Having a good understanding of colloquialisms and local dialects is essential if you want your writing to sound authentic and believable.
But regardless of whether you’re writing a novel set in London, moving to the UK for a new job, or simply need a good laugh, learning some British slang words can certainly come in handy.
British Slang Words
Below are 35 British slang words and phrases that are sure to knock your socks off.
Behind, tush, caboose—however you call it, arse is British slang for “buttocks” and there are dozens of variations that use this word that could probably fill a dictionary of their own.
Example: We laughed our arses off at Tom’s jokes.
Like calling “shotgun” or “dibs,” to “bagsy” is to stake your claim on something, most commonly used by kids (note: not actually legally binding).
Example: He bagsied the best seat before anyone else had even arrived.
Basically the equivalent of an American “dude.”
Example: He’s a nice bloke, you should give him a chance.
A bog is a toilet. You might find yourself in line for the bog, or in need of a bog roll (but hopefully you’ll find one nearby).
5. Cheesed off
The British equivalent of being “ticked off” or “pissed off,” to be “cheesed off” is to be very annoyed or displeased . . . which is kinda strange, because who doesn’t like cheese?
Example: I’m really cheesed off with Brenda for not coming to my party.
If you’re expecting a bag of Doritos, you might be cheesed off when your waiter brings you a side of what are essentially French fries (though they are bigger and arguably better).
Example: Would you like some chips with that?
It doesn’t really sound like it, but to be “chuffed” is to be thrilled or overjoyed.
Example: She’s simply chuffed about her upcoming wedding.
A load of utter nonsense.
Example: You don’t believe all that codswallop, do you?
A good-looking person, usually a male. Synonymous with “handsome.”
Example: Johnny Depp could be described as dishy.
The slang for cash, in any currency.
Example: I spent all my dosh on Black Friday sales.
11. Dog’s bollocks
When something is exceptionally good, it’s described as “the dog’s bollocks,” kind of like “the bee’s knees.”
Example: The party last night was the dog’s bollocks.
As a noun, a faff is an overly complicated task, usually perceived as a waste of time. As a verb, to faff is to waste time on some unproductive activity.
Example: He faffed around all day and didn’t make any progress on the project.
No, this has nothing to do with butterflies (unfortunately). To “have a flutter” is to make a bet or place a wager, usually a small one.
Example: I’m going down to the track for a flutter on the horses.
14. Full of beans
This one seems a bit counterintuitive to me, but in British slang, someone who is “full of beans” is full of energy. This is often a polite way of saying that a child is being a little (too) rambunctious.
Example: Timmy’s full of beans today, isn’t it time for his nap?
A bit like “clueless,” someone who is “gormless” isn’t very bright and doesn’t really have a clue about what’s going on around them.
Example: Karen is so gormless, it’s a wonder she still has a job.
16. Her Majesty’s pleasure
If you’ve done time “at Her Majesty’s pleasure,” it doesn’t mean you were invited to a tea party at Buckingham Palace, but rather that you you spent time in the slammer.
And if you’re sent to prison at Her Majesty’s pleasure, it usually means without a release date!
Example: He’s doing time at Her Majesty’s pleasure, so we won’t be seeing him for a while.
If someone is “honking,” it means they’re sick and throwing up quite badly.
Example: She’s been honking since last night, she should probably see a doctor.
“Jammy” is an adjective used to describe someone who is repeatedly lucky. It’s usually used to emphasize the lack of effort or credit on the person’s part.
Example: He should just admit he’s got all that money thanks to jammy luck.
A “kip” is a short nap.
Example: I always have a kip after Sunday lunches at my aunt’s house.
A “mug” is a gullible person, someone who would fall for virtually anything.
Example: The car salesman had enough experience to spot the mug who just walked onto the lot.
“Mush” is slang for one’s mouth (and it rhymes with “push,” not with “gush”).
Example: Oh, shut your mush and watch the movie!
Someone looks “narked” if they look grumpy or in a bad mood. In the U.S., we would say “pissed,” but in British slang that means “drunk.”
Example: He looked so narked at the party last night, I don’t think he said a word to anyone.
Slang for “food” or “a meal.” You can also refer to a meal as “a nosh up.”
Example: Let’s go out for some nosh tonight.
24. Off your trolley
Someone who’s “off their trolley” is acting mad or crazy.
Example: Susan’s gone off her trolley, you should have been there for the scene she made at the office.
25. On your bike
A creative way of telling someone to go away.
Example: Oh, get on your bike, Roger!
“Parky” is used to describe chilly weather. Ironically, you might not want to go to the park on a “parky” day.
Example: It’s a bit parky today, better button up!
When something hasn’t gone quite as planned, it’s gone “pear-shaped.” Not an adjective for a woman’s body, unless you really don’t value your life.
Example: The dinner party went completely pear-shaped after the turkey exploded in the oven.
“Porkies” are lies. If you’re spreading untrue gossip, you’re spreading porkies.
Example: Stop telling porkies or your nose will grow!
Food that is deliciously tasty might be described as “scrummy” (think “scrumptious”).
Example: Her mom makes a scrummy apple pie.
To “skive” is to skip or avoid something, like school of work, for example.
Example: We used to skive off school, but our parents always caught us.
A ladies’ man, though not usually intended as a compliment.
Example: The smarmy waiter never had any trouble finding a date.
“Snogging” is the same as kissing or making out. Though you could have guessed that, since “snog” just has such a sexy ring to it, right?
Example: The couple in the front of the theater was snogging throughout the whole movie.
33. Spend a penny
A euphemism for going to the bathroom, since the ladies’ restroom used to cost a penny to access.
Example: Excuse me, I need to spend a penny, I’ll be right back.
34. Taking the biscuit
Like “take the cake” in American slang, something that “takes the biscuit” simply can’t be beat.
Example: His homemade tortellini really take the biscuit.
“Yonks” is another way to say “a long time” or “a long while.”
Example: We haven’t seen you in yonks, Kim!
Build Your Vocabulary
Writing like a local can help build the authenticity of your text and dialogue, which is why understanding slang and colloquialisms can come in handy.
Which word on this list was your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
- 25 Weird English Words to Expand Your Vocabulary
- Terms of Endearment: Pet Names from Around the World
- How to Craft Realistic Dialogue: Six Dos (and Two Don’ts) for Making Your Dialogue Sound Genuine
- Getting a Handle on Colloquialisms: Using Regional Terms, Expressions, and Dialect
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