British slang words and expressions are so commonplace that it’s like a whole other language, that isn’t in the text books when you’re learning English. British slang is also dynamic and ever changing – it can be regional, ‘tribal’, a passing trend, and it varies across age groups – parents often discover the latest slang words from their kids.
Here’s a taster of some the more common everyday British slang words and phrases.
Two crucial aspects of British life have naturally developed a lot of slang words – slang words for being drunk and slang words for money.
BRITISH SLANG WORDS FOR DRUNK
away with the fairies
drunk as a lord
drunk as a skunk
off one’s trolly
three parts to the wind
These would be considered vulgar so use with caution:
These are just a few examples of British slang words for being drunk. There are so many slang words for being drunk and new ones are constantly being invented.
BRITISH SLANG WORDS FOR MONEY
pounds (£) – quid, squid, smacker
coins – loose change, shrapnel
£1 – nicker (no plural – 3 nicker)
£5 – fiver, Lady Godiva
£10 – tenner
£25 – pony
£50 – bullseye
£100 – ton
£500 – monkey
£1000 – grand, k (from kilo)
have no or little money –
broke, brasic, skint, strapped
I’m skint this month.
have a lot of money –
loaded, stinking rich, moneybags, minted
Have you seen his house? He must be loaded.
There are a ton of British slang words for money, and they vary around the country too.
REGIONAL DIFFERENCES IN BRITISH SLANG
The BBC did an experiment on British slang words used today in different parts of the UK. They asked school children from around the country to ‘translate’ a few sentences into their own local slang.
The phrase we chose was:
“John’s girlfriend is really pretty. But she got mad with him the other day because he wanted to hang out with his friends rather than take her to the cinema. She got really angry and stormed off. It was very funny.”
These are the results from schools in different areas of the country:
Bishopston Comprehensive School, Swansea, Wales
“John’s missus is flat out bangin’. But she was tampin’ the other day ’cause he bombed her out for the boys instead of going to the cinema. She… started mouthing. It was hilarious.”
Holy Family Catholic School, Keighley, West Yorkshire
“Jonny’s bird is proper fit and she got in a right beef the other day cos he’d rather chill with his mates than go to the cinema. She got stressed and did one. It was quality haha.”
Cardinal Newman High School, Bellshill, Lanarkshire
“John’s burd is well stunnin’. She wis pure mental wae ‘um the other day cos he wantit tae hing aboot wi ‘is pals ‘n no take hur tae the Showcase. She took a hissy ‘n bolted. It wis well funny.”
Phoenix High School, Shepherds Bush, West London
“John’s chick is proper buff but she switched on her man the other day ‘cos he wanted to jam with his bred’rins instead of taking her out to the cinema. She was proper vexed and dust out. It was bare jokes.”
St Cecilia’s College, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
“John’s girlfriend is pure stunnin’. But she was ragin’ cos he dogged her out of it to go to the pictures with his muckers. She pure went into one and booted. It was some craic.”
Rodborough School, Godalming, Surrey
“John’s girlfriend is well fit. But… he wanna chill out wid his m8s rather than take her to the film. She got like well lairy and she legged it. LOL.”
Source: BBC News
Roadmen and their street slang has been popular in areas of London in recent years. It’s unique and….well….let’s say it’s pretty far removed from the Queen’s English. Have a guess what this could mean:
‘blud, bait out some sket’
Did you guess something like, ‘mate, tell us some gossip on someone who’s sexually promiscuous’? If not, don’t worry, most Brits wouldn’t understand it either!
For more street slang check out the Urban Dictionary
Cockney Rhyming Slang
This is probably the most famous slang in Britain. It was started by Cockney* street sellers and market traders in the east end of London in the 1840s. It was probably first used as a way of disguising what they were saying so others couldn’t understand them, especially the police, then became a humorous way of attracting customers to their stalls. Some examples:
loaf of bread – head
plates of meat – feet
trouble and strife – wife
china plate – mate (friend)
bees and honey – money
Cockney Rhyming slang is still used in that area today, and has influenced wider British slang words, for example loaf is commonly used for head.
