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British Slang – a List of Colloquial Words and Phrases

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Below is a list of British slang and colloquial vernacular, provided to us by the great team out our Brighton English school. You’ll find that many of them are negative exclamations, such as ‘Bloody Hell..’, either male-centric or misogynistic. While some are just plain funny. It’s definitely a reflection of British character, at least in previous, working class generations. If you Study English Abroad, see if you can hear some of these phrases as you explore Britain!

Alright? –  This is a greeting, comprising ‘all right’, as in; ‘is all right with you?’. It is usually said as a question. An acceptable response would be to mimic the greeting; ‘Alright mate’ – ‘Alright’.

Ace – Positive exclamation, equivalent to ‘great!’ or ‘Awesome!’

Aye – It  means yes. It is commonly used in Scotland. It was used in the film ”Brave Heart”,

Barry – Another term from the Scots, meaning ‘good’ when exclaimed, or at least ‘okay’

Ballistic  – From the original meaning of a type of missile, in slang this describes a fit of anger and rage.

Ball and Chain – A wife or female spouse. Referring to the ball and chain attached to the ankles of prisoners in times gone by.

Balls up – A mistake leading to a negative outcome, equal to ‘messed up’.

Bloke –  Nickname for a male, usually used by males.

Barmy – Crazy or insane.

Beastly – Nasty, unpleasant, particularly when describing somebodies behavior.

Beef – Disagreement or physical aggression between people.

Beggar Off – Meaning ‘go away’, an old fashioned term that originated from evicting someone out of your house and effectively telling them to go and beg.

Bladdered – Extremely drunk.

Blinding – Too a great extent. ‘It was a blinding performance’ = ‘It was a great performance’.

Blinkered – Having a narrow minded attitude or limited view on something.

Bloody – A very old swear word, one that has become so familiar it is considered more fun than offensive.

Blooming/Bleeding – A negative adjective, similar to ‘Bloody’

Bollocks – Male reproductive organs, but usually used to describe something as ‘rubbish’ or ‘no good’.

Bravo – Well done, or congratulations.

Bugger all – Very little, almost nothing or completely nothing.

Chalk and Cheese – Two things that do not go together, or go together very badly.

Chap – A man, particularly of gentlemanly nature.

Chat up – Speaking flirtatiously, or speaking to someone with the intention of expressing affection.

Cheers – Expressing good wishes with a drink, traditionally glasses are knocked together while ‘cheers’ is exclaimed and then a drink is taken. Cheers can also be used generally to replace thanks and as a sign off from a conversation.

Cock up – A badly executed plan or a mistake.

Cracking – A positive exclamation or describing something as good.

Crack On – To get on with something, or continue doing something.

Crikey – A neutral exclamation

Daft –  More affectionate today than it was in the past, meaning silly behavior, at worst; stupid.

Dapper – Well dressed and/or well to-do.

Dear – Dear can mean expensive, but is more commonly a term of endearment, particularly for women or spouses.

Dodgy –  Bad quality, untrustworthy or dysfunctional.

Do-Lally – Crazy but in a non offensive context.

DIY – Do It Yourself. Describing actions taken that would usually be left to industrial bodies, synonymous to homemade, or tasks often of a manual labour nature, such as painting and decorating.

Ducky – Term of endearment, particularly for family, women and children.

Easy Now – A command to calm down or be more gentle.

Excuse me – Asking to be excused for a mistake, addressing a strangers attention, or asking someone to repeat themselves.

Fag – A cigarette.

Fancy – A soft desire for something, including people, food and/or objects, activities, things.

Fiver – 5 GBP (Great British Pound)

Flippin’ – A negative adjective, softer version of a swear word.

Foxy Lady – An attractive, seductive female.

Freaking Out  Not quite panicking, but in an elevated state of confusion or discontent

Gawp – To stare with a gormless expression

Geezer – Another male nickname typically used by males.

Gnashers – Teeth

Gormless – Lacking in sense or initiative

Grub – Food.

Gutted –  Extremely disappointed or upset.

Her Majesty’s Pleasure – Being locked up in prison for life.

Hell – Extreme, such as ‘hell of a storm’, or an addition to an exclamation such as ‘bloody hell’

I’ll Give You What For! – An old expression meaning I’ll hurt you, born out of a response to disobedience. I.e the disobedient one in response to an instruction such as ‘go do this’ replies ‘what for?’ so the instructor

Jolly Good – Very good

Keep Calm and Carry On – Not really slang, but the text of a very common poster during WWII, which is now wide spread and vastly readapted to different contexts.

Knackered –  Physically or mentally exhausted, tired.

Knockers – The female bosoms.

Loaded – Wealthy, rich or having a lot of money.

Loony/Loopy – A mad or crazy person.

Lost the Plot – Gone crazy, not following the situation.

Lovely-Jubbly – Equal to ‘lovely’, a positive exclamation.

Malarkey – Stuff, or the subject of conversation. ‘What’s all that malarkey they were discussing?’

Meh – 21st century exclamation of little consideration, equal to ‘who cares?’

Mint – An item in perfect condition.

Minted – Very wealthy.

Mufti – An old army term for your non-military clothing. Used in schools for non-uniform days i.e Mufti-days

Mug – A naïve or gullible person.

Na – No.

Nicked – Commonly used as alternative to ‘stolen’. Before more strict legislation, it was used by police as a term for arresting someone; ‘you’re nicked!’

Nuts – Crazy in a good or bad sense, particularly used as a positive term amongst younger generations

On about – As part of ‘what are you on about?’, ‘on’ replacing ‘talking’.

One off – A one time event.

Piece of Cake – Exceptionally easy.

Pissed – Drunk

Pissed Off – Angry

Posh – High class, sophisticated.

Prat – A stupid, or badly behaved person.

Puke – Vomit.

Pukka – Originally describing genuine brands, now generally used as ‘excellent’

Quid – One GBP (Great British Pound).

Rank – Disgusting, revolting.

Score – 20, often 20 GBP (Great British Pound).

Smart – Smart means clever and intelligent, but can be used derogatorily with sarcasm to undermine someone, such as ‘don’t get smart with me’

Smashing – Positive exclamation, really good.

Snog – Heavy kissing, like a french kiss.

Stiff Upper Lip – Not slang, but a very British phrase and characteristic of British people, describing fortitude in the face of adversity and great self restraint in the expression of emotion.

Ta – Casual thank you.

Taking the Piss/Mickey/Michael/Mick – Mocking someone or thing, joking at someone or somethings expense

Tenner – 10 GBP (Great British Pound).

Twat – Harsh insult but not quite swearing, more extreme than ‘Prat’.

Up for it –  Very willing to do something.

Uni – short word for university.

Wicked – Formally meaning bad, but in slang meaning cool or exciting.

Wind up – A situation that is very annoying.

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