Britain isn’t just about the Queen’s Guard and afternoon tea; it’s brimming with a rich tapestry of slang and expressions that might leave even the most adept linguists scratching their heads. Here, we’ve handpicked the most quintessential UK slang terms, complete with their meanings, origins, and illustrative examples. Whether you’re a Brit at heart or a fascinated tourist, this guide will be your ticket to mastering the lingo of the land. Dive in and speak like a true Brit! Without further ado, here’s our comprehensive list of British slang:
- Meaning: Short for “aggravation”. It’s used to describe someone being aggressive or causing trouble.
- Origin: Abbreviation of “aggravation”.
- Usage: “There was a bit of aggro at the pub last night.”
All mouth and no trousers
- Meaning: Someone who talks a lot but doesn’t follow through with their words.
- Origin: Describes someone who’s all talk without substance, as if they forgot to put their trousers on.
- Usage: “He claims he’ll beat the record, but he’s all mouth and no trousers.”
- Meaning: A person obsessively interested in a thing, especially something niche. Can be somewhat derogatory.
- Origin: Refers to the anorak jackets that stereotypical hobbyists might wear.
- Usage: “He’s such an anorak about train schedules.”
- Meaning: Refers to the buttocks. Can also mean a person or way of behavior.
- Origin: Old English “ærs”.
- Usage: “Get off your arse and do some work!”
Arse over tit
- Meaning: Falling over, usually in a clumsy manner.
- Origin: A colorful way to describe someone tumbling down.
- Usage: “I went arse over tit on that icy patch.”
- Meaning: Opposite direction to the way clock hands move, known as “counter-clockwise” in many other places.
- Origin: Descriptive.
- Usage: “Turn the knob anti-clockwise.”
Apples and pears
- Meaning: Cockney rhyming slang for stairs.
- Origin: Classic East London rhyming slang.
- Usage: “I’m heading up the apples and pears to bed.”
- Meaning: A disagreement or heated argument.
- Origin: Possibly from “argue”, repeated for emphasis.
- Usage: “There was a bit of argy-bargy after the match.”
Arm and a leg
- Meaning: Very expensive.
- Origin: The idea that something is so costly it’s like giving up a vital part of oneself.
- Usage: “This handbag cost an arm and a leg!”
- Meaning: Accident and Emergency department in a hospital, similar to the ER (Emergency Room) in the U.S.
- Origin: Abbreviation.
- Usage: “He hurt his hand and had to go to A&E.”
- Meaning: In disagreement or dispute with someone.
- Origin: Possibly from the use of loggerhead tools that were heated and used in certain industries.
- Usage: “The two families have been at loggerheads for years.”
Away with the fairies
- Meaning: Daydreaming or not paying attention.
- Origin: Refers to the whimsical nature of fairies and being in a dreamlike state.
- Usage: “Sorry, I missed that. I was away with the fairies.”
- Meaning: Tobacco.
- Origin: Abbreviation of “tobacco”.
- Usage: “Got any baccy for this pipe?”
- Meaning: Calling dibs on something.
- Origin: Possibly from children’s language.
- Usage: “Bagsy the front seat!”
- Meaning: Crazy or mad.
- Origin: From “barm”, meaning fermenting froth in beer-making, implying agitation.
- Usage: “You must be barmy to jump into that cold water!”
- Meaning: Something excellent or of high quality.
- Origin: 1920s American slang. The exact origins are unclear.
- Usage: “This new song is the bee’s knees!”
- Meaning: A derogatory term, calling someone an idiot.
- Origin: Refers to the glans of the penis.
- Usage: “Stop being such a bellend!”
- Meaning: A drinking spree.
- Origin: To bend one’s elbow while drinking.
- Usage: “He’s been on a bender since Friday.”
- Meaning: Custom or tailor-made.
- Origin: Originated from when material for a suit was “spoken for” by a tailor.
- Usage: “She ordered a bespoke gown for the ball.”
- Meaning: An exclamation of surprise.
- Origin: Likely a corruption of “Blind me!” or “God blind me!”
- Usage: “Blimey, that was a close call!”
- Meaning: Having a narrow or limited outlook.
- Origin: Refers to the blinkers used on horses to keep them seeing straight ahead only.
- Usage: “You have such a blinkered view of the situation.”
- Meaning: To do a clumsy or inelegant job of fixing something.
- Origin: Possibly from “botch”.
- Usage: “I tried to fix the sink but I made a bodge of it.”
- Meaning: Toilet paper.
- Origin: “Bog” is slang for toilet.
- Usage: “We’re out of bog roll!”
- Meaning: Nonsense or something incorrect; also refers to testicles.
- Origin: Old English “beallucas” meaning testicles.
- Usage: “What he’s saying is absolute bollocks!”
- Meaning: The trunk of a car.
- Origin: Descriptive of the storage space at the back of a vehicle.
- Usage: “Put the groceries in the boot.”
- Meaning: Annoyed or fed up.
- Origin: Possibly from the use of brass instruments which can be loud and annoying.
- Usage: “I’m really brassed off with this situation.”
- Meaning: Breakfast.
- Origin: Abbreviation.
- Usage: “What are we having for brekkie?”
- Meaning: Short for “brilliant”.
- Origin: Abbreviation.
- Usage: “That’s a brill idea!”
- Meaning: To cry or to be in tears.
- Origin: Possibly from the notion of eyes welling up with tears.
- Usage: “The film was so sad, it made me bubble.”
- Meaning: A term of affection or frustration; also used to denote something gone wrong.
- Origin: From Middle French “bougre” for heretic, referring to Bulgarians of the Bogomil sect.
- Usage: “The car won’t start! Oh, bugger.”
- Meaning: Unwanted or excessive paperwork or documentation.
- Origin: Short for “bum fodder”, implying its only use would be as toilet paper.
- Usage: “I’ve got a drawer full of bumf from the bank.”
- Meaning: A look. Short for “butcher’s hook” in Cockney rhyming slang.
- Origin: Cockney rhyming slang.
- Usage: “Give me a butcher’s at that!”
- Meaning: A derogatory term used to describe someone perceived as lower-class and displaying brash behavior, cheap clothing.
- Origin: Uncertain. Some theories suggest it’s from “Chatham Average” or Romany word “chavi” (meaning child).
- Usage: “Look at those chavs hanging out at the mall.”
- Meaning: Slightly disrespectful, but in a playful or appealing way.
- Origin: Referring to someone’s boldness or audacity, as if “showing cheek”.
- Usage: “He took a cheeky bite of my sandwich!”
- Meaning: A chat or conversation.
- Origin: From the motion of the chin during talking.
- Usage: “We had a good chinwag over coffee.”
- Meaning: Pleased or satisfied.
- Origin: Possibly from the sound of steam being released, like a steam engine puffing.
- Usage: “I’m absolutely chuffed with my new bike.”
- Meaning: A mistake or blunder.
- Origin: Refers to the sound of something being dropped.
