The English language, being the most spoken language in the world if you were to count both native and non-native speakers, is spoken in more than a hundred countries across all continents. What's interesting about it is although it is technically one same language, there are countless varieties, not only from one country to another, but even from one town to the next.
In this article we feature the most common slang words and phrases in the UK. Note that some of these may have made it to the US. We define each word and phrase, and we show you how to use them in a sentence.
A Word of Caution
British English is full of creative and colorful ways to express yourself. Note however that some of these words and phrases may have nuances that may be offensive to others. So always be careful about the context in which you use them.
British Slang Word and Phrases
- Brilliant, excellent, or awesome.
- Example: Wow, this paper is ace! You should have gotten at least an A.
- Anyhow, anyway.
- Example: Any road, I have a meeting to attend to in 5 minutes.
A load of tosh
- A bunch of nonsense. Tosh sometimes means copper or rubbish.
- Example: Sometimes, I feel like voting doesn’t matter anymore as all the politicians spit out a load of tosh.
A Kent face
- It means someone you know or a familiar face.
- Example: I saw a few Kent faces during the reunion but I can’t recall all of them.
Adam and Eve
- It is used as a substitute for the word believe. (How? Because it rhymes.)
- Example: Would you Adam and Eve it if I told you that I just won the lottery?
- Something that is very good or of high quality. It may also refer to an admirable and attention-catching person.
- Example: This warm tea is the bee’s knees, especially in a cold morning.
Bite your arm off
- Accept something immediately/willingly/eagerly.
- Example: My paper is definitely going nowhere; so I'll bite your arm off if you offer to write it for me.
- Annoyed, irritated or fed up because of boredom.
- Example: I am a bit brassed off when I see him doing those stupid antics of his.
Bits 'n Bobs
- Tiny parts or objects belonging to something
- Example: Besides the bits 'n bobs of furniture, the apartment is practically empty.
Bob's your uncle
- Alternative to “it is done” or “there you go” or "there you have it"
- Example: Just add sugar and salt before mixing and Bob’s your uncle. You have a delicious soup.
- To inspect or look at something.
- Example: Come out back and have a butcher’s hook at this. I think we need to clean up again.
- A pleasant greeting or farewell.
- Example: Cheerio, I have a meeting to catch. I hope to see you later.
Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs
- Do not try to act superior with someone who has more experience or do not try to give someone advice on something they're already good at.
- Example: I've been working here for 20 years; don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs.
- Someone who is sexy or very attractive.
- Example: He does nothing but follow dishy models on Instagram.
Don't cry over spilt milk
- Don’t be upset at things that already happened as there is no way to change them.
- Example: I lost all the money I worked so hard to earn; but I guess I shouldn't cry over spilt milk.
- Someone who is stupid, dumb, or silly
- Example: Your girlfriend is a daft cow for leaving you.
- A very long time or an extended period.
- Example: It’s been donkey's years since I got to play video games and relax. Work has been so stressful.
- A dump or a bad place. Denotes that an establishment is of poor quality
- Example: This bar is dive but it's the only thing we can afford.
- Super simple or easy
- Example: Using Instagram or any social media is easy peasy; even a kid could do it.
Effing and blinding
- Swearing or cursing. Effing refers to f*ck while blinding originates from the phrase “God blind me.”
- Example: I was effing and blinding for hours after I lost my wallet at the party.
- Refers to a stupid person or idiot. It is actually pronounced as “idiot” with a slight Irish accent
- Example: He is an eejit for thinking he could just pull a stunt like that.
- A short break for drinks and snacks, usually at 11 am.
- Example: Elevenses is really what keeps me sane after all the morning grind.
- A bunch of rumors or news. It may also mean an outpour of anger and scolding.
- Example: We’ll get an earful again for staying out all night.
Full of beans
- In high spirits, energetic, enthusiastic.
- Example: You've been full of beans since you started going out with her.
For crying out loud
- An expression of immense anger or irritation.
- Example: For crying out loud! If I hear one more complaint, I will literally punch you in the face
- Doing stuff in a chaotic and inefficient manner.
- Example: If you go on faffing around, it’ll take you all day to finish.
Flogging a dead horse
- Putting much effort into something that won’t give results. May also mean that you are doing something that is futile.
- Example: The deadline already elapsed. They are just flogging a dead horse at this point.
- Astounded or surprised. It may also mean immense shock.
- Example: I was gobsmacked when I found out she had been pregnant for two months.
- Food or snacks
- Example: Can’t wait to get me some grub after the tiring overtime.
- Rude, potty-mouthed, or babbling. Someone who talks nonstop in an obnoxious manner.
- Example: I can’t stand gobby and annoying people.
- Meaning: Drunk, tipsy, or inebriated
- Example: I was so hammered last night I don't remember anything.
Horses for courses
- It means that each person has his own strong suit. It can also mean that it’s best to get the right people for the job.