*A true Cockney is someone who was born within the sound of Bow Bells – the church bells of St Mary Le Bow in Cheapside, London.
COMMON EVERYDAY BRITISH SLANG WORDS
Some British slang is commonly used and understood by all.
Here’s a selection:
A greeting used instead of ‘Hello’
Usually said as one word as a question, ‘Awite?’
good-natured, playful exchange of words
We always have good bantz at work.
an expression of surprise
Blimey, you’ve lost a lot of weight!
Possibly from the oath, ‘May God blind me’
in the positive – brilliant, amazing
We had a blinding weekend in Scotland.
in the negative – really awful
I’ve got a blinding headache.
He’s a top bloke.
Other commonly used words for man – lad, chap, guy, geezer
We’re out of bog roll again.
(vulgar) male testes, but used in many different ways with different meanings:
exclamation – indicates something is nonsense, untrue
‘She told me she gave you £500.’
talking bollocks – talking rubbish
He had nothing to say and was just talking bollocks.
not have the bollocks – not have courage
He hasn’t got the bollocks to ask her out.
a bollocking – a telling off
He’s going to get a proper bollocking if he’s late again.
bollocksed – mucked up, broken
He bollocksed the interview.
bollocksed – drunk
Not sure how he got home he was totally bollocksed.
the dog’s bollocks – excellent, the best
That food was the dog’s bollocks.
very good looking, fit body
He’s looking buff these days, has he been going to the gym?
in the buff – naked
We didn’t realise til we got there that they sunbathed in the buff on that beach.
to express annoyance, anger
‘Bugger!’ he shouted after he accidentally hit his thumb with a hammer.
bugger off – go away
She was annoying me so I told her to bugger off and leave me alone!
bugger all – nothing
He’s done bugger all, all day.
lucky bugger – lucky person
He won a holiday to America in the raffle, the lucky bugger.
to be very pleased
I’m chuffed to bits – my boss gave me a promotion and a raise without me even asking!
a series of chaotic disasters
Brexit negotiations have been branded a clusterfuck by opponents.
a mistake, something gone wrong
She made a right cock-up of taking that message, I’ve got no idea who called.
really nice, amazing
We had a cracking meal at the new Italian.
rubbish, junk, excrement
Those shoes look good but they’re crap quality.
(from Thomas Crapper who invented the modern toilet)
not to be trusted, questionable
My first car was a dodgy old banger, but it only cost me 50 quid.
(banger – an old, dilapidated car)
to waste time, dither, procrastinate
Stop faffing around, let’s go, we’re late!
She was gutted when he called off the wedding.
genuine, not fake, legitimate
It’s a legit Rolex.
That was a legit party last night.
ill with a cold or flu
Don’t get too close to me, I’ve got the lurgy.
How’re you doing, mate?
I don’t want to see his ugly mug around here again.
a stupid or gullible person
He thinks I’m a mug, but I know what he really paid for it.
to mug someone off – to make a fool of someone or to be made a fool of
He’s mugging me off telling me he was at home last night when he was out.
My sister nicked my best shoes.
to be caught, arrested
He was nicked with the drugs on him.
in the nick – in prison
He’s been in the nick for three years.
Our plans for the weekend went a bit pear shaped after we missed the plane.
annoyed, angry, frustrated
She was royally pissed off with him for forgetting her birthday.
(royally – utterly, totally, completely)
expression of agreement, yes, ok
“Take the rubbish out when you go please”
‘Righto, will do”
That’s a sick haircut.
spend a penny
go to the toilet
Wait for me here, I’m going to spend a penny.
Ta for the tea, I was dying for one.
take the mickey
to take advantage of someone
My sister’s taking the mickey – she’s been staying for a whole month!
to have a joke at someone else’s expense
He’s always taking the mickey out of her.
to persuade or slyly manipulate
I wangled a few extra days off work.
These are some of the best British slang words, to really become fluent in your spoken English. There are so many more British slang words – there are even whole slang dictionaries dedicated to them. But beware of using British slang words in your exams, the examiners may not appreciate it!
British Slang Words – updated June 2021