- Usage: “He dropped a real clanger in the meeting.”
- Meaning: Clothes.
- Origin: Possibly from the word “clob”, meaning a lump or piece.
- Usage: “Nice clobber! Going out tonight?”
- Meaning: A mistake or something done wrong.
- Origin: Naval term referring to a mishap with rigging.
- Usage: “The whole event was a massive cock-up.”
- Meaning: Nonsense.
- Origin: Rumored (though likely apocryphal) to be from Hiram Codd, an inventor of a bottle for fizzy drinks, and “wallop”, a slang term for beer.
- Usage: “What he said is absolute codswallop.”
- Meaning: An exclamation of surprise or admiration.
- Origin: Possibly a contraction of “God”.
- Usage: “Cor, look at that!”
- Meaning: Potato chips.
- Origin: Descriptive, from the crisp nature of the snack.
- Usage: “Can you grab a bag of crisps from the shop?”
- Meaning: A cup of tea.
- Origin: Abbreviation.
- Usage: “Fancy a cuppa?”
- Meaning: Refers to the end or death.
- Origin: Refers to the closing of curtains at the end of a performance.
- Usage: “If he finds out, it’s curtains for you.”
- Meaning: To talk or mutter in a low or indistinct manner; grumble.
- Origin: Possible alteration of “chatter”.
- Usage: “He continued to chunter about the decision.”
- Meaning: A man or boy.
- Origin: Shortened form of “chapman”, an old term for a trader or merchant.
- Usage: “He’s a nice chap, isn’t he?”
- Meaning: Excellent or very good.
- Origin: Possibly related to “crack” as something outstanding (from Irish “craic”, meaning fun).
- Usage: “That’s a cracking idea!”
- Meaning: Silly or foolish.
- Origin: From Old English “gedæfte” meaning gentle or meek.
- Usage: “Don’t be daft, that’s not how it works.”
- Meaning: A quick look or glance.
- Origin: From the Hindi word “dekho” meaning look.
- Usage: “Give me a dekko at what you’re working on.”
- Meaning: Not feeling well or something malfunctioning.
- Origin: Uncertain. Possibly rhyming slang (Dicky Bird = word) or related to Richard III, who had a crooked back.
- Usage: “The radio’s gone a bit dicky.”
- Meaning: Attractive or good-looking, usually referring to a man.
- Origin: “Dish” in the sense of something desirable on a plate.
- Usage: “That new actor is quite dishy.”
- Meaning: Suspicious, unreliable, or of questionable quality.
- Origin: Possibly related to the verb “dodge”.
- Usage: “I wouldn’t buy anything from that dodgy shop.”
- Meaning: Something that’s the very best in its category.
- Origin: Likely from “the cat’s whiskers” (meaning the same thing) with a more humorous twist.
- Usage: “This new game is the dog’s bollocks!”
- Meaning: Money.
- Origin: Unknown. Possibly related to the word “dash”, which once meant to sprinkle or to pay out.
- Usage: “How much dosh did you spend on that?”
- Meaning: A board game known as checkers in the U.S.
- Origin: From the Old English “drag-“, meaning to pull or to draw.
- Usage: “Fancy a game of draughts?”
Drop a clanger
- Meaning: Make a mistake or say something embarrassing.
- Origin: Related to “clanger”, which refers to a mistake.
- Usage: “He really dropped a clanger during the presentation.”
- Meaning: Something that’s broken or not working properly; also means a beating as in “to give someone a duffing up”.
- Origin: Possibly from the word “duff up”, meaning to mistreat or manhandle.
- Usage: “This old car’s duff.”
- Meaning: A quilted blanket filled with down or feathers, known as a “comforter” in the U.S.
- Origin: From the French word “duvet”, meaning down (as of a bird).
- Usage: “It’s cold tonight; put another duvet on the bed.”
- Meaning: Go away or leave.
- Origin: Uncertain. Colloquial and informal.
- Usage: “I’ve had enough of this, I’m going to do one.”
- Meaning: A cunning trick or shifty deception.
- Origin: From the action of dodging or avoiding something.
- Usage: “That was a smart dodge to avoid the traffic.”
- Meaning: To eavesdrop on someone’s conversation.
- Origin: Refers to the insect ‘earwig’ believed to crawl into human ears and the association with listening closely.
- Usage: “Stop trying to earwig on our conversation!”
- Meaning: Something very easy.
- Origin: Expanded version of ‘easy’, with the playful rhyme added for emphasis.
- Usage: “Getting that job done was easy peasy.”
- Meaning: A short break taken around 11 a.m. to consume a light refreshment, often with tea or coffee.
- Origin: Refers to the time, 11 a.m., when this break is typically taken.
- Usage: “I’m just making some scones for elevenses.”
- Meaning: A public toilet is in use. Also means a phone line is busy.
- Origin: Comes from the idea of being busy or occupied.
- Usage: “Wait a moment, the restroom is engaged.”
- Meaning: Very or extremely.
- Origin: A way of emphasizing a description.
- Usage: “Thank you, that’s ever so kind of you.”
Excuse my French
- Meaning: An apology for swearing or using a bad word.
- Origin: It’s a way of apologizing by pretending the swear word is a foreign language.
- Usage: “He’s a pain in the ass, excuse my French.”
- Meaning: Being annoyed or in a mood.
- Origin: Possibly from the delicate nature of eggs and how easily they can be broken.
- Usage: “She’s been a bit eggy since this morning.”
- Meaning: A term often used in London to refer to a particular area or neighborhood.
- Origin: Simply short for “end of the street” or a specific locality.
- Usage: “Which ends are you from?”
- Meaning: Short for “here” in phrases like “What’s going on here?”
- Origin: Colloquial abbreviation.
- Usage: “Oi, what’s going on ere?”
- Meaning: A greeting, much like “Hello” or “Hey there”. Mostly used in the North of England.
- Origin: Derived from “hey up”, where “up” is an old Middle English word meaning “on the rise” or “awake”.
- Usage: “Ey up, mate. How’s it going?”
- Meaning: Not to be confused with the tripod stand for artists, in slang, it can mean easy.
- Origin: Rhyming slang, where words rhyme with the intended word.
- Usage: “Don’t worry, it’s easel.”
- Meaning: Hard physical work, especially when cleaning or polishing something.
- Origin: Refers to the effort of scrubbing, which requires one to use their elbows energetically.
- Usage: “You’ll need some elbow grease to clean that stain.”
- Meaning: A cigarette.
- Origin: Possibly shortened from ‘fag end’, which means the leftover or useless part, referring to the cigarette butt.
- Usage: “Do you have a fag I could borrow?”
- Meaning: To waste time on unimportant things; dithering.
- Origin: It’s believed to come from the 17th century word ‘faffle’, which meant to flap about in the wind.
- Usage: “Stop faffing about and get on with it!”
- Meaning: To like or be attracted to.
- Origin: Derived from the old French word ‘fantaisie’, which means preference or desire.