- Example: Just because she's got good grades doesn't mean she can knows everything. Horses for courses.
- Fine or satisfactory.
- Example: Life can’t be all hunky-dory. That would be too boring.
I've come over all peculiar
- This means that one suddenly feels or looks unwell.
- Example: I can't go to the dinner party tonight; I've come over all peculiar.
I’m not being funny but I haven’t got all day
- An expression used to denote that you are seriously in a hurry
- Example: I’m not being funny but I haven’t got all day because of my stingy boss dumping lots of work on me.
- An expression that means you have no preferences, often used in the context of ordering from a menu.
- Example: I'll be late but you guys start ahead. Can you order me any drink? I'm easy.
I’m off to Bedfordshire
- A pun that means going to bed or to upstairs to lay on the bed.
- Example: It's been a long day and I’d like to be off to Bedfordshire immediately.
It’s brass monkeys outside
- Meaning: The weather is freezing cold
- Example: If I had known it’s brass monkeys outside, I would have just stayed in bed and drank hot coffee.
- Having good luck or grace, especially when little effort was put.
- Example: That jammy always gets what he wants.
- A pint of beer
- Example: Let’s relax and talk about it over a jar or two.
- In a moment or very quickly.
- Example: I’ll finish it in a jiffy so stay put.
- An intense or lively party or event.
- Example: I woke up with a terrible hangover from the knees up last night.
- A commotion, argument, or trouble.
- Example: The kerfuffle turned violent and we had to call the police.
Keep your hair on
- Stop being angry or aggressive. It can also mean keep your cool or just relax.
- Example: Please keep your hair on and let's talk about this like civilized adults.
- A nap or sleep
- Example: He's practically been homeless since getting kicked out by his parents; he's been kipping on friends' couch ever since.
- A request, usually by pubs or restaurants, to place their final orders as they would no longer serve anymore after that.
- Example: Any last orders? We will be closing early for my son’s graduation.
- A nasty sickness or disease
- Example: He’s got a bad case of the lurgy. Stay away.
- A disappointment or disappointing
- Example: Of all people, I didn’t expect you to be a let down.
- Men who are loud and aggressive
- Example: I never thought she would end up dating a lairy.
Leave it out
- Discontinue something or stop it
- Example: You can't talk that way about him behind his back. Leave it out.
- A person who has lots of money. It can also mean that something is brand new
- Example: I got myself a minted car that still has that new car smell.
- Example 2: If you really need that kind of money, go to that minted ex-boyfriend of yours.
Mind your P’s and Q’s
- Mind your manners or be aware of your behavior.
- Example: Your dad's colleagues are going to be joining us for dinner, so you kids should mind your P's and Q's.
- To be irritated or annoyed
- Example: The teacher's lecture with obvious political undertones got him miffed the entire time.
Not my cup of tea
- Not my type or preference. It may also refer to a lack of interest.
- Example: Basketball is just not my cup of tea. Baseball is.
- Tacky, useless, unfashionable, garbage, or lacking in good taste.
- Example: You shouldn’t go out in those clothes. Their naff and don’t suit you at all.
- Snack or food
- Example: I need to have a quick nosh before that meeting; I've been starving.
- Overused jokes that have worn off and have become tedious
- Example: Please stop with those old chestnuts. They just annoy me now.
On the lash
- Out to drink or party
- Example: He snuck out from his wife to be on the lash.
Oh my giddy aunt
- An expression showing shock or surprise.
- Example: Oh my giddy aunt! You almost gave me a heart attack.
- Just a single instance or just a single time
- Example: That one off gig was really sweet. They paid a lot.
Odds and sods
- Different items, objects, or things that are miscellaneous or insignificant
- Example: Just keep the things that you're going to be using and get rid of the odds and sods.
Piece of cake
- Meaning: Easy or simple.
- Example: It might seem like a piece of cake but very few people have actually made it.
- Meaning: A way of saying goodbye.
- Example: Pip pip, I have a train to catch.
- Cheap and awful quality wine or beverage. Usually derogatory in nature.
- Example: That event was awful; they just served plonks despite the expensive entrance fee.
- A bunch of lies or deceptions
- Example: Why would I trust you when all you’ve been given me are porkies.
Put a sock in it
- Shut your mouth of stop talking.
- Example: If you don’t have anything good to say, just do us all a favor and put a sock in it.
- Money, more specifically a British pound.
- Example: Spot me a quid? I forgot my wallet.
- Meaning: A fraud or scammer, usually practicing a certain profession.
- Example: That quack made my pain worse. I’m gonna go to the police.
- A bum or butt
- Example: My queen mum hurts from sitting all day.
- Sexy, cool, brilliant, and charming
- Example: Girls turned their heads when that reem dude walked into the bar.
- Meaning: Horrible tasting or bad-smelling
- Example: I hate to be rude but I couldn't eat any of that rank they served us.
