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Every country has its own slang, and Britain is no different. Of all the English-language slang in the world, I find British slang to be some of the most creative and interesting.
But then, I’m biased because I’m British!
Just a word of warning before you continue: although these slang terms are relatively mild, there are some you wouldn’t use at work or with your grandma. I’ve marked these as NSFW, “not safe for work”.
Now before you throw a wobbly because I’m waffling on, let’s have a gander at some real British slang, so you can speak English like the English.
Here are 25 British slang words to get started:
1. Gutted – “Devastated”
This is a piece of British slang you’ll hear all the time, in all parts of Britain.
The word is used to describe feeling very sad and disappointed at a circumstance or turn of events. For example:
He was gutted when he realized he was the only one of his friends who hadn’t been invited out to the pub.
This phrase is used among all age groups.
2. Wanker – “Person of Contempt” (NSFW!)
If a British person refers to you as a “wanker”, you should certainly be concerned.
It’s slang that means an obnoxious, stupid, and unpleasant person. It’s relatively offensive. In American English, it would be equivalent to a minor curse word.
Use is common, although you’re more likely to hear it in casual settings among teens or twenty-somethings. Think of it as pub talk. Here’s an example:
He’s such a wanker. I wish he would stop harassing the staff here and let them work in peace.
3. Tosh – “Nonsense”
The word tosh is used to dismiss something as a bunch of nonsense. It’s used in the way that many speakers would use “baloney” or “poppycock”. Below are some examples of using the term:
- Tosh! Of course the world isn’t flat. What are you getting on about?
- That’s a load of tosh.
- I read that article, and it was all tosh and nonsense.
4. Throw a Wobbly – “Get Visibly Annoyed”
If someone gets extraordinarily angry over something, they might “throw a wobbly”. It is often used to describe extreme, albeit justified anger. It’s also used to indicate that someone is being a bit ridiculous and having a tantrum. Example:
He really threw a wobbly when the referee made the third unfair call of the game.
5. Taking The Piss – “Teasing” (NSFW!)
This is to joke and tease, a bit mercilessly at someone’s expense. You’ll hear this fairly widely used, especially in casual situations. It’s used a bit more often among pub crowds and younger people where humor often includes teasing and well-placed insults. An example of this would be:
They teased Jeff brutally all night. He was really a good sport about them taking the piss out of him that way.
6. Rubbish – “Nonsense”
This one should be pretty easy to figure out. It’s a dismissive word used paint an argument or other notion as being completely worthless. It’s used pretty commonly and isn’t really favored by one particular gender or social group. Here’s an example:
He claimed he was late because of the train, but I know that’s complete rubbish.
A stronger British slang word (NSFW!) that can be used in place of rubbish is “bollocks”, literally meaning “testicles”.
7. Posh – “Luxurious”
If you remember The Spice Girls, you know that Victoria Beckham was Posh Spice. She got the nickname because she was the stylish one with the lavish lifestyle. That’s what “posh” means. It means luxurious and reflective of an upper-crust lifestyle. For example:
Her penthouse was so posh that the toilet seat was encrusted in rubies.
8. Our [Jack/Jill]
This one isn’t quite as widespread, but you might hear it. This depends on the location you’re in as well as the crowd you’re with. “Our [name]” is an expression of pride in the accomplishment of someone a group of people know in common. It could be a young person who’s gone on to do well in business, a younger nephew or niece, even a little brother.
Here’s an example:
Did you hear about our Stephen? He’s working as a surgeon now!
9. Muck – “Dirt”
“Muck” is another one that should be easy to figure out. It refers to mud, sludge, slush, or other disgusting waste matter. It’s very widely used. Example:
Wear your boots. The streets are full of muck after the storms.
10. Knackered – “Tired”
If you are extremely tired, your new British friends will tell you that you look absolutely “knackered”.
- Mate – “Friend”
This means pal or friend. It’s almost always used among men and boys.
- Hey everyone! Meet my best mate, Nigel.’
- That sounds great! I’ll talk to you later, mate!
“Mate” is usually a friendly, casual phrase that you will hear nearly everywhere. Although if you hear someone saying it in an annoyed tone you may be in trouble!
12. Gander – “Look”
To “have a gander” is to “take a look”. For example:
Have a gander at that printer and see if you can tell why it smells like burning rubber.
13. Trainers – “Running Shoes”
“Trainers” are athletic shoes. In the US, they’re often referred to as sneakers or tennis shoes.
14. Lost The Plot – “Gone insane”
When someone has “lost the plot”, they have lost all ability to cope reasonably with the situation.
After being delayed for six hours, then finding out that the airline lost her luggage, Gwen really lost the plot.
15. Grockel – “Clueless tourist”
If you’re visiting Britain, hopefully, nobody refers to you as a “grockel”. It’s an insulting term used for annoying or clueless tourists.
16. Fortnight – “Two weeks”
If you hear someone say that they’ll be back in a “fortnight”, that means they plan to return in two weeks.
17. Gobsmacked – “Awestruck”
“Gobsmacked” means awed or surprised, almost always in a good way. For example:
She saw that her best friend had showed up to surprise her for her birthday and was completely gobsmacked.
18. Cock Up – “Disaster” (NSFW!)
If something has been badly done, or someone has made a real disaster of things, that’s a “cock up”. For example:
I can’t believe how badly he cocked up this engine. He should have called a mechanic in the first place.
19. Chuffed – “Proud”
Somebody who is feeling “chuffed” has a sense of pride over something they have accomplished. For example:
I’ve lost three pounds by going to the gym, and I must say I’m well chuffed.
20. Bob’s Your Uncle
This is another common term that is used to indicate that doing something is quite easy. For example:
Mix together flour, sugar, eggs, and butter. Throw it in the oven for 45 minutes. Bob’s your uncle! You’ve got a cake!
21. Brass Monkeys – “Freezing Cold” (NSFW!)
The origins of this are slightly obscene. It comes from the phrase “It’s colder than a brass monkey’s balls out there!” Now, that’s been shortened to “brass monkeys”. For example:
You need to bring extra blankets. It’s brass monkeys in the downstairs bedroom at night.
22. Bloody – “Damned” (NSFW!)
“Bloody” is another word that is mildly obscene in that it’s considered to be a bit of a swear. It’s synonymous with damn or other similar words. It’s often used to express anger or frustration. For example:
If this bloody traffic jam doesn’t clear up, I’m going to be late for work again!
23. Dodgy – “Unreliable”
If somebody or something is “dodgy”, they cannot be trusted or relied upon. For example:
- Don’t trust that dodgy mechanic down the street to fix your car!
- I wouldn’t use that old lawnmower. It’s really dodgy.
24. Proper – “Authentic”
“Proper” is most often used to describe something that is correct and authentic. If you’re going out drinking, someone may suggest going out to find a “proper” curry.
25. Nick – “Steal”
The term “nick” is used to mean stealing or shoplifting. For example:
I was so broke that I was tempted to nick a couple of beers to quench my thirst.
It’s also used to refer to getting arrested. As in:
The cops nicked two guys for that bank robbery last week.
British Slang: Over to You
Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. She is practicing regularly while reviewing new translation services at Pick Writers and constantly contributing to other educational platforms.