British Slang Words: What Does It All Mean?
Whether you enjoy following the Royal Family or binging shows like “Doctor Who” and “Peaky Blinders,” you’ve undoubtedly come across some of the weird and wonderful words that make up British slang. Even though these British words are still part of the English language, their meanings tend to be very different from what other English-speaking countries are used to.
UK slang in general can seem like a whole different language, but there are also quite a few regional differences amongst inhabitants. In fact, different areas within the same region, or even the same city, can have their own distinct British slang words. For example, London slang words can be vastly different from British terms used in the city of Manchester. If you’re traveling between various regions, keep your ears open and try to notice the differences. You’ll quickly pick-up contrasting meanings between other English speaking countries and common English slang words. So, let’s crack on and get to the list of British slang words innit!
50 Must-Know British Slang Words and Phrases
“Bloke” would be the American English equivalent of “dude.” It means a "man."
In the same vein as “bloke,” “lad” is used, however, for boys and younger men.
Not necessarily intended in a bad way, "bonkers" means “mad” or “crazy.”
Used to mean if something is a bit stupid. It’s not particularly offensive, just a mildly silly or foolish piece of UK slang.
5. To leg it
This term means to run away, usually from some trouble! “I legged it from the police.”
6. Trollied / Plastered
These two words are British slang for drunk. One can get creative here and just add “ed” to the end of practically any object to get across the same meaning eg. hammered.
This is British slang for British pounds. Some people also refer to it as “squid.”
This England slang word is used to describe something or someone a little suspicious or questionable. For example, it can refer to food which tastes out of date or, when referring to a person, it can mean that they are a bit sketchy.
This is a truly British expression. “Gobsmacked” means to be utterly shocked or surprised beyond belief. “Gob” is a British expression for “mouth”.
This is short for the word “beverages,” usually alcoholic, most often beer.
“Knackered” is used when someone is extremely tired. For example, “I was up studying all night last night, I’m absolutely knackered.”
12. Lost the plot
Someone who has “lost the plot” has become either angry, irrational, or is acting ridiculously. For example, "When my dad saw the mess I made, he lost the plot.”
13. Taking the piss
This is one of the most commonly used British slang phrases. To “take the piss” means to mock, or generally be sarcastic towards something. For example, “Don’t be so serious, I was only taking the piss.” Not to be confused with “being pissed” (see below).
The British sure do love their bevvys. This is one of the many British terms for being drunk
15. Throwing a wobbly
This British expression means to have a tantrum, however, tends to be used when describing tantrums thrown by adults, or people who should otherwise know better.
16. A cuppa
A cuppa is the shortened version of “a cup of tea.” You might hear the expression “fancy a cuppa?” quite often which is normally always referring to tea. The British do love their tea after all!
As British slang, “bloody” places emphasis on a comment or another word. “That’s bloody brilliant!” for example. It is regarded as a mild expletive (swear word) but due to its common usage, it is generally acceptable. For example, “Oh bloody hell!”
18. Can’t be arsed
A commonly used British slang sentence is “Can’t be arsed.” This is a less polite version of saying that you can’t be bothered doing something. You might also see this abbreviated to “CBA” in textspeak.
If someone is "chuffed," they are very happy or delighted.
“Skint” is a British expression to mean being broke or having no money. Lacking “fivers” and “tenners” if you will (see below).
A five-pound note.
A ten-pound note.
Not a muddy marsh, but a toilet. Oh, the British!
24. Bog roll
These British words refer to the paper you use in the bog, also known as “toilet paper.”
This is British slang for a girl or a woman.
“Mug” is more specifically London slang and is associated with the cockney accent. This is not a particularly nice word to describe someone as it means a fool or a stupid person.
This is a derogatory British slang word for a young hooligan who normally starts fights and makes trouble. “Chavs” are usually seen as lower class.
“Git” is a British expression of insult. It’s chav slang to describe a person, usually a man, who is very unpleasant, incompetent, or is an idiot.
This is used to describe someone’s behavior. If someone is being “cheeky,” they are being slightly rude or disrespectful but in a charming or amusing way. If you are a “cheeky” child, you are being brash or disrespectful and will probably get into trouble.
30. Slag off
To “slag someone off” means to make fun of a person by verbally attacking them.
This British expression shares a similar meaning to “devil” or “thing” and is used to refer to a person, particularly a man. “You stupid sod!“ or “You lucky sod!” for example.
"Grafting" is Scottish slang denoting a lad who is trying to get a girl to like him. A bit like flirting. You'll hear this one a lot on the British Love Island.
