of community. Some speculate that it may have even been used by criminals to confuse the police.

“Were you havin’ a Donald Trump in the back of the car?” – you’ll have to read on to find out what this one means!

This guide is a mini dictionary of the most popular, interesting, funny, and downright rude slang words and phrases.

Scroll on to read the best-known phrases of the Cockney Rhyming Slang:

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Cockney Popular Phrases List

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Origins of Cockney Rhyming Slang

The slang is believed to have originated in the East of London in the 1840s, though some sources say it may have came about as early as the 16th Century.

The dialect was developed among the Cockney population of the London eastend, who are known for having a characteristic accent and speech patterns.

The slang was used among the vendors and traders to disguise their conversations from regular passers by, much like a secret language. Cool huh? Imagine how many customers were taunted without knowing!

st mary le bow
A true Cockney had to be born within earshot of the bells of St. Mary Le-Bow. Photo: Robert Dimov
 

Many of the expressions have found their way into common language, and new phrases are no longer restricted to the East Londoners.

Up until the 1990s, rhyming slang was also common in Australian slang, possibly due to the formative influence of Cockney on Australian English.

How Does It Work?

Words are obscured by replacing them with the first word of a phrase that rhymes with that word.

For example: “look” (as in, to look), becomes “butchers”, because look rhymes with “butchers hook”. Similarly, “money” is “bread” (another common phrase, from “bread and honey”).

Sometimes the full phrase is used, for instance: “sausage roll” means “goal”, and the popular “would you adam and eve it?” mans of course, “would you believe it?”

And then there’s “Ducks n’ geese” – a hilarious one which actually obscures a rude term! You can find out what that one means in the Cockney Rude Phrases section below.

The beauty of Cockney Rhyming slang is the historic wittiness, humour, and deep meanings that come with each phrase.

Rather than merely a rhyming association of each term, the slang reflects the meaning in the expressions themselves.

There’s no hard and fast rule for using the slang, you simply have to know whether a particular expression is always shortened, never shortened or can be used either way.

Below are some examples of popular Cockney Rhyming Slang phrases:

Examples of Cockney Rhyming Slang Sentences & Usage

Apples and Pears (Stairs)

“Time for bed Jimmy – get yourself up the apples and pears“.

April Showers (Flowers)

“I gave her a bunch of Aprils

Adam and Eve (Believe)

“Would you Adam and Eve it?”

Bacardi Breezer (Freezer)

“I’ll just stick it in the Bacardi” (ie: putting some food in the freezer)

Brass Tacks (Facts)

Don’t get overwhelmed with this case, just get down to brass tacks.” (ie: Let’s get to the hard facts)

Bag For Life (Wife)

“I took me bag for life to the Dolly Mixtures.” (ie: taking the wife to the cinema)

Calcutta (Butter)

“Pass the Calcutta over here would ya please?”

Chalk Farm (Arm)

“I’ll break ya Chalk Farm if you don’t stop messin’ around.”

Didgeridoo (Clue)

“I ain’t got a didgeridoo what he’s saying.”

Goosey Gander (to Look)

“Have a Goosey Gander at that.”

Haddock and Bloater (Motor / Car)

“I’ll give you a lift in my Bloater.”

Jimmy Flint (Skint / Broke)

“Can’t make it tonight, I’m Jimmy Flint.”

Mickey Mouse (House)

“Meet me at my Mickey Mouse.”

North and South (Mouth)

“He’s got a big North and South.”

Pie and Mash (Cash)

“Have you got any Pie and Mash on you?”

Tom and Dick (Sick)

“I ain’t goin’ into work today. I’m feelin’ Tom and Dick.”

Tom Cruise (Bruise)

“That’s a hell of a Tom Cruise you got there.”

Why do Cockneys call a watch a kettle?

The Cockney term for watch is Kettle and Hob. When pocket watches first became fashionable, they were held against the body by a small chain, and these were known as fob watches, hence the expression, Kettle and Hob.

