British Slang and Idioms | Oxford International English (2023)

This British slang dictionary includes popular words and phrases you may hear in the UK and helps you with your own spoken English.

As– used to describe something amazing. A word popular in the north and among young people.

every street- When you hear this, the person is not asking you to choose a road! They're probably replacing "anyway" and the context could be "any street, you're from China or Japan".

A lot of Tosh– used to describe something that is not very good. For example, your professor might describe your essay as “like a pile of junk.” difficult!

a face of Kent– Often used in Scotland when a person has seen someone they know e.g. B. "I saw some faces of Kent in the library." This language has nothing to do with the surname or the place. It comes from an Old English word meaning "to know."

Adam and Eve– Cockney rhyming slang to believe it. "You can Adam and Eve!"

bee knee- the expression does not refer to bees or knees, but is an expression of excellent. It became popular along with "cat whiskers" in the 1920s.

bite your arm- don't be alarmed if someone says so. No one is going to literally bite off any part of your anatomy. It is used to describe will. For example, someone might say to you, "They will bite your arm off if you offer to write their essay."

faded– Considering that the Brits are good at hiding their feelings, we still have plenty of words to describe when we're not happy about something. One of them is "brassed".

Bits’n Bobs– used nowadays when you want to say you have a weird selection of things, for example you can say “I have some little things in the fridge. I'll see what I can do". However, originally it was used to describe the change in your pocket.

Bob is your uncle– The origin of this saying and its use today are different. The proverb originally meant that you can achieve or do anything if you have the right connections, and it came about after Britain's 20th Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, appointed a nephew to a high political office for which he lacked the experience. . Today it is more commonly used to say that everything is fine.

meat hook– comes from the East End of London and is a rhyming slang term for checking out.

Bye- No, it's not just a breakfast cereal, it's also one of the many words you can say goodbye to in Britain. "Ta ta" is popular in the north of England, and "laters" and "see ya" are also heard.

burned– is a peculiar euphemism for being unhappy. Obviously you would be unhappy if the cheese spoiled! Can be used in both casual and formal situations, for example someone might say "I'm upset because you ate the last piece of cake".

shake your chin– means a long conversation and its origin comes from a Welsh word meaning empty. The word is believed to have come from a North Wales pub where the landlady made people drink more than they intended by walking around with a stein of ale and filling people's glasses by 'chin wagging' said – which is Welsh because your glass is empty .

Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs– You might hear an older person say this to a younger person when they feel the younger person is being disrespectful because they think they can teach the older person something.

Grim– used to describe someone who is attractive.

Don't cry over spilled milk- That's what someone might say if you do something wrong or really spill or break something. The essence of the saying is that you should not worry about this.

idiot cow– used between friends and is an affectionate way of poking fun at a friend when she does or says something stupid. Be aware that when you say it to a stranger, the meaning changes drastically!

donkey years- Apparently donkeys live a very long time. So when someone says, "I haven't seen you in a long time," they're saying they haven't seen her in a long time.

Dive– used to describe a place that is not very beautiful. Someone might say to you "It's a dive but the drinks are cheap"

mole mole- A fun, childish way of saying something that is easy to do or understand. We encourage you to use it the next time your teacher explains something.

effing and blindness– This expression is used to describe someone who uses awkward language. For example, you might hear "She was so angry she panted all the way home and was blind!"

eejit– an Irish pronunciation of the word “idiot”.

our– a mid-morning snack before lunch, which usually includes a cup of tea and a biscuit.

To kid– is a term used to describe someone who is being scolded. For example, you might hear someone say, "You were scolded for being loud last night."

Full of beans– full of beans means someone is very energetic and lively.

To scream loudly- This is a substitute for a rude word. For example, you realize your bike has a flat tire and you yell, "Oh, for heaven's sake!"

faff around– When you crawl, you look busy, but you achieve very little. For example: "I told him to stop crawling and do the dishes."

Whipping a dead horse– try to find a solution to an unsolvable problem. For example: "You beat a dead horse by asking Martha to move to the UK - she hates rain."

will do- College life wouldn't be college life without a good dose of partying, and if someone invites you to a "do," say yes because they're inviting you to a party!

shocked– When you are amazed, you are in awe of something or someone. For better or for worse!

Larvae– is colloquial for food and comes from the Old English word for “digging”. The association with digging for food became the slang we use today.

Gobby– used to describe someone who talks a lot and has a lot of opinions, and not necessarily in a good way.

