131 top British slang words, expressions & meanings to learn

Have you ever watched a British TV show and struggled to understand what the characters were saying? If so, you probably wondered why you couldn’t understand anything if you usually have no trouble understanding movies and TV shows in English.

Here’s the answer to that question that might have been bothering you for a while: although the characters were speaking English, they were likely speaking a different version of it.

You see, the British English you likely know from famous movie stars like Hugh Grant and Jude Law is the standard British accent commonly spoken in London and southeast England. But it’s not the only British accent or dialect there is.

In this article, we’ll go over the regional dialects of British English and British slang terms you might want to know.

Two tourists posing for a photo in London.


The origins of British slang

The roots of British slang can be traced back through centuries, influenced by historical events and cultural interactions.

During the Middle Ages, British English absorbed words from Norman French, while the expansion of the British Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries introduced vocabulary from colonies and trading partners. Industrialization and urbanization in the 19th and 20th centuries contributed to slang development, as cities like London and Manchester became melting pots of diverse cultures.

Today, technology and popular culture play a significant role, with the internet and social media accelerating the spread of slang terms.


Regional variations of British slang and their meanings

Pretty much every English speaker can identify the charming, heavy British English accent. Yet not many people outside of the United Kingdom know that there are actually almost 40 different accents across the UK.

You may have heard of a few, like Cockney, Scottish, or Welsh, but what about Geordie, Scouse, or Brummie? Spoiler alert: Brummie is spoken by Tom Shady in Peaky Blinders.

Aside from the accent, regional variations of British English also include different slang words used in different regions of the UK. Here are some of the UK’s regional dialects with their most common slang words and phrases.

The Queen’s English

The standard British accent everyone knows is the Queen’s English, BBC English, or Received Pronunciation (RP). RP is a term coined by phonetician Daniel Jones. Back in the 1900s, RP was the accent taught to upper and middle-class boarding school boys in southern England.

It later became more widely spread until it became “Standard English” in the late 19th century and became, and still is, associated with people of high social standing. It’s also the easiest of all regional dialects to understand, which is why it’s used by news stations and heard in movies like Pride and Prejudice or Downtown Abbey.

The Queen’s English is spoken in London and Southern England. Here are some of the most common slang words and phrases used by people from those regions.

Slang word/phraseMeaningExample sentence
BlokeA man or guyI saw that bloke you were talking to yesterday.
BloodyIntensifier or expletive, used for emphasisIt's been a bloody awful day.
ChapA man or guy, often slightly formalHe's a fine chap, isn't he?
CheersThank you or goodbyeCheers for lending me your book.
ChuffedPleased or delightedShe was chuffed to receive an award for her work.
GuttedExtremely disappointed or upsetI was gutted when I found out I didn't get the job.
KnackeredExtremely tired or exhaustedI've been working all day, I'm absolutely knackered.
LadA young man or boy, often affectionateHe's a good lad, always willing to help out.
MateFriend or companionHey mate, how's it going?
QuidSlang for pounds sterlingIt cost me twenty quid.


Cockney

Cockney is a very characteristic accent spoken in the East End of London, which originated from the working class Londoners.

The term "Cockney" historically referred specifically to someone born within earshot of the ringing of the Bow Bells at the church of St Mary-le-Bow in the Cheapside district of London. Over time, Cockney has come to represent a broader cultural and linguistic identity associated with this area.

Cockney slang often involves replacing a word with a rhyming phrase, where the rhyming part (the second word) is typically dropped in usage, leaving just the first word as the slang term.

Yes, it’s… well, confusing. But back in the day, this rhyming slang served as a form of coded language among working-class communities, allowing them to communicate discreetly in public spaces or among outsiders.

Here are some of the most common Cockney slang words and phrases.

Slang word/phraseMeaningExample sentence
Adam and EveBelieveWould you Adam and Eve it, he won the race!
Apples and pearsStairsMind the apples and pears as you go up.
Barnet FairHairHe's always fussing over his Barnet Fair.
Butcher's hookLookTake a butcher's hook at this view.
Dog and bonePhoneI'll give you a ring on the dog and bone.
Frog and toadRoadI'll meet you at the end of the frog and toad.
Plates of meatFeetMy plates of meat are killing me after that walk.
Ruby MurrayCurryFancy a Ruby Murray tonight?"
Trouble and strifeWifeThe trouble and strife wants me home early.


Geordie

If you’ve ever been to Newcastle upon Tyne, you probably had great trouble understanding people. No wonder! Geordie, the regional dialect spoken in Newcastle and the Tyneside region, is one of the hardest British dialects to understand.

Geordie is filled with unique words, phrases, and pronunciations that might leave you scratching your head in confusion, even if you're a native English speaker. For instance, you might hear someone saying "gan doon" instead of "go down" or "howay" instead of "come on."

But it's not just the words themselves that can be tricky. It's also the accent and pronunciation. Geordies often drop consonants or change vowel sounds in ways that can throw off even the most seasoned English speaker.

Here are some of the most common Geordie slang words and phrases.