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Traditional Cockney Rhyming Words & Phrases

It’s been said that a true Cockney hasn’t been born since 1945. Why? 

The term Cockney was originally reserved for Londoners who were born within earshot of the ringing bells of St. Mary-Le-Bow, a historic church in east London. However, the bells of St. Mary-Le-Bow were destroyed by German bombs during the Second World War. Today, “Cockney” is a tip of the hat (a salute if you like), to the good ol’ fashioned, hard-working eastenders.

Below are some of the most popular and beloved slang words and phrases coined from the true origins of the dialect in the 1840s, right up to WW2.

 

“Army and navy” (gravy)

There was plenty of gravy at mealtimes in both services.

“Borrow and beg” (egg)

This term enjoyed a fresh lease of life during the WW2 and the food-rationing period.  

“Bottle and stopper” (copper)

Policeman. There are a possible pair of inferences: to bottle meaning to enclose and a stopper meaning one who holds another back from a course of action.  

“Coals and coke” (broke)

Since both coal and coke used to be supplied in large blocks that had to be broken down before their use.  

“Cop a flower pot” (cop it hot)

To get into serious trouble. By reference of the effect of a flower pot dropping from a window above on to someone below.

“Crowded space” (suitcase)

A suitcase was often stolen at packed railway stations during the holiday season.  

“Cut and carried” (married)

Referring to the wife who is cut off from parental support and carried (provided for) by her new husband.  

“Day’s a-dawning” (morning)

A term often used by people night shift workers.  

“Give and take” (cake)

As no cake can be eaten unless given (by a shopkeeper) and taken. Cake also means money, as in “a cake of notes” that also has to be given and taken.  

“Lump of ice” (advice)

To receive advice can sometimes be very cold comfort.  

“Merry-go-round” (pound)

As in the pound sterling. Suggestive of the saying that “money was made round to go round”.

“Rattle and clank” (bank)

A reference to the busy handling of coins. 

“Scotch mist” (pissed)

The connection is very apt here.

“Stand to attention” (pension)

As in that due to a long-serving, retired soldier.  

“Tumble down the sink” (drink)

A very apt connection here.

charlie chaplin
Charlie Chaplin - the world's greatest entertainer, comes from a long lineage of Cockneys.

100 Other Cockney Slang Words & Phrases

Below is a list of 100 of the most common Cockney Rhyming Slang words and phrases still in use:

  1. Alan Whickers – knickers
  2. Almond Rocks – socks
  3. Artful Dodger – lodger
  4. Ascot Races – braces
  5. Bag of fruit – suit
  6. Baked Bean – Queen
  7. Baker’s Dozen – cousin
  8. Ball and Chalk – walk
  9. Barnaby Rudge – Judge (court)
  10. Barnet Fair – hair
  11. Baker’s Dozen – cousin
  12. Battlecruiser – boozer
  13. Bees and Honey – money
  14. Bird Lime – time (in prison)
  15. Boat Race – face
  16. Bob Hope – soap
  17. Bottle and Glass – arse
  18. Brahms and Liszt – pissed (drunk)
  19. Bread and Cheese – sneeze
  20. Bread and Honey – money
  21. Bricks and Mortar – daughter
  22. Brown Bread – dead
  23. Bubble and Squeak – Greek
  24. Bubble Bath – Laugh
  25. Chalfont St. Giles – piles (haemorrhoids)
  26. Chevy Chase – Face
  27. China Plate – mate (friend)
  28. Creamed – Cream Crackered – knackered (i.e. exhausted or beaten)
  29. Currant Bun – sun (also The Sun, a British newspaper)
  30. Custard and Jelly – telly (TV)
  31. Daisy Roots – boots
  32. Darby and Joan – moan
  33. Dicky Bird – word
  34. Dicky Dirt – shirt
  35. Dinky Doos – shoes
  36. Dog and Bone – phone
  37. Dog’s Meat – feet (from early 20th century.)
  38. Dolly Mixtures – pictures (as in, the cinema)
  39. Duck and Dive – skive
  40. Duke of Kent – rent
  41. Dustbin Lid – kid
  42. Early Hour – flower
  43. Elephant’s Trunk – drunk
  44. Everton Toffee – coffee
  45. Fireman’s Hose – nose
  46. Flowery Dell – prison cell
  47. Frog and Toad – road
  48. George Raft – draught
  49. Gregory Peck – neck, or cheque
  50. Half-Inch – pinch (to steal)
  51. Hank Marvin – starving
  52. Hampstead Heath – teeth
  53. Irish Pig – wig
  54. Isle of Wight – tights
  55. I Suppose – nose
  56. Jam-Jar – car
  57. Jekyll and Hyde – Snide (fake)
  58. Jimmy Riddle – piddle (urinate)
  59. Jimmy Giraffe – Laugh
  60. Joanna – piano (pronounced ‘pianna’ in Cockney)
  61. Kate & Sydney – steak and kindey (British meal)
  62. Kane and Abel – Table
  63. Kick and Prance – dance
  64. Laugh n’ a Joke – smoke
  65. Lemon and Lime – Time
  66. Lionel Blairs – flares
  67. Loaf of Bread – head
  68. Loop the Loop – soup
  69. Mince Pies – eyes
  70. Mork and Mindy – windy
  71. New Delhi – Belly (stomach)
  72. Ocean Pearl – girl
  73. Oily Rag – fag (cigarette)
  74. Oliver Twist – fist
  75. Ones and Twos – shoes
  76. Pat and Mick – sick
  77. Peckham Rye – tie
  78. Plates of Meat – feet
  79. Pony and Trap – crap
  80. Raspberry Tart – fart
  81. Roast Pork – fork
  82. Round the Houses – trousers
  83. Rub-a-Dub – pub
  84. Ruby Murray – curry
  85. Sherbert Dab – cab (taxi)
  86. Sherbert Dip – Kip (rest)
  87. Scarper – Skapa Flow – go (as in, run for it!)
  88. Sexton Blake – cake
  89. Skin and Blister – sister
  90. Sky Rocket – pocket
  91. Sweeney Todd – flying squad (Police)
  92. Tables and Chairs – stairs
  93. Tea Leaf – thief
  94. Tomfoolery – jewellery
  95. Tommy Trinder – window
  96. Treacle Tart – Sweetheart
  97. Two and Eight – state (of upset)
  98. Vera Lynn – gin
  99. West Ham Reserves – Nerves
  100. Whistle and Flute – suit (of clothes)
east_london
You'll find lots of impressive street art in London's East End.

How do you say good morning in Cockney slang?

“Day’s Dawning” is the Cockney slang term for “Good Morning”

Cockney Slang Insults & Rude Terms

The Cockney insults display an unparalleled level of shrewdness.

There’s a lot more than just the rhyming aspect to the slang, in fact, there’s deeper meanings and synonyms too. It’s the pure intelligence of the rhymes and the thinly veiled slurs that make Cockney rhyming insults so unique.

For example, the phrase trouble and strife means wife. So a Cockney may say something like: “Watch out, Barry’s trouble and strife is stomping down the street.” – notice the hint of mean, though its really all about the cleverness and fun.

 

 

Here’s a collection of Rude Cockney Terms:

 
  • Bristol City – titty (breast). Example: “Check out the Bristols on her.”
  • Dog’s knob – job (vacancy). Example: “Ere listen up, I’ve got a Dog’s knob for ya.”
  • Farmer Giles – piles (haemorrhoids). Example: “My Farmers are playing up today.”
  • Gypsy’s kiss – p*ss
  • J. Arthur Rank (1930s UK flour magnate and film producer) – w*nk (as in, masturbate)
  • Jacobs Crackers – Knackers (testicles). Example: “Mess with me and I’ll cut your Jacobs off.”
  • Khyber Pass – arse (ass). Example: “I’ll give you a good kick up the Khyber.”
  • Mickey Bliss – p*ss (as in, take the p*ss / satirise)
  • Nobbies – Nobby Stiles (English footballer) – piles (haemorrhoids)
  • Orchestra stalls – balls
  • Pony and Trap – crap (sh*t / rubbish). Example: “You’re talking a lot of Pony mate.”
  • Raspberry Ripple – Nipple. Example: “Did you see her Raspberry Ripples?
  • Tom Tit – sh*t. Example: “I’m dying for a Tom Tit.
 