- To be defeated intensely at an argument or fight.
- Example: He cried like a baby after getting rinsed.
- Another Cockney rhyming slang that means tea
- Example: I've been working straight for 6 hours now: I can really use a Rose lee.
See a man about a dog
- A phrase used to hide or conceal one’s actual intentions or destination, usually because of embarrassment.
- Example: You don't have to tell them you're on your way to see a therapist; you can just you're gonna go see a man about a dog.
Stop faffing around
- Stop doing nothing or being unproductive.
- Example: You gotta stop faffing around and start working on your resumé.
- The act of avoiding work by staying away or leaving without permission
- Example: If you need to leave early or be somewhere, at least talk to me, don't just skive off.
- In a bad mood or angry
- No one said a word as the shirty boss was discussing the new work policy.
Stitch someone up
- To play a trick or prank on someone, putting them in an embarrassing or awkward situation
- Example: I had him stitched up for insulting me in front of everyone.
- A vulgar way of saying sex or intercourse
- Example: Don't be so crass and say "shag"; use the proper word.
Taking the piss
- The act of mocking or joking at the expense of others
- Example: He did nothing but take the piss out of everybody; in the end we had to ask him to leave.
Throw a spanner in the works
- To cause things to not go smoothly or to sabotage something
- Example: The kids just had to throw a spanner in the works because they hated outdoor camping.
- In good condition or manner. It may also refer to something being fine.
- Example: Today has been the best; the morning started all tickety-boo up to now.
- Someone who is consistently embarrassing or cringy.
- Example: John was the workplace offie that made everyone feel uncomfortable.
- Move slowly with wheels
- Example: For centuries now, tons and tons of products have trundled freely between these two countries.
- Extremely many or uncountably many
- Example: An umpteen of clothes and bags go to the dump instead of being recycled.
Up for it
- Ready to take part of
- Example: I’m up for any gig as long as I get paid.
- A Cockney rhyming slang for bed
- Example: I’m ready to get to Uncle Ned right about now.
Up the spout
- Meaning: No longer working or will not be successful
- Example: The computer has to be replaced; it's been up the spout for a while now.
Under the cosh
- Under intense pressure or in a difficult scenario
- Example: The team was under the cosh when they almost lost in the championship round.
- Short for Vodka and Tonic
- Example: It's early, don't get drunk yet; just have a VAT.
- To sit idly or be unproductive.
- Example: I am so exhausted from work so I’m just gonna veg-out this weekend.
- The atmosphere, feeling, or mood of the situation and location.
- Example: The vibe I get from libraries really makes me calm down and just hang.
- It means wine, usually red wine.
- Example: Vino with a candlelit dinner is such a romantic setting
- It means a pub or bar where people drink.
- Example: This old watering hole has been here for decades and still serves the best beer.
- weird, different, or crazy
- Example: My laptop just got wonky. I think it has a virus.
- To gain something through manipulative or persuasive means
- Example: I had to wangle my parents into buying me an Xbox.
- Of small size. Can also mean to relieve one’s self of urine.
- Example: I had wee feet when I was a baby.
- Example 2: In some cultures, weeing on walls is normal.
Well in it
- A phrase that says someone is in trouble
- Example: He probably is well in it for maxing out his mum's credit card.
- A expression that is utilized to question something that someone has said. It may also mean that someone knows something that they shouldn’t.
- Example: How are you so sure they've been secretly dating? Do you have x-ray eyes?
- Something that is incredibly good or satisfying.
- Example: The desert that they served was just Xtra!
- It means your turn. It is often used in pubs or gathering when it's someone's turn to buy drinks for the group.
- Example: I'll just be over at the bar to talk to the girl; I'll be back for your round.
You're a keeper
- Meaning: A sweet and endearing expression said between people to express their admiration
- Example: Wow, those dance skills you have. You're a keeper!
- Meaning: An expression used to denote that one did not hear the words said by the other party
- Example: You what? Sorry, I got distracted for a second.
- It refers to someone that talks very much but is not interesting.
- Example: My professor just kept yakking so I eventually fell asleep.
- an extended period of time
- Example: We haven’t had the pleasure of going to the movies for yonks because of the pandemic.
Yank my chain
- Teasing someone with something that they are sensitive or serious about.
- Example: Is it true that we’re buying a PS5 or are you just yanking my chain?
- Refers to when a person is asleep or very exhausted
- Example: I don't care about the hotel room; I can sleep anywhere. I'm zonked!
- The pedestrian lane
- Example: Some people just ignore the Zebra crossing.
Catch a few Zzzzz
- To get some sleep or to nap.
- Example: I’m just gonna catch a few Zzzzz before the baby wakes up again.
As you can see, British English provides a variety of creative ways to express yourself. Did you recognize any of these slang words and expressions? Like we said, use them as you wish, but make sure to think about the context so you won't get yourself in trouble.