Hammer- used colloquially to describe someone who is very drunk. You can tell someone is drunk if they look a little drunk.

horses for courses– is a popular saying that says we all have different tastes and what is right for one may not be right for another.

excellent- it's just a nice way of saying something's okay!

I came across as quirky– is a peculiar proverb used to describe someone who gets sick very easily.

I'm not funny, but I don't have all day– that's a popular saying in Wales and simply means: hurry up!

I am easy- Next time you're at a restaurant and your friends are discussing what to order, say "Order what you want. I am simple". This is a sign that you are happy with what you are asking.

I'm going to Bedfordshire– is a rhyming English slang term for when someone is tired and wants to go to bed. Take it?

There are bronze monkeys out there– used when it is very cold. The origin of this saying relates to brass doorknobs that get too cold. That part makes sense, but the monkey part of this proverb is baffling even to Brits.

jam– If you are lucky you can be called flukey or jammy.

Jim jams- is slang for pajamas and as a student you'll hear "I think it's time to put on my pajamas and go to bed - I'm exhausted!" - quite!

Krug– is colloquial for half a liter of beer. For example, "Let's meet up for some pots after the talk."

Immediate– that's a quintessentially British saying that says you will do something immediately. You can say this to show your interest, for example, "If you cook dinner, I'll be right there."

knee high– when someone says it was “on their knees over the weekend”, they are talking about a wild party. Your answer should be: Why wasn't I invited?

Kerfuffle- is a riot or riot. For example: “Why all the fuss? I'm only two hours late!

keep your hair- can you lose your hair if you get too angry or excited? That's what this expression suggests. For example: "Keep your hair - I accidentally deleted your dissertation."

Pens- means sleeping

Last wish– You will hear bar staff in pubs yelling this and ringing a bell at 11pm or 10.30pm on Sundays to let customers know they have 20 minutes to finish their drinks.

Operation- If someone has the Lurgy, stay away. This means they are sick and possibly contagious.

Disappoint- can be used in many ways and means you didn't find the experience good. For example: "This movie was a disappointment"

cave- used to describe a loud/brash person. For example: "Tom gets a little sleepy after a few drinks."

skip it- means you want someone to stop doing or saying something that you find disturbing or annoying.

brother in law– when someone is referred to as brother-in-law, it means they are rich, so become his best friend right now!

Gloves– a glove is a type of glove. But the British shortened the word and made it colloquial for hands. For example: "I'd like to put my gloves on a new camera!"

Watch your P's and Q's– means showing your best side. For example: "My parents are very conservative - watch your PS and Qs."

irritated- is another way of saying you are confused or irritated. For example: "She's very upset that she wasn't invited to the party."

not my case– is a saying used when you don't like something. For example: "My boyfriend loves soccer, but it's not my thing".

Numpy– If someone does or says something inappropriate, wrong or a little stupid, you might hear a Brit say: “You idiot, your shirt is inside out”.

Naff– used to describe something that has bad or inferior taste. Example: "I don't like my apartment, the furniture is a bit rough."

treats– is colloquial for food. For example, "Shall we eat something before we talk?"

old chestnut- If you tell the same joke or story too many times, your bored friends might say in a sarcastic voice, "Oh no, not that old chestnut again."

no boy- means drinking in excess, and you can hear Brits say, "Are you in the whip tonight?"

Oh my crazy aunt- is another expression for "Oh my God!" and used to show shock or surprise.

one out– a term used to describe something unique. For example: "I bought this unique dress from a fashion student".

odds and ends– another way of saying “little things”. For example: "My glasses were in the drawer with all the stuff."

Pedaco de bolo- When you call something "a piece of cake," you think it's easy. For example, you could say, "This essay is a no-brainer."

PIP PIP– an old-fashioned way of saying goodbye.

Plonk– is used to describe the wine and the hint is that it is not the best quality wine.

little Pigs– if you are accused of counting a “pig”, you are serious. It means someone thinks you are lying. The saying comes from an old Cockney rhyme that used pork pies and substituted "pie" for "lies" and later shortened to "piggy".

Put a sock on top– If you are tired of someone talking, you can tell them to put a sock on them. It's perfectly fine to use among friends, but even if you think your speaker is going a little overboard, we'd advise you to keep the thought to yourself!

Scale– is colloquial for a pound sterling.

queen– affectionate term used by the British to refer to Queen Elizabeth II (the current Queen).

Somehow- is Cockney rhyming slang for sparkling water.

The charlatan– is slang for a doctor who is suspected of not having the right qualifications

queen mother- is Cockney rhyming slang for ass (butt).

Queen of the South- is Cockney rhyming slang for mouth.