Here’s a collection of some of the best and most hilarious Cockney insults:

 
  • Barney Rubble – Trouble. Example: “Here comes Barney Rubble.
  • Berk or Burk – Berkshire Hunt – c*nt (used as an insult, never as an anatomical reference). Example: “He’s a right Berk
  • Cobblers’ awls – balls or ‘b*llocks’ (i.e. testicles, but usually meant in the sense of ‘rubbish’). As in, “You’re talking a load of cobblers mate”.
  • Cows and kisses – Missus. Apart from rhyming with kisses, how many wives like being compared to a cow?!
  • Dental Flosser – T*sser. Example” “That geezer’s a right dental flosser.”
  • Ducks and Geese – F*ckin’ Police. Example: “Don’t let the Ducks n’ Geese catch you doin’ that again.”
  • Fawlty Tower – Shower. Example: “You need a Fawlty Tower.
  • Ginger beer – queer (old term for homosexual). Example: “He’s a right Ginger.”
  • Hampton Wick – prick (as in, penis). Example: “What a Hampton Wick.”
  • James Blunt – C*nt. Example: “What a James Blunt.
  • Jock – Scot (as in, a Scotsman). A true Cockney doesn’t hold back in his insults. His sister may be a blister, but he wouldn’t want her dating a Jock (ie: a Scot!)
  • Merchant Banker – W*nker. Example: “He’s a right Merchant Banker.
  • Mockney – an impostor Cockney. You’ve either got it or you don’t, there’s no such thing as an honorary Cockney, no matter how good your accent.
  • Porkies – Pork Pie – Lie example: “he’s telling porkies!”
  • Richard the 3rd – Turd (sh*t). Example: “He always smells like Richard the 3rd.”
  • Septic tank – Yank. It would seem the Cockneys hold Americans in about the same regard as Scotsmen.

Cockney Rhyming Slang: Number System

Yes, there is a number system in rhyming slang too!

Although not every number has a translation directly into Cockney, the main numbers and some other important numbers have names coined to them, sometimes based on how the digits look, for example: the number 88 is called “two fat ladies” – and you can see why!

These numbers are often used in bingo games too. Here’s a list of numbers 1 to 10, plus a few other memorable numbers.

  • 1 – quid
  • 2 – bottle (bottle of glue)
  • 3 – carpet
  • 4 – rouf
  • 5 – ching 
  • 6 – tom mix 
  • 7 – neves 
  • 8 – garden (garden gate)
  • 9 – nervo 
  • 10 – cockle (cockle and hen)
  • 11 – legs (legs eleven)
  • 12 – stretch
  • 15 – commodore
  • 20 – score
  • 22 – two little ducks
  • 25 – pony
  • 26 – bed and breakfast
  • 30 – bertie
  • 33 – feathers
  • 40 – basil
  • 50 – nifty
  • 66 – clickety click
  • 88 – two fat ladies
  • 100 – ton
  • 500 – monkey
  • 1000 – grand

Want more slang?

For more hilarious slang words and phrases from around Britain, here’s A Traveller’s Guide to British Slang Words

Cockney Rhyming Slang: Money

There are some peculiar names for different amounts of money that are still used in the Cockney Rhyming slang today.

It’s a widely held belief that these terms came from soldiers returning to Britain from India.

Why is 500 a monkey Old Indian Rupee banknotes used to have animals on them, and its said that the 500 Rupee featured a monkey.

