Guide To British Slang: 40+ Common British Phrases and Words
Have you ever caught yourself thinking that you don’t understand a word from Peaky Blinders, Black Mirror, or any other favorite British TV show you’ve been watching for years? Or your friend from London started to say absolute gibberish at some point in your communication. Suppose you are acquainted with any of these or similar situations, congratulations. At some point in your life, you have faced the great and mighty British slang.
Even if you have a sufficient level of English proficiency, sometimes it is not enough, especially if you meet native speakers. Slang nowadays is an integral part of people’s lives. And in our complete guide, you will find the most common British sayings, idioms, catchphrases, and other things that will help you to be more confident in your speaking level.
British slang words vs. American slang words – is there a difference?
If you read the Promova blog regularly (and if not, we highly recommend starting), you already know how British and American accents differ. But is there any difference between the US and British slang words? The answer is definitely yes. Moreover, many words have opposite meanings in these two countries. Let’s take a closer look at the most common ones so that you won’t be confused in the future.
- Purse. Let’s start with the words with minor differences, so you won’t be shocked from the very first seconds. In the US, people say purse when they refer to a lady’s handbag, while Brits use this word for a wallet.
- Pants. Another great word that describes different types of clothes – is outerwear in America and underwear in Britain.
- Bird. When someone calls you a bird in the UK, you should know it is a colloquial way to say “a woman.” Even though it is one of the widespread things British people say, Americans still use it to refer to little feather friends.
- Rubber. If you’ve learned British English in school, you know that rubber is a little thing that helps you to get rid of pencil marks. In the US, it is not a kid’s word. They use it to refer to a condom. So be careful when you ask for rubber from your American friend – they might be a little confused.
- Jumper. In the Cambridge dictionary, the jumper is a piece of clothing you wear when you are cold – Americans call it a sweater. But in the States, the word has a much darker definition. Usually, they say a jumper about a person who is about or has already committed suicide by jumping from a tall building. Not very pleasant, right?
- Pissed. When people in America are pissed, they are furious about something. And if a British person tells you that they are pissed – you better give them a ride home because they are drunk.
- Geezer. It is a rather rude word in both languages. Brits use it to describe hypermasculine men – those who like beer, football, and other stereotypical manly stuff. In America, a geezer is just an older man (but again, it is not very polite!).
Those are just a few of many unique words and sayings that mean something different in the UK and the US. And we invite you to move on to become acquainted with more unique British phrases for various life situations.
5 British phrases and words you can use to make your friends feel good about themselves
It is good to start with something pleasant. And what can be lovelier than a compliment? You can use many common British phrases to cheer up a friend or a stranger. Below, you will find the most popular ones and learn how to use them in daily conversation.
- Smart/Smartly dressed.
Usually, we use the word smart to describe a clever and intelligent person. But Brits use it to say something not about the mental state, but how the referred person looks. For example:
I love your dress, Jenna! You look smart.
- As bright as a button.
In contrast to the previous one, these are among the most British things to say about how smart a person is. For example:
My sister is getting a second degree. She is as bright as a button.
- To fancy someone.
It means to like someone really much. It is British to say that you have a crush on a person. For example:
I have to say, Joseph, I quite fancy you.
You can use this word to describe your handsome and sexy friend. For example:
I wish you could meet Jamie. He is so buff!
When you hear a British saying you are peng, you should know that you are really, really hot. For example:
I don’t know anyone who would disagree that Angelina is peng.
6 British expressions to describe your feelings
When talking to someone, you often have to describe how you feel. It can be your attitude towards something or your well-being in general. Below, you will find examples of the most popular British slang that will help you to describe how you feel.
The synonym of this expression is to feel devastated. You can use it when you are sad or disappointed about circumstances or the turn of events. For example:
I spoke to Alice last night. She was gutted because James had canceled their date.
You can use this British slang, meaning you are exhausted. And someone can say it to you as well. For example:
– I have been working for 13 hours without a break.
– Wow. Now I understand why you look so knackered.
When you hear Brits saying they are chuffed about something, you should be happy for them because this word means being proud of something you’ve achieved. For example:
I’ve been going to the gym thrice a week for a year and finally feel strong. What can I say? I feel chuffed.