Another great British insult. A “muppet” is a person who is ignorant and is generally a bit clueless.
In the UK, “pants” typically refers to underwear. However, “pants” can also be used as an equivalent of the word "bad" e.g. "That's pants!"
Yet another classic British slang term of insult. A “prat” is someone who is full of themselves and, almost invariably, stupid as well. With a hint of delusion.
“That’s real good nosh!” “Nosh” is a British expression for "food."
“Buzzin’” can mean to be tipsy or slightly drunk, "I'm buzzin' after that pint." It’s also British slang for being excited or very happy, “I just booked my holiday to Spain, I’m absolutely buzzin’.”
38. Pied off
This is not a nice feeling. If you’ve been “pied off,” you’ve been rejected or shot down.
This one had most of us confused when we first heard it on Love Island 2019. “Bev” means a "handsome man."
40. To crack on
“To crack on with something” means to get started or continue with something. To use these UK slang words in a sentence you’d say, “It’s getting late, I better crack on.”
Meaning of being bitterly disappointed about something. “I was absolutely gutted when I heard the bad news.”
“Blimey” is used as a way of expressing surprise at something, “Blimey, look at that!”
Get your mind out of the gutter! A “cock-up” is a mistake or failure, "I made a total cock-up of it."
If you’ve gotten yourself into a “kerfuffle,” you are generally involved in a disagreement with someone. “Kerfuffle” also has a similar meaning to “fuss.” For example, you can say, “It was all a big kerfuffle.”
This is one of the most commonly heard UK slangs. It’s the shortened and easier version of “isn’t it?” It’s seen as a general filler in a conversation or when seeking confirmation, eg. "Cool, innit."
When something or someone is “cracking” it means that the thing or the person is particularly good or excellent. For example, “He’s a cracking lad” or “That’s a cracking cuppa.”
This is British slang for “disgusting” or “gross.”
“Proper” is used as an alternative to “very” or “extremely.” For example, “That’s proper good nosh, innit.”
49. To nick
This is a British expression to mean stealing. As in “I nicked these sweets from the shop.”
50. Faffing around
“Faffing around” is a very British pleasure. It means doing nothing particularly productive or taking unnecessary time to do something that should be relatively quick or straightforward.
For your convenience and entertainment, we have put together a PDF document with a list of the British slang words and phrases which you can download here.
How to learn British slang
British slang is almost a language in itself. It might be hard to find material to study, as you won’t find it in your standard English textbooks, but if you look a little harder, there are plenty of sources out there that will teach you some great British slang terms. The key to becoming familiar with British slang is exposure. Here are some ideas on how to immerse yourself in the British English language.
We also have a pretty awesome article about British stereotypes, so feel free to check that out if you’re interested!
British TV shows
“The Inbetweeners” is a popular British comedy that follows a group of four socially troubled friends growing from their teenage years into adulthood. They also have two movies released, one in 2012 and the other in 2014. This group of friends uses British slang words constantly, making it a great resource to familiarize yourself with practical applications.
“The Royle Family” is an absolute classic. It’s a British sitcom produced for the BBC (the national broadcaster for the UK) and follows the everyday life of the average working-class family in Manchester. This one will have you in stitches, uses popular British slangs, and is great to watch with the family.
Some other great British TV shows include:
“Little Britain” – a British sketch comedy, that is also a great option to watch with the family.
“The Great British Bake Off” – a British television baking competition. Don’t take it to be another cookery program, however. “The Great British Bake Off” (GBBO for short) is riddled with light-hearted humor and is very fun to watch.
“Misfits” – a British science-fiction comedy-drama about a group of young offenders sentenced to work in a community service program, where they obtain supernatural powers.
Speaking with a native speaker
No one knows British slang better than the British! The fastest and most efficient way to learn British slang is to speak with a native speaker. Where can I find one of them? Enter Tandem…
The Tandem Language Exchange app connects language learners with native speakers all over the world for free. With millions of members, Tandem is the largest global language learning community out there. Practice speaking 180+ languages, including 12 sign languages, by chatting via text, audio messages, and video calling.
Listening to British music
British slang appears often in British pop, rap, and hip hop. Listen to music from British artists and check out the lyrics of the songs. To get you started we have some suggestions for some great British artists below.
British rap and hip hop artists: Stormzy, Professor Green, Dizzee Rascal, and Wretch 32.
British pop artists: Ed Sheeran, Lily Allen, Jessie J, Rita Ora, Dua Lipa, and Sam Smith.
How confident do you feel with British English slang expressions? Here is a quiz for you to test your knowledge. Good luck!