Reem– is English slang for cool, good or cool and comes from Essex. To learn how to speak like someone from Essex, check out The Only Way Is Essex.

classification– is slang for something that is awful, tasteless, or smells really bad.

flushed– can be used in two ways. The first is when you defeat someone in an argument, brawl, or other competition. The second context is when someone pays more for something.

Rosie Lee– is Cockney rhyming slang for a cup of tea.

See a man above a dog– is what people say when they jokingly don't want to reveal where they're going, such as the toilet.

Stop Bajuar— When you hear this, and it's addressed to you. Quickly finish what you are doing! The implication is that you'll take too long or not do it efficiently.

cut— If you're not going to that 9 o'clock class (understandable) or would rather spend the afternoon at the student union, suggest running off to like-minded people, but be prepared to be labeled a skier by your fellow skier class.

shirts– is a way of describing someone who is in a bad mood.

sewn– is when someone has taken advantage of you. For example, if a classmate nominates you to give a presentation, you can safely say "it got stitched up."

crappy"It could mean a range of things, some ruder than others. But the most common usage is when someone expresses how tired they are.

piss– Hearing this means a person is shocked by what another person is doing or saying.

Throw a wrench into the work– You will probably hear this saying when something goes wrong or someone makes a mistake.

Ticketbuh– means OK and may come from a Hindi word meaning everything is fine. It's one of those nice words you hear when someone wants to say that everything is going great.

o offie– The off license is the equivalent of an American convenience store licensed to sell alcohol.

rotation– means to move slowly and clumsily.

Many- means a relatively large but unspecified amount of something and is usually used when someone is angry. For example, you might hear a Brit say, "For the umpteenth time I've said no, I don't walk the dog!"

I am ready– colloquial for enthusiasm/willingness to participate. For example: "I like to go bowling, I'm ready to go bowling tonight."

ten down– British slang for bed

raise the beak– when you've wasted something like money. For example: "Everything I earned over the summer was wasted keeping this apartment warm."

sob o cosh– is used when you feel under pressure or limited. For example: "She's under pressure to deliver this project on time."

from the valley– a term used to describe the Welsh, due to the number of glens (that's the low area between the hills) in Wales.

BECAUSE– is colloquial for vodka and tonic.

Do nothing– is colloquial for relaxing. As a student, you will want to cancel every time an essay is submitted. To really unwind you need to order pizza and find a really silly movie to watch in your jim jams.

Vibration– is colloquial for feelings, atmosphere, mood. For example, you can go to a club and say, "I like the vibe here, the music is good."

Wein– is English slang for cheap wine.

drinking fountain– this is one of the many British slang terms for a pub

hesitant– is another word for unstable or unstable. You can use it to refer to a person or an object. For example, you can say that a chair has a crooked leg.

Wrought- means to get or do something that is a little crooked. For example: "I got an extension of my essay telling the speaker that my cat died."

Kleiner– is a Scottish word for small. In England it is a euphemism for urine. Confused? Do not be. When a Scot says he wants a drink, he wants a whiskey. If an Englishman says he wants to pee, take him to the nearest toilet!

corda– Bullying someone means teasing or teasing that person.

good about it– a phrase used when someone is in trouble

x-ray eyes- You can use the expression "You have X-ray eyes" to question what a friend is telling you. For example, "How do you know Yinbo ate the rest of the pizza — do you have x-ray eyes?"

extra– is used to describe something very good. You might hear "the double chocolate ice cream is extra!"

your round– If you go to a pub with a group of friends, one person is more likely to buy a drink for the whole group. This continues until everyone in the group has purchased a drink. When it is your turn, someone can say "It is your turn".

you are a guard– Used affectionately to describe someone who is nice or has a good quality. For example, you might hear "You can cook - you're a great goalie."

you what– Most Britons use this when they have not heard or understood what was said. It can sometimes be used when someone disagrees with you. You can tell who it is by the tone and body language.

Yakken- used to describe someone who talks too much about things that are not in their best interest. Example: "My teacher couldn't stop talking today."

Yonks- if you haven't seen someone for a long time. Example: "God, I haven't been to a hell of a lecture!"

pull my chain- If you tease someone about something they're sensitive about, they might tell you "stop pulling on my chain" to tell you to cut it.

zoned– used when someone is sleeping or by someone expressing that they are super tired.

treadmill– is often used to describe the black and white horizontal markings on the road that pedestrians can cross.

Get some Zzzzzzzzz– used when you want to sleep.

We hope this British Slang Dictionary is useful in your time here!


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