This word consists of two different slang words. According to the Urban Dictionary, Gob is a colloquial way to say the mouth, and smacked means hitting something. So to be gobsmacked verbatim means to be hit in the mouth. But in the conversation, this English expression is used to say that you are shocked or surprised about something. For example:
When my sister told me she was pregnant, I was gobsmacked.
You can be buzzin’ in two cases – when you are really excited about something and feel a little drunk (but not pissed!). And yeah, you can feel both buzzin’ at the same time. For example:
I’m a little buzzin’ because I’ve just passed my last exam.
- Brassed off.
It is one of those British expressions that you use to say that you are upset, pissed off, or annoyed about something. For example:
Jenna always takes my clothes without permission, and I’m brassed off.
7 British slang phrases to spice up your conversation
There are two basic types of conversations – formal and informal. The first type is the one you have with your boss, teacher, and other official discussions. Using fun and zany British slang phrases is not always appropriate when you have a formal conversation. But when you talk to your friends, these phrases are necessary. Take a look at the most common idioms, and expressions Brits use in their daily life.
- Bugger all.
If you want to say “nothing at all” but sound like a native, use this expression instead. For example:
I know bugger all about quantum physics.
- The hair of the dog.
It is a funny one. This expression refers to an alcoholic drink that you have to heal your hangover. It comes from one of famous Ancient England sayings, “Hair of the dog that bit you.” For example:
Molly and I were pissed yesterday, and now we need the hair of the dog.
- Knees up.
It is a great way to say about a party or any other type of celebration. But you should remember that it is still slang, so don’t use it in formal conversations. For example:
I decided to meet a bunch of my friends in the pub for good old knees up.
- Hanky panky.
Those are very British words to say about the things happening between a couple. There is no exact meaning of it, but usually, people use it as a reference for making out. For example:
Yes, you can go on that date with Steve. But remember, no hanky panky!
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Britain? Probably a lot, but we bet that there is something about tea. Cuppa is one of those English sayings UK residents use as a short form of a cup of tea. For example:
Oi, mate, do you fancy a cuppa?
These words are equivalent to what in America is called dude or buddy. You can use them to describe our friend in a British manner. For example:
Hey, mate! Long time no see.
You might be surprised, but this British phrase is used when you want to say “cigarette.” Yes, just that. For example:
Can you buy me a pack of fags on your way home?
Three of the most British phrases to say hello
You might think that there are not so many ways to greet someone. But it is not true. The English language is full of idioms and phrases you can use when meeting someone. Below, you can find our British expressions list that will help you to say hello to your friends in a non-standard way.
It is the most common British greeting. And often, you don’t even have to answer it. For example:
- What’s the craic?
This phrase is widespread in Northern Ireland, and usually, people use it to warmly ask you about the latest news or gossip you might want to share. For example:
Alright, Jane, long time no see. What’s the craic?
You can use it in both offline and online conversations with your friends. It is a great and unconventional way to say hello. For example:
Hiya! How is it going?
Non-standard British phrases and words to describe regular things
The English language is vibrant, and we don’t expect you to remember all existing words. But still, there are some things you should know to be prepared for the dialogue with your UK mates. Below, you will find British phrases and words that you might not know but might need.
It is a word to describe a man, especially if you want to emphasize his masculinity. For example:
Look at that bloke over there! He is huge!
This one is similar to the previous word but less informal. You can use it when you would like to sound polite and well-educated. For example:
That chap over there seems to be in a hurry.
This expression is used as a way to say “thank you,” “goodbye,” or even “hello.” It is very versatile, and you will definitely hear it a lot. For example:
Cheers, mate! I owe you one.
It is one of the widespread British people’s sayings that means to have a conversation with someone. For example:
Jamie and I had a great chinwag, like in the old times.
Use this phrase to say that everything is under control and there is nothing to worry about. It is informal but still can be used in different situations. For example:
I have sorted out all the details for our trip to Scotland.
You can use this short “thank you” form in both formal and informal settings. For example:
Ta, love! I appreciate it.
- Bog standard.
This phrase is used to describe something that is very ordinary and has no special features. For example:
This hotel is quite a bog standard, but the location is good.