- Usage: “I really fancy a cup of tea right now.” or “Do you fancy him?”
- Meaning: Attractive or good-looking.
- Origin: A play on someone being in ‘fit’ physical shape.
- Usage: “Did you see that guy? He’s fit!”
- Meaning: Unreliable; tends to forget or bail out on commitments.
- Origin: Comes from the idea of something that easily falls apart, like flaky pastry.
- Usage: “I wouldn’t count on him, he’s a bit flakey.”
Full of beans
- Meaning: To be lively, energetic.
- Origin: Refers to horses that were fed beans to increase their vitality and energy.
- Usage: “My kids are full of beans this morning.”
- Meaning: A period of two weeks.
- Origin: From Old English ‘fēowertēne niht’, literally meaning fourteen nights.
- Usage: “I’ll be on holiday for a fortnight.”
- Meaning: The whole thing, full measure.
- Origin: Possibly referring to Field Marshal Montgomery, a British officer in WWII, who was known for his full breakfasts. Another theory relates it to a strip show where everything is shown.
- Usage: “If you’re going to have a roast, might as well go the full monty and include all the trimmings.”
- Meaning: Football (or soccer, as it’s known in the US).
- Origin: Abbreviation of “football.”
- Usage: “Are you watching the footy tonight?”
- Meaning: To sell something.
- Origin: A reapplication of an older meaning, which was to beat or whip, suggesting the idea of pushing or getting rid of something.
- Usage: “I’m going to flog my old sofa.”
- Meaning: A five-pound note.
- Origin: Simply derived from “five.”
- Usage: “Can you lend me a fiver?”
- Meaning: Bangs (the part of the hair that’s cut straight and hangs above the eyebrows).
- Origin: Refers to the edge or border of something.
- Usage: “I’m thinking of getting a fringe.”
- Meaning: Home or place.
- Origin: Possibly derived from Romany ‘gav’, meaning town or village.
- Usage: “Come over to my gaff later for some tea.”
- Meaning: The boss or person in charge.
- Origin: From “gaff” which originally meant a fishing hook, leading to the meaning of someone who oversees fishing, and then more broadly, someone in charge.
- Usage: “Ask the gaffer if we can leave early today.”
- Meaning: To go around from one place to another in the pursuit of pleasure or entertainment.
- Origin: Late 18th century alteration of ‘galant’ (associated with going about and flirting).
- Usage: “She’s been gallivanting around Europe all summer.”
- Meaning: Something that’s injured or lame. Often used to describe a leg or foot.
- Origin: Possibly from an alteration of the word ‘gimpy.’
- Usage: “I’ve got a gammy leg after that football match.”
- Meaning: A man, often particularly used to describe an older man.
- Origin: Originally referred to someone who went around in disguise, from the word ‘guise’. Its meaning has evolved over time.
- Usage: “He’s a proper old geezer.”
- Meaning: Amazed; astounded; utterly shocked.
- Origin: From “gob” (mouth) and the word “smack”, suggesting the idea of being so surprised as if one had been slapped across the mouth.
- Usage: “I was absolutely gobsmacked when I heard the news.”
- Meaning: Deeply disappointed or upset.
- Origin: Referring to the idea of having one’s insides or guts removed.
- Usage: “I was gutted when my team lost the match.”
Guv’nor (or Guv)
- Meaning: A term of address or title of respect for a man, often used humorously.
- Origin: Short for “governor”, which was used as a title of respect for men.
- Usage: “Alright, guv’nor? How’s it going?”
- Meaning: Food.
- Origin: Possibly from the old word “grub” meaning to dig, as in digging for food.
- Usage: “What’s for grub tonight?”
Give it some welly
- Meaning: Put more effort into something or go faster.
- Origin: Refers to “Wellington boots”, implying the action of pressing down on a car’s accelerator pedal.
- Usage: “If we want to get there on time, we need to give it some welly.”
- Meaning: Have a look.
- Origin: Derived from the way a gander (a male goose) stretches its neck to look at something.
- Usage: “Have a gander at this magazine.”
- Meaning: Someone who talks a lot and often loudly, sometimes in a rude manner.
- Origin: Comes from “gob”, slang for mouth.
- Usage: “She’s so gobby; she never stops talking.”
- Meaning: Negotiate the price of something.
- Origin: Early 17th century, from an Old Norse word meaning “to chop or cut”.
- Usage: “He tried to haggle with the street vendor to get a better deal on the scarf.”
- Meaning: Bad luck.
- Origin: Refers to the concept of hard boundaries or limits.
- Usage: “Hard lines, mate. Maybe next time.”
Her Majesty’s pleasure
- Meaning: In prison.
- Origin: Refers to the British monarch; being imprisoned is officially done by order of the monarch, hence at “Her Majesty’s pleasure”.
- Usage: “He won’t be out for a while; he’s staying at Her Majesty’s pleasure.”
- Meaning: Everything is fine; okay.
- Origin: Uncertain, but possibly from an American slang term.
- Usage: “How’s everything going?” “It’s all hunky-dory.”
Have a butcher’s
- Meaning: Have a look.
- Origin: Cockney rhyming slang: “butcher’s hook” = “look”.
- Usage: “Have a butcher’s at this photo, mate.”
- Meaning: Tough luck; bad fortune.
- Origin: The exact origin is uncertain, but cheese has been used in various slang contexts in British English.
- Usage: “You missed the bus? Hard cheese, mate.”
- Meaning: Informal greeting, short for “hi there” or “hello”.
- Origin: Contraction of “hi there” or “how are you”.
- Usage: “Hiya! Haven’t seen you in ages.”
- Meaning: Holidays.
- Origin: Simply a shortening of the word “holidays”.
- Usage: “Where are you going for your hols this year?”
- Meaning: Vomiting.
- Origin: Onomatopoeic, from the noise made.
- Usage: “Drank way too much last night and ended up honking.”
How’s your father
- Meaning: Euphemism for sex or sexual activity.
- Origin: Early 20th century; its origin is uncertain but thought to be from music hall songs that used the phrase as a euphemism.
- Usage: “A little bit of ‘how’s your father’ after dinner.”
- Meaning: Nose.
- Origin: Early 19th century, originally denoting an owl, later (early 20th century) a horn, hence a nose.
- Usage: “He’s got a huge hooter, hasn’t he?”
- Meaning: Isn’t it? Often used rhetorically to punctuate or affirm a statement.
- Origin: Contraction of “isn’t it”.
- Usage: “It’s really cold today, innit?”
- Meaning: I don’t mind; I have no strong preference.
- Origin: Casual expression indicating the person’s ease with any decision.
- Usage: “Which restaurant do you want to go to?” “I’m easy.”
It’s monkeys outside
- Meaning: It’s very cold outside.
- Origin: Likely an abbreviation of the longer phrase “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”.
- Usage: “Make sure you wear a coat; it’s monkeys outside.”
- Meaning: Teeth.
- Origin: Refers to the ivory-like appearance of teeth.