Slang word/phraseMeaningExample sentence
BeltaGreat, fantasticThat concert last night was absolutely belta!
CannyGood, niceThat's a canny little pub over there."
DivventDon'tDivvent be daft, just get on with it.
Gan doonGo down, go downstairsI'm gonna gan doon to the shops, want owt?
HinnyTerm of endearment for a woman, like "dear"Alright hinny, how's it gan?
HowayCome on, hurry upHoway man, we're gonna be late!"
HoyThrowHoy us that pen, will ya?
RadgieCrazy or aggressive personWatch out for him, he's a bit of a radgie.
Wor lassMy girlfriendWor lass is away visiting her mam this weekend.


Scouse

If you’ve ever been to Liverpool, you know that its dialect is one of the heaviest and most distinctive British English accents. If you haven’t been to Liverpool, you may still be familiar with the Scouse accent thanks to the Beatles.

Scouse can be hard to understand even for native speakers, as its roots lie in various influences, including Irish, Welsh, and Lancashire dialects. Scouse speakers often speak extremely fast, blending words together and dropping consonants, which can make it challenging to decipher for those unfamiliar with it.

Here are some of the most common Scouse slang words and phrases.

Slang word/phraseMeaningExample sentence
BevvyAlcoholic drinkFancy going for a few bevies tonight?
BlagTo deceive or trickHe managed to blag his way into the club.
BossExcellent, greatThat film was boss, wasn't it?
Boss thaYou're the bestThanks for helping out, you're boss tha.
Our kidYounger sibling or close friendMe and our kid are going to the match.
ScranFood, especially a mealI'm starving, let's get some scran.
SoundGood, okayEverything's sound, don't worry.


Welsh

Have you ever heard of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch? Yes, it’s one of the longest words in English, with 58 letters, and it’s the name of a small town in Wales.

It's quite the tongue-twister, isn't it? It should give you a pretty good idea of the Welsh dialect, which is full of consonant clusters like "ll" and "pwll." Some Welsh words, such as cwtch and "llongyfarchiadau" (congratulations), look like they were written by your cat when it fell asleep on your keyboard.

Luckily for us, nowadays, the inhabitants of Wales speak Welsh English, which is a combination of the old Welsh language and Standard English rather than old Welsh.

Here are some of the most common Welsh slang words and phrases.

Slang word/phraseMeaningExample sentence
BladderedDrunkHe was absolutely bladdered at the party last night.
ButtyFriend or mateAlright, butty, fancy a pint?"
ChopsyTalkative or argumentativeDon't get chopsy with me!
CwtchA cuddle or hugLet's have a cwtch to warm up.
LushDelicious or attractiveThis cake is lush; you should try it.
MingingDisgusting or unattractiveThat fish smells minging!
Mun/MunudMomentWait a mun, I'll be right back.
TampingAngry or furiousShe was tamping when she found out.
TidyGood, nice, or satisfactoryThat meal was tidy, wasn't it?
Ych-a-fiExpression of disgustYch-a-fi, that food tastes terrible!


Scots

If you’ve ever spoken with a Scottish person, you may have struggled to understand what they were saying. That’s because Scottish English is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, accents to understand, even for all other English native speakers.

Scottish English, or the Scots dialect, has 5 main varieties:

  1. Insular Scots: Spoken in the Shetland and Orkney Islands, influenced by the Norse language.
  2. Northern Scots: Includes dialects from the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, known for a strong rolling "r" sound and unique vocabulary.
  3. Central Scots: Found in areas like Edinburgh and Glasgow, widely recognized and featuring diverse accents shaped by historical and immigration influences.
  4. Southern Scots: Covers dialects in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway regions, influenced by English and Scots Gaelic.
  5. Ulster Scots: Primarily spoken in Northern Ireland, sharing similarities with Scottish English due to historical connections.

Here are some of the most common Scots slang words and phrases.

Slang word/phraseMeaningExample sentence
BairnChildThe bairn is asleep now.
BletherChat or gossipWe had a good blether over a cup of tea.
BonniePretty or beautiful"She's a bonnie lass.
DreichGloomy or bleak weatherIt's dreich outside today.
GlaikitStupid or foolishHe looked positively glaikit after hearing the news.
Greetin'Crying or weepingShe's been greetin' since she heard the news.
Haud yer wheeshtBe quiet or shut upHaud yer wheesht and let me think.
KenKnowA ken whit yer sayin'.
Tattie-bogleScarecrowThe tattie-bogle in the field was quite frightening.
WeeSmall or littleI'll just have a wee bit of cake.


Glaswegian

While Glaswegian is part of the various Scots dialects, it deserves a section of its own because of how particular it is.

Glaswegian is the dialect spoken in Glasgow, which originated from a blend of influences, including Scots Gaelic, Old English, and immigrant languages like Irish and Yiddish.

It’s characteristic due to its rapid speech patterns, frequent consonant dropping, unique vocabulary, intonation, and rich use of slang and colloquialisms. So, don’t worry if you can’t understand a Glaswegian person! You’re certainly not alone.

Here are some of the most common Glaswegian slang words and phrases.

Slang word/phraseMeaningExample sentence
BoakTo vomitThe smell of that fish makes me want to boak.
Boggin'Dirty or filthyYou need to clean your room; it's boggin'.
CludgieToiletI'll be back in a minute, just going to the cludgie.
Gie it laldyTo give it your all, to do something with enthusiasmWhen he starts singing, he really gies it laldy.
Hoachin'Crowded or full of peopleThe pub was hoachin' last night; couldn't move!
MessagesGroceries or shoppingI need