If you want to call someone an idiot in a British way, use this word. But be careful with its usage as some people consider it offensive. For example:
Can you believe he did that? What a prat!
This word is used as an intensifier and usually goes along with other words to emphasize them. For example:
That was a ruddy awful day. I hate my life.
If you want to say “kiss” in a British way, use this word. For example:
He saw her across the room and couldn’t resist giving her a snog.
Bonus! 5 NSFW British sentences that can be handy
We all are people, and sometimes we become so angry that we just can’t control our emotions and use literature language. It is not very good, but it is also not that bad. At least you will sound like a local. Below you can find some NSFW (and it means Not Safe For Work – don’t use them speaking to your boss…or your granny) British sentences and phrases that might come in different circumstances.
This word is used to describe something that is nonsense or not true. You can also use it as an exclamation. For example:
That’s a load of bollocks, and you know it!
Bollocks! I’ve lost my phone again.
- Bugger off.
This phrase has a very literal meaning of “to copulate with an animal,” but still, it is mainly used as a way to tell someone to go away. For example:
I don’t want to talk. Bugger off!
- Brass monkeys.
It is one of those popular English phrases UK citizens say in autumn and winter. It means that it is freezing cold. The original phrase sounds like, “It’s colder than a brass monkey’s balls out there!” That is why we marked it NSFW. For example:
You should wear a jumper. It’s brass monkeys outside.
Not very polite, but an impressive intensifier. If you know Peaky Blinders, you probably heard it from one of Shelby’s. For example:
Oi! Are you bloody insane, mate?!
If you want to insult an older person, call them a duffer. But please, don’t do it without reason. It is another way to say “idiot” like Brits.
My neighbor is a duffer. I can’t live a day without his meanness.
How to learn British slang quickly with Promova?
Is it necessary to learn all of these British phrases and idioms? Of course, no. You can have a proficient language level even without them. But if you don’t want to sound like a school teacher anytime you speak English, you should use some of these British phrases to say daily things in non-standard ways.
If you’ve decided to revive your conversation skills and learn some widespread sang idioms and phrases, there are many ways to do so. First of all, you can start by yourself. Visit some modern websites, like Urban Dictionary, that contain millions of British English phrases and sayings with definitions and examples.
But if you don’t want to spend hours finding the word you need, just seek some professional help. Promova is a modern English-teaching platform that knows how to cover all needs of learners of different experience levels. Our teachers will tell you all the best tricks for learning a language, and you will find out the most popular slang expressions, old-school idioms, and other things to make you sound like a native speaker.
And don’t forget about the convenient Promova application! Here you will find thrilling lessons, excellent exercises, and popular English phrases to use anywhere and anytime. So, what are you waiting for? Install the app, and head towards your goal right now! You can also practice how to pronounce common British phrases and words with this video:
British slang is a particular type of language that consists of numerous exciting expressions and sayings. While some British phrases and idioms are used only in some areas of the UK, others are widespread throughout the country.
In this article, we have gathered the most popular British English phrases and explained their meaning and usage. We hope that now you know how to sound like a native speaker and impress everyone with your knowledge of British slang!
How can I learn British slang?
There are many ways to learn British sayings and idioms. You can find out the most popular words in online dictionaries, watch more entertaining content like TV shows and movies in English, or seek help from professional teachers offline or online on platforms like Promova. And you can also use mobile apps if you want to study on the go!
Why is learning British slang important?
Learning British slang is not obligatory unless you would like to sound like a native speaker. However, if you use some of these British idioms and phrases in your speech, you will definitely impress your conversation partners. And it will also help you feel more confident because the more informal words you use, the more naturally you sound.
What are some of the most popular British slang words?
Some of the most popular British sayings include “ta” (thank you), “bog standard” (ordinary), “prat” (idiot), “ruddy” (intensifier), and “snog” (kiss). When you hear some of these words from a stranger, you may be sure they came from the United Kingdom. And if you start to use them by yourself, you will pleasantly surprise your British mates.
Is it possible to learn British slang at home?
Absolutely! You can do it yourself by watching TV shows, reading books and magazines, or speaking to natives. And if you still need some help but don’t want to visit an offline tutor, you can find an online English-teaching platform with professionals that will be happy to help you to achieve your goals.