- Usage: “He’s got a set of ivories on him!”
- Meaning: Upset or in a bad emotional state.
- Origin: Referring to someone being broken down emotionally.
- Usage: “After they broke up, she was in bits.”
In the buff
- Meaning: Naked.
- Origin: The word “buff” historically referred to a soft, undyed leather, similar in color to Caucasian skin.
- Usage: “He was caught running around in the buff!”
- Meaning: A desire to travel or move on.
- Origin: Possibly from the restless sensation one feels when wanting to move or travel.
- Usage: “I think I’ve got itchy feet; I want to see the world.”
I’ll give you a bell
- Meaning: I will call you (on the phone).
- Origin: ‘Bell’ referring to the ringing of the phone.
- Usage: “Don’t worry, I’ll give you a bell later.”
- Meaning: Uncertain or doubtful.
- Origin: A colloquial term that probably evolved from the word “if”.
- Usage: “The weather looks a bit iffy; we might need an umbrella.”
- Meaning: Short for “isn’t” or “aren’t”.
- Origin: Dialectical contraction often associated with Northern England.
- Usage: “Int’ that John’s car?”
In a pickle
- Meaning: In a difficult situation.
- Origin: The term “pickle” comes from the Dutch word “pekel”, meaning “something piquant”, and originally referred to a spiced, salted vinegar that was used as a preservative.
- Usage: “I forgot my wallet at home; I’m in a real pickle now.”
- Meaning: Lucky.
- Origin: Uncertain, but might be related to the idea of getting something sweet or good without much effort (like getting jam from a jar).
- Usage: “He won the lottery? What a jammy bloke!”
- Meaning: Go away or get lost.
- Origin: Literally referring to someone starting to jog or move away.
- Usage: “If you think I’m going to lend you money again, you can jog on!”
- Meaning: Very or extremely; also used to describe something pleasant or enjoyable.
- Origin: From the Old French “jolif”, meaning “merry” or “festive”.
- Usage: “We had a jolly good time at the seaside.”
- Meaning: A sweater or pullover.
- Origin: Possibly from the action of “jumping” or “bouncing”, relating to the movement made when putting on the garment.
- Usage: “It’s getting chilly outside; better put on a jumper.”
- Meaning: To inject oneself with drugs.
- Origin: The term “jack” has been used as slang for a small amount of something, especially in relation to drugs.
- Usage: “He’s been jacking-up again, hasn’t he?”
- Meaning: Buttocks or rear end.
- Origin: Cockney rhyming slang, though the exact origin is unclear.
- Usage: “He fell right on his jacksie!”
- Meaning: A drink, typically referring to a pint of beer.
- Origin: A jar traditionally being a container for liquids.
- Usage: “Let’s head to the pub for a couple of jars.”
- Meaning: A euphemistic term for the male genitalia.
- Origin: Popularized by the novel “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence.
- Usage: Not often used in daily conversation due to its explicit meaning.
- Meaning: Good or excellent; also, a type of frozen drink.
- Origin: “Jubbly” was a brand name for a triangular-shaped frozen drink. Over time, it became a slang term for something cool or excellent.
- Usage: “It’s a hot day; fancy a jubbly?” or “That film was jubbly!”
- Meaning: A person from Plymouth, Devon.
- Origin: Uncertain, but it may derive from the phrase “cousin Jan” (akin to “John Doe”) which was used in Cornwall and Devon.
- Usage: “He’s a true Janner, born and raised in Plymouth.”
- Meaning: A lively party or dance.
- Origin: Likely comes from the literal act of raising one’s knees while dancing.
- Usage: “We’re having a knees up for Sharon’s birthday on Friday.”
- Meaning: Very tired or exhausted.
- Origin: Originally referred to a tired old horse that might be taken away by the “knacker” to be turned into glue or other products.
- Usage: “I’m totally knackered after that workout.”
- Meaning: A short sleep or nap.
- Origin: Possibly from the Danish word “kipp” which means a short sleep.
- Usage: “I’m going to have a quick kip before we go out tonight.”
- Meaning: Set of personal equipment or belongings; also refers to clothing, especially a uniform.
- Origin: From the Middle Dutch word “kitte” meaning a container for liquids.
- Usage: “Have you got your football kit ready for the match?”
- Meaning: An idiot or unpleasant person; also a euphemism for the male genitalia.
- Origin: Old English “cnob”, meaning a round handle.
- Usage: “Don’t be such a knob.” (Depending on the context, be cautious with its usage.)
- Meaning: Women’s underwear.
- Origin: Shortened from “knickerbockers”, which were a type of men’s clothing worn in the 19th century.
- Usage: “I can’t find my favourite pair of knickers.”
Know your onions
- Meaning: To be very knowledgeable or skilled in a particular area.
- Origin: 1920s, but the exact origin is uncertain.
- Usage: “If you need advice about cars, speak to Gary. He really knows his onions.”
- Meaning: Referring to a situation being mild or easy, similar to how a korma is a mild curry.
- Origin: From the dish “korma” which is a mild curry.
- Usage: “That exam was korma.”
- Meaning: Trousers or pants.
- Origin: Possibly a variant of “kex”, a Northern English term for dried stems of certain plants, which then became used to refer to legs and, by extension, trousers.
- Usage: “Those are some nice kecks you’ve got on.”
- Meaning: A term used to describe the action of police containing a crowd in a restricted area, especially during protests.
- Origin: Short for “kettling”, a tactic used by the police.
- Usage: “The protesters were kettled for hours.”
- Meaning: A young man, often one who behaves in a boisterous manner. Also associated with “lad culture.”
- Origin: Old English “lædel”, meaning leading or conducting, later associated with young men.
- Usage: “He’s one of the lads.”
- Meaning: Flashy, showy, or aggressive.
- Origin: Possibly from “leery”, which means wary or cautious, but took on a different tone in UK slang.
- Usage: “That shirt’s a bit lairy, isn’t it?”
- Meaning: Short for “legend”. Someone who is very admirable or entertaining.
- Origin: Abbreviation of the word “legend”.
- Usage: “You bought me coffee? You’re a ledge.”
- Meaning: To run quickly.
- Origin: Reference to using one’s legs to escape rapidly.
- Usage: “The bus is coming! Leg it!”
- Meaning: A fictitious, often humorous disease; used to refer to feeling slightly ill.
- Origin: Popularized by the 1950s British radio comedy “The Goon Show.”
- Usage: “I can’t come out tonight, I’ve got the lurgy.”
- Meaning: Toilet.
- Origin: Possibly from “guardez l’eau” (watch out for the water) in French, which was shouted in medieval times before throwing waste water from a window.
- Usage: “I need to use the loo.”
Lost the plot
- Meaning: Gone crazy or behaving irrationally.
- Origin: A reference to a story or narrative going off course.
- Usage: “He’s completely lost the plot since she left him.”
- Meaning: Very good, attractive, or appealing.
- Origin: Might be related to the old English word “luscious”.