Why is a pony 25 quid? Just like the reasoning behind the 500 (monkey), the 25 rupee banknote carried the image of a pony on it.

  • Small change (ie: 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p) – Shrapnel
  • £1 – Nicker / Nugget / Alan Whicker
  • £5 (fiver) – Bluey / Deep Sea Diver / Lady Godiva
  • £10 (tenner) – Ayrton Senna / Brownie / Cock and Hen / Jim Fenner / Pavarotti
  • £20 – Score
  • £25 – Pony
  • £30 – Dirty Bertie
  • £50 – Bullseye / Red / Hawaii Five-O / Nifty
  • £100 – Ton / One-er / Long-en
  • £500 – Monkey
  • £1000 – Grand (Piano) / 1K

Why do we say quid?

Quid is a slang expression for the British pound sterling (GBP), the currency of the UK. A quid equals 100 pence, and is believed to have originated from the Latin phrase “quid pro quo”, meaning “something for something”, which is feasible since the British pound is the world’s oldest currency – dating back 1,200 years.

Cockney Rhyming Slang: Famous Names

 

It’s quite common for celebrities and famous personalities to have their names used in the rhyming slang, sometimes for hilariously offensive phrases, whether they like it or not. Here’s a few examples:

  • Billie Piper’s – Windscreen Wipers
  • Britney Spears – Beers
  • Cherie Blair (wife of Tony Blair) – Penalty Fare. Example: “I jumped off the tube and got Cheried.”
  • Dawn French (British TV actor) – Stench. Example: “Phew there’s a Dawn French coming out of those drains today.”
  • Damian Duff – Rough
  • Donald Trump – Hump (as in, having sex). Example: “Just had a Donald Trump in the back of the car”
  • Emma Freud (English author and columnist) – haemorrhoids. (Emmas’)
  • Ewan McGregor (British actor) – Beggar
  • Fatboy Slim – Gym
  • Gary Glitter – Sh*tter (toilet). Example: “watch me beers, I’m just poppin’ to the Gary Glitter
  • Jack Dee (British comedian) – cup of tea. Example: Jack Dee – one sugar, cheers mate!”
  • Jackie Chan – Can (of beer). Example: You want to come round my gaff for a few Jackies tonight?”
  • Simon Cowell – Towel
  • Tom Hanks – Thanks

Some words have more than one famous names associated with them. For example: the word “pee” (as in, to pee / urinate) – Jet Li, Ali G, and Bruce Lee.

And the word “phone” – Molly Malone, Nina Simone, Sharon Stone. Example: “Stop rabbittin’ on the Nina and put the Frank Skinner on, woman”

Why do Cockneys call a house a drum?

“Drum and Bass” means “Place”, and was used to describe a home long before the music genre drum and bass came into existence. It originally referred to a room or a prison cell, or even a road.

Video: Learn The Cockney Accent

 

Check out this excellent video by an authentic Cockney and Jason Statham lookalike, on how to get the all the pronunciations right for speaking the dialect. Plus, you’ll learn a few new slang words, like “missus”, “dough”, and “up the duff”.

Thank you for reading my post:

Cockney Rhyming Slang (+ Free Cheatsheet)

 

I hope you enjoyed this post and learned some cool new slang. Let me know what you thought in the comments. And don’t forget to Click here to download your full printable PDF Cockney Rhyming Slang Cheatsheet!

 


 

Further Reading: UK Travel

 

Travel Itineraries

 

UK Facts & General Knowledge Posts

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General Information about London

Area: 607 square miles (1,572km squared)

Weather: 9C (winter), 27C (summer)

Population: 8.9 million (1st in UK)

Time Zone: UTC (Greenwich Mean Time), UTC+1 (British Summer Time)

Founded: 50AD (Londinium, founded by the Romans)

International Airports: Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), City (LCY), Stansted (STN), Luton (LTN)

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.

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Billy

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

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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.

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