- Usage: “This cake is absolutely lush!”
- Meaning: A young woman who behaves in a boisterously assertive manner.
- Origin: Female version of “lad” combined with the “-ette” suffix.
- Usage: “She’s not just one of the lads, she’s a ladette.”
- Meaning: Something done for fun, even if slightly mischievous.
- Origin: Possibly from the playful nature of larks, the bird.
- Usage: “It was just a lark, we didn’t mean any harm.”
- Meaning: Aggressive or confrontational.
- Origin: Potentially a variation of “leery”.
- Usage: “He got a bit lairy after a few drinks.”
- Meaning: Slang term for McDonald’s.
- Origin: A colloquial abbreviation.
- Usage: “Fancy a burger from Maccy D’s?”
Mad for it
- Meaning: Very enthusiastic or eager.
- Origin: A phrase popularized by the Manchester music scene in the 1990s.
- Usage: “He’s mad for it every time there’s a new game out.”
- Meaning: Friend.
- Origin: From the old French “mat”, meaning equal or peer.
- Usage: “Alright, mate?”
- Meaning: Annoyed or offended.
- Origin: Possibly from “miff”, an old term for a trivial quarrel.
- Usage: “She was really miffed when you forgot her birthday.”
- Meaning: Excellent or very good.
- Origin: Mint condition – refers to something being in perfect state.
- Usage: “That concert was mint!”
- Meaning: Light rain or drizzle.
- Origin: A combination of “mist” and “drizzle”.
- Usage: “Looks like it’s starting to mizzle outside.”
- Meaning: A cat.
- Origin: Possibly from “Maggy”, once a common name for a cow, later used as a name for a cat.
- Usage: “That’s a cute moggy you’ve got there.”
- Meaning: Friend or mate.
- Origin: From the word “muck” (dirt), referencing going through thick and thin together.
- Usage: “Hey mucker, long time no see!”
- Meaning: A gullible person; or to attack someone.
- Origin: Possibly from “muggins” meaning a fool, or from “mug” as a face (making a stupid face).
- Usage: “Don’t be such a mug.” or “He got mugged on his way home.”
- Meaning: Drunk or beaten up.
- Origin: Uncertain, though some speculate a relation to “miller” and the grinding down or crushing of grain.
- Usage: “Got absolutely mullered last night.”
Mum’s the word
- Meaning: Keep this a secret; don’t tell anyone.
- Origin: Possibly from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2: “Seal up your lips and give no words but mum.”
- Usage: “I’ll tell you, but mum’s the word, okay?”
- Meaning: Unfashionable, lacking in style, or low quality.
- Origin: The origins of “naff” are unclear, but it became popular in the 1970s.
- Usage: “That shirt looks a bit naff, doesn’t it?”
- Meaning: An informer, especially a police informer; or to annoy someone.
- Origin: Originally a Romany word for “nose”, it evolved into a term for someone who “noses around”.
- Usage: “Don’t be a nark!” or “That really narked me off.”
- Meaning: To steal; or a state of disrepair; or a police station.
- Origin: Possibly derived from Old English “hnecan” meaning to slay or take someone’s life.
- Usage: “Someone nicked my bike.” or “My phone’s in the nick.” or “He’s down at the nick.”
- Meaning: Stylish or particularly good.
- Origin: From the 1860s, meaning neat and tidy.
- Usage: “That’s a nifty jacket you’ve got there.”
- Meaning: Food; or to eat.
- Origin: Borrowed from Yiddish “nashn”, meaning to nibble.
- Usage: “I’m starving, let’s get some nosh.” or “I’m going to nosh down on this pizza.”
- Meaning: Nothing.
- Origin: From Old English “nāwiht”, meaning “no thing”.
- Usage: “There’s nowt left in the fridge.”
- Meaning: A silly or foolish person.
- Origin: Possibly derived from “numps”, an older term for a blockhead or numbskull.
- Usage: “Don’t be such a numpty.”
- Meaning: Head; or to headbutt.
- Origin: “Nut” is an old term for the head, dating back to at least the 16th century.
- Usage: “He’s off his nut.” or “He nutted him during the argument.”
- Meaning: A crazy or mad person.
- Origin: Derived from “nut”, slang for the head or mind.
- Usage: “He’s a complete nutter!”
- Meaning: Cold or chilly; or quick/fast.
- Origin: Possibly from the quick movement of nipples when cold, or simply from the idea of quick movement.
- Usage: “It’s a bit nippy outside.” or “That car’s quite nippy.”
- Meaning: No problem or it’s okay.
- Origin: Derived from the standard English usage of “bother” meaning trouble or difficulty.
- Usage: “Can you help me with this? – No bother!”
- Meaning: Small, miscellaneous items or tasks.
- Origin: From “odd”, meaning strange or different.
- Usage: “I’ve got a few odds and ends to sort out today.”
On the pull
- Meaning: Trying to find someone to hook up with or date.
- Origin: Probably derived from the idea of “pulling” someone in or attracting them.
- Usage: “He’s going out tonight, and he’s definitely on the pull.”
On your bike
- Meaning: A way to tell someone to go away.
- Origin: Likely a more polite way to tell someone to leave, suggesting they get on their bike and ride off.
- Usage: “You don’t like it? Well, on your bike then!”
- Meaning: Are you okay?
- Origin: Likely a contraction of “are you alright?”
- Usage: “Orate, mate?”
Out of sorts
- Meaning: Feeling a bit unwell or in a bad mood.
- Origin: This phrase originally referred to printing type that had been used so often it was worn out or damaged.
- Usage: “He seems a bit out of sorts today.”
Over the moon
- Meaning: Extremely pleased or happy.
- Origin: The phrase comes from a time when the moon was used as a measure of distance.
- Usage: “She was over the moon with her exam results.”
- Meaning: Anything.
- Origin: From Old English “āwiht”, meaning “aught” or anything.
- Usage: “You want owt from the shop?”
- Meaning: Armpit.
- Origin: From Middle English “oxter”, of North Germanic origin.
- Usage: “I’ve got a pain in my oxter.”
Off one’s rocker
- Meaning: Mad or crazy.
- Origin: Referring to the idea that a person’s rocker, or balancing mechanism, is not working.
- Usage: “He must be off his rocker to think that!”
- Meaning: Off-license; a store that sells alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises.
- Origin: Shortened form of “off-license”.
- Usage: “I’m going to the offie to grab some beers.”
- Meaning: A rude or obnoxious person.
- Origin: Probably derived from the Greek “oikos” for house – an oik was originally a student from a non-prestigious school or non-Oxbridge University.
- Usage: “Don’t be such an oik!”
- Meaning: Rubbish or of poor quality.
- Origin: Likely a shortened form of “underpants”, implying something is as undesirable as used underwear.
- Usage: “That film was absolute pants!”
- Meaning: Cold weather.
- Origin: Derived from the feeling one might have in a cold park.
- Usage: “It’s a bit parky outside.”
- Meaning: When something goes wrong or awry.
- Origin: Its exact origin is unclear, but it may be related to distorted, misshapen fruit or possibly from aeronautical slang.
- Usage: “The meeting went a bit pear-shaped.”
- Meaning: A little bit hungry.
- Origin: From the word “peck”, like a bird pecking at food.
- Usage: “I’m feeling a tad peckish. Shall we grab a bite?”
- Meaning: To run away quickly.
- Origin: Possibly related to the motion of pegs in machinery, or from the idea of pegging (throwing) oneself forward.
- Usage: “When he saw the police, he pegged it.”
- Meaning: The moment of realization.
- Origin: From the old action of penny-in-the-slot machines, where the penny drops before the action starts.
- Usage: “I had a penny-dropping moment about how the system worked.”
- Meaning: Very cold.
- Origin: Hyperbolic use of the verb “perish”.
- Usage: “It’s perishing outside!”
- Meaning: A foolish or annoying person.
- Origin: Originally a slang term for the male genitals, but now used more widely as a derogatory term.
- Usage: “Don’t be such a pillock.”
- Meaning: Drunk.
- Origin: Possibly derived from the idea of being ‘laid out’ like a wall waiting to be plastered.
- Usage: “He got absolutely plastered last night.”
- Meaning: Lies.
- Origin: Rhyming slang. “Porky pies” rhymes with lies.
- Usage: “Are you telling porkies?”
- Meaning: Elegant, stylish, or upper class.
- Origin: Disputed. Some believe it’s an acronym for “Port Out, Starboard Home”, the most desired ticket on ships traveling from England to India, while others argue it’s from Romany “posh-houri”, meaning “half-pence”.
- Usage: “She lives in a posh part of town.”
- Meaning: Genuine or very good.
- Origin: From the Hindi word “pakka”, meaning “cooked, ripe”.
- Usage: “That’s a pukka job you’ve done there.”
- Meaning: Slang term for the British pound.
- Origin: Originated from the Latin “quid pro quo”, which means “something for something”.
- Usage: “He owes me twenty quid.”
- Meaning: To be in a position where you are profiting or benefiting.
- Origin: Derived from the use of “quid” meaning pound, implying a monetary gain.
- Usage: “If this deal goes through, we’ll be quids in.”
- Meaning: A type of hairstyle where the front hair is styled to stand up and curve back towards the back of the head.
- Origin: The exact origin is uncertain, but it’s been a popular style in various eras.
- Usage: “He’s got a massive quiff today.”
- Meaning: A derogatory slang term for female genitalia.
- Origin: Dates back to the 18th century, but its exact origins are unclear.
- Usage: Not commonly used in modern conversation due to its offensive nature.
- Meaning: A traitor, especially someone who collaborates with an enemy occupation.
- Origin: Named after Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian leader who collaborated with the Nazis during WWII.
- Usage: “He’s nothing but a quisling, siding with them.”
- Meaning: In British English, it can mean “to a moderate degree” or “very”, depending on context.
- Origin: From the Latin “quietus” meaning “quiet” or “calm”, its meaning has evolved over time.
- Usage: “It’s quite cold out.” or “She’s quite the expert.”
- Meaning: A brand of light, curly potato snack. Can also refer to a musical note.
- Origin: The snack’s name might have been inspired by its lightness, much like the musical note’s short duration.
- Usage: “Fancy a pack of quavers?”
- Meaning: Quickly or in a hurry.
- Origin: The exact origin is uncertain but may be related to the idea of moving quickly, as with “sticks” or legs.
- Usage: “Get here quick-sticks!”
- Meaning: A wooden puppet controlled by strings. Can also refer to a politician whose actions are controlled by someone else.
- Origin: A combination of “quock”, an old word for wood, and “wodger”, meaning thing or creature.
- Usage: “He’s nothing but a quockerwodger, doing whatever they tell him.”
Quids for quacks
- Meaning: Money for nothing or very little effort.
- Origin: An alteration of “quids in”, with “quacks” possibly being a nonsensical addition for rhyme.
- Usage: “If we can automate it, it’s quids for quacks.”
- Meaning: Trash, garbage. Can also be used to describe something that’s not very good.
- Origin: Derived from Middle English “rubbous” meaning debris.
- Usage: “Take out the rubbish.” or “That film was rubbish.”
- Meaning: Very drunk.
- Origin: Origin unclear, but it’s a colorful way to describe someone who is beyond tipsy.
- Usage: “He got completely rat-arsed last night.”
- Meaning: An argument or a noisy disturbance.
- Origin: Comes from the Old English “rāw” which means “row or line”, potentially from the noise made in a line of disputing people.
- Usage: “They had a right old row.”
- Meaning: Money, specifically cash.
- Origin: Referring to the reddish color of British banknotes.
- Usage: “Do you have any reddies on you?”
- Meaning: Tea.
- Origin: Cockney rhyming slang. Rosie Lee rhymes with tea.
- Usage: “Fancy a cup of Rosie Lee?”
- Meaning: To call someone on the phone.
- Origin: Refers to the ringing sound phones used to make.
- Usage: “I’ll ring you later.”
- Meaning: Something that’s overpriced or a fraud.
- Origin: Originated in the 1960s in the context of theft.
- Usage: “That bag is a total rip-off.”
- Meaning: Cash or money that’s ready to be spent.
- Origin: Refers to the readiness of the cash to be used.
- Usage: “I’ve got my readies, let’s go shopping.”
- Meaning: A disturbance or quarrel.
- Origin: Possibly from the word “eruption” indicating a sudden outburst.
- Usage: “There were ructions when he arrived.”
- Meaning: A euphemism for sexual activity.
- Origin: Thought to have originated in the 1970s, playful and non-specific term.
- Usage: “They sneaked off for a bit of rumpy pumpy.”
- Meaning: A series of drinks bought for a group at a bar.
- Origin: Refers to the idea of everyone having a turn to buy a “round” of drinks.
- Usage: “It’s your turn to buy the next round.”
- Meaning: To avoid work or duty; to shirk.
- Origin: Originated from the French word “esquiver”, meaning “to dodge”.
- Usage: “He’s trying to skive off work again.”
- Meaning: A derogatory term often used to describe a woman who is considered promiscuous. Can also mean to criticize or insult someone.
- Origin: Derived from the old Norse word “slagg”, which refers to metal impurities.
- Usage: “Don’t slag her off just because you disagree.”
- Meaning: A pseudolaw reflecting the principle that things will go wrong at the worst possible moment.
- Origin: “Sod” is derived from “sodomite”, and the law refers to the idea that “if something can go wrong, it will”.
- Usage: “Of course it rained as soon as the BBQ started. Sod’s law, isn’t it?”
- Meaning: Completely naked.
- Origin: Possibly derived from “stark naked”, with “stark” meaning completely or absolutely.
- Usage: “He ran through the field starkers!”
- Meaning: A long, passionate kiss.
- Origin: Possibly from the Old Norse “snogga”, meaning “to snuggle”.
- Usage: “They had a good snog at the end of the date.”
- Meaning: Food.
- Origin: Originated from the British naval slang.
- Usage: “I’m starving, let’s get some scran.”
- Meaning: Having no money; broke.
- Origin: Potentially derived from “skinned”, implying nothing left.
- Usage: “I can’t go out tonight, I’m skint.”
Spend a penny
- Meaning: A euphemism for going to the toilet.
- Origin: Refers to the old practice of having to pay a penny to use a public restroom.
- Usage: “Excuse me, I need to spend a penny.”
- Meaning: A large and luxurious meal.
- Origin: Thought to derive from the idea of food being slapped onto a plate.
- Usage: “We had a slap-up meal at that new restaurant.”
- Meaning: Organized, arranged, or resolved.
- Origin: From the traditional definition of “sort”, to arrange or set in some kind of order.
- Usage: “Got my weekend plans all sorted.”
- Meaning: Ingratiating and wheedling in a way that is perceived as insincere or excessive.
- Origin: Unknown, but has been in use since the late 19th century.
- Usage: “He’s such a smarmy salesman.”
- Meaning: Irritable or short-tempered.
- Origin: Possibly from the idea of someone’s collar getting tight when they’re angry.
- Usage: “Don’t get shirty with me!”
- Meaning: A derogatory slang term for a person considered to be foolish or contemptible.
- Origin: Derives from “toss off”, a slang term for male masturbation, but its usage has broadened to be a general insult.
- Usage: “Don’t listen to him; he’s a complete tosser.”
- Meaning: Television.
- Origin: Simply a shortened form of the word “television”.
- Usage: “What’s on the telly tonight?”
- Meaning: A silly or foolish person.
- Origin: Unknown, but has been in use since the early 20th century.
- Usage: “You can be such a twit sometimes.”
- Meaning: A colloquial term for the male genitalia.
- Origin: Unknown.
- Usage: “He got hit right in the todger with that football.”
Take the piss
- Meaning: To mock, ridicule, or take advantage of someone.
- Origin: Possibly related to old slang meaning being “annoyed” or “disgruntled”.
- Usage: “Are you taking the piss out of me?”
- Meaning: Fine, okay, or in satisfactory condition.
- Origin: Likely from the Hindu “ṭhīk hai, bābū”, which means “It’s alright, sir”.
- Usage: “Everything’s tickety-boo on my end.”
- Meaning: Refers to a woman who dresses in a provocative manner. Also refers to a loved one or sweetheart, similar to “dear” or “darling”.
- Origin: Shortened from “sweetheart”.
- Usage: “Hello, tart. How was your day?”
- Meaning: Nonsense or rubbish.
- Origin: Possibly from Romani “tajo”, meaning “thing”.
- Usage: “That’s complete tosh!”
- Meaning: Two shillings in pre-decimal currency. Used in phrases to indicate something is cheap or of low quality.
- Origin: Refers to the British pre-decimal currency system.
- Usage: “It looks a bit two bob, doesn’t it?”
Throw a wobbly
- Meaning: To get very angry or to throw a tantrum.
- Origin: Possibly from the visual of something wobbling out of control.
- Usage: “She threw a wobbly when she found out.”
- Meaning: A small amount of money. Historically, it referred to two pennies.
- Origin: From the old British coinage system.
- Usage: “I wouldn’t pay tuppence for that.”
- Meaning: To refill a drink or increase the amount of credit on a mobile phone or card.
- Origin: Literal meaning of adding to the top of something.
- Usage: “Could you top up my wine, please?”
Up the duff
- Meaning: Pregnant.
- Origin: The exact origin is uncertain, but it’s been in use since at least the early 20th century.
- Usage: “Did you hear? She’s up the duff.”
- Meaning: Anxious or angry in a tense and overly controlled way.
- Origin: Thought to originate in the late 1930s from “up-tight”, meaning in a state of tension or high alert.
- Usage: “Don’t get so uptight about it.”
Use your loaf
- Meaning: Use your head or think about it.
- Origin: Cockney rhyming slang – “loaf of bread” = “head”.
- Usage: “Come on, use your loaf!”
- Meaning: Short for “university”.
- Origin: Simply an abbreviation.
- Usage: “He’s off to uni next month.”
- Meaning: Stimulant drugs, especially amphetamines.
- Origin: Refers to the stimulating, “upper” effect of the drugs.
- Usage: “He’s been taking uppers all night.”
Under the weather
- Meaning: Feeling ill or out of sorts.
- Origin: Possibly nautical in origin, referring to sailors who went below deck due to illness, thus being under the weather.
- Usage: “I’m feeling a bit under the weather today.”
Up for it
- Meaning: Eager or willing to try something out or participate.
- Origin: Simply a direct meaning of the words, indicating one’s readiness or willingness.
- Usage: “Are you up for a game of footy?”
- Meaning: To move from one’s current place of residence.
- Origin: Possibly from the idea of picking up one’s belongings (like a tent or campsite) to move.
- Usage: “They’ve upped sticks and moved to the coast.”
Up one’s street
- Meaning: Suited to one’s tastes or abilities.
- Origin: Likely derived from the idea of something being in one’s neighborhood or area of expertise.
- Usage: “Cooking? That’s right up her street.”
- Meaning: A board game played in the Royal Navy, similar to Ludo.
- Origin: Shortened form of “Uckers Bucker”, a variation of the name “Ludo”.
- Usage: “Fancy a game of uckers?”
- Meaning: Annoyed, frustrated, or worried.
- Origin: From Old French vexer, or Latin vexare meaning ‘to shake, jolt, or annoy’.
- Usage: “I was really vexed when he didn’t show up on time.”
- Meaning: A traditional Romany wagon or caravan.
- Origin: From the Romani word for wagon.
- Usage: “They traveled around the country in a colorful vardo.”
- Meaning: Relax to the point of complete inertia.
- Origin: Derived from the word “vegetable”, implying the inactive state of vegetables.
- Usage: “After a long day at work, I just want to veg out in front of the TV.”
- Meaning: Somewhat or nearly.
- Origin: Derived from the word “very” with the “-ish” suffix.
- Usage: “The color is veryish like the one I wanted.”
- Meaning: Energy or enthusiasm.
- Origin: Possibly from Latin “vim”, the accusative case of “vis” meaning “force” or “power”.
- Usage: “She tackled the project with vim and vigor.”
- Meaning: Wine.
- Origin: Shortened form of the Spanish/Italian word “vino”, meaning wine.
- Usage: “Let’s crack open a bottle of vino.”
- Meaning: Emergency money carried by a woman in case a date goes poorly.
- Origin: From the term “vex”, meaning to be annoyed. The idea is having money in case one is annoyed or inconvenienced.
- Usage: “Always have some vex money with you just in case.”
- Meaning: A dated reference to a swooning fit or a state of nervousness or anxiety.
- Origin: Historically, believed to be related to fumes from the womb affecting the brain, a once-popular medical theory.
- Usage: “She got the vapours when she saw the price tag.”
- Meaning: Short for “vegetable” or “vegetarian”.
- Origin: Simply an abbreviation.
- Usage: “Are there any veg options on the menu?”
- Meaning: A derogatory term referring to a woman who is considered promiscuous.
- Origin: The implication being that everyone in the village has “had a ride”.
- Usage: (This term is derogatory and should be avoided)
- Meaning: To speak or write at length in a vague or trivial manner.
- Origin: Possibly related to the weaving pattern of a waffle, going back and forth without clear direction.
- Usage: “He tends to waffle on without making a clear point.”
- Meaning: A humorous or mischievous person; also refers to truanting from school.
- Origin: Shortened form of “waghalter”, a 16th-century term for a mischievous boy.
- Usage: “He’s such a wag, always up to some prank.”
- Meaning: Effort or force. Also refers to wellington boots.
- Origin: “Welly” for force might come from ‘give it some welly’, meaning to put effort into something; the boot is from the Duke of Wellington.
- Usage: “Put some welly into it!” or “It’s raining; best wear your wellies.”
- Meaning: To complain persistently and in a peevish or irritating way.
- Origin: From Old English “hwinsian” meaning ‘to whine’.
- Usage: “He does nothing but whinge about the weather.”
- Meaning: To tease or to irritate someone intentionally; or to conclude something.
- Origin: Possibly from the winding motion, as in winding a clock, leading to the idea of ‘setting someone off’.
- Usage: “Are you winding me up?” or “Let’s wind up this meeting.”
- Meaning: Not straight; shaky or unsteady; not reliable.
- Origin: Unknown, first known use in the 1910s.
- Usage: “That shelf looks a bit wonky.”
- Meaning: A greeting, short for “what cheer” or “what do you say”.
- Origin: Derived from “what chere be with you?” which is Middle English.
- Usage: “Wotcha mate, how’s it going?”
- Meaning: A derogatory term used to describe someone acting in an undesirable manner.
- Origin: British slang, referring to masturbation.
- Usage: “Don’t be such a wanker.”
- Meaning: An unintended exposure of bodily parts.
- Origin: Popularized after the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show incident involving Janet Jackson.
- Usage: “She had a minor wardrobe malfunction during the event, but handled it gracefully.”
- Meaning: Out of order; not right. Also can mean to hit something.
- Origin: Old English “whacian”, meaning ‘to strike’.
- Usage: “That’s totally whack.” or “I might whack the TV to get it working.”
- Meaning: Suitable for adults only because of sexual or violent content.
- Origin: Originally a film classification in the UK from the British Board of Film Censors (now the British Board of Film Classification). It was introduced in 1951 and was replaced by the “18” rating in 1982.
- Usage: “That movie isn’t for kids; it’s X-rated.”
- Meaning: A phrase used to indicate a precise location, especially on a map or diagram.
- Origin: Often linked with pirate tales where X would mark the location of hidden treasure on a map.
- Usage: “You’ll find the building right here, X-marks-the-spot.”
- Meaning: To talk incessantly.
- Origin: Possibly onomatopoeic, imitating the sound of constant chatter.
- Usage: “She just yaks on and on about her holidays.”
- Meaning: To pull with a jerk; also a colloquial term for an American.
- Origin: For pulling – Old English “geonc”, meaning ‘to pull’; for American – Short for “Yankee”, which has origins dating to the American Revolutionary War.
- Usage: “Yank that cord!” or “He’s a Yank, from New York.”
- Meaning: A very long time.
- Origin: Possibly a corrupted version of “donkey’s years”, which also means a long time.
- Usage: “I haven’t seen him in yonks.”
- Meaning: A rude or uncouth person.
- Origin: It’s “boy” spelled backward and is believed to have been used as a code by Victorian prison guards to refer to troublesome inmates.
- Usage: “Don’t hang around with those yobs.”
- Meaning: A young professional person working in a city.
- Origin: 1980s: abbreviation of ‘young upwardly mobile professional’.
- Usage: “The city center is full of yuppies.”
- Meaning: A long, often elaborate narrative of real or fictive adventures; an entertaining tale.
- Origin: Old English “gearn”, in the sense of ‘spun thread’.
- Usage: “He always has a good yarn to share about his travels.”
- Meaning: To talk persistently and loudly.
- Origin: Middle English, from Old English “geomrian” to lament; akin to Old High German “jammern” to moan.
- Usage: “She’d yammer on about her problems to anyone who’d listen.”
- Meaning: An expression of excitement or enthusiasm.
- Origin: Perhaps a variant of German “Jawohl” or simply an expressive formation.
- Usage: “Yowser! That’s an impressive trick.”
- Meaning: Sleep.
- Origin: From the letter ‘Z’, often associated with sleeping sounds in comic strips.
- Usage: “I need to catch some zeds before the big day tomorrow.”
- Meaning: Extremely tired or exhausted; sometimes used to mean intoxicated or drugged.
- Origin: 1960s, perhaps echoing the sound of a heavy object hitting the ground.
- Usage: “After that long hike, I’m absolutely zonked.”
- Meaning: A pattern made up of small corners at variable angles.
- Origin: Late 17th century, from French. It’s imitative, from the sound of something moving to and fro.
- Usage: “The road goes in a zigzag up the mountain.”
- Meaning: A man’s suit with high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed trousers and a long coat with padded shoulders.
- Origin: 1930s and 1940s, especially in the Hispanic community in the US. From “zoot” which is possibly a reduplication of “suit”.
- Usage: “He wore a zoot suit with a reet pleat.”
- Meaning: Nothing at all.
- Origin: 1960s, perhaps from US slang “zilchus” meaning ‘worthless person’, of unknown origin.
- Usage: “How much money do you have? Zilch.”
- Meaning: Lively, energetic.
- Origin: 1960s, of unknown origin; perhaps related to zap.
- Usage: “It was a zappy tune that got everyone on their feet.”
- Meaning: A magazine, especially a self-published or underground publication.
- Origin: Shortened from “magazine”.
- Usage: “She publishes her poetry in a quarterly zine.”
- Meaning: Move or travel very quickly; or increase suddenly and significantly.
- Origin: Onomatopoeic; mimicking the sound of a fast-moving object.
- Usage: “He zoomed past me on the motorway.”
- Meaning: Police patrol cars.
- Origin: From the 1962-1978 BBC television drama series “Z-Cars”.
- Usage: “Call the Zed Cars to the scene.”
- Meaning: Make more exciting, lively, or attractive.
- Origin: 1970s, possibly from Polari, the coded language used by some gay men in Britain in the mid-20th century, from Romani “žužo” ‘clean, neat’.
- Usage: “She zhooshed up her outfit with some flashy accessories.”
That’s it for our list of British slang! Thanks for continuing to expand your vocabulary with us. Did we miss something? Let us know down below in the comments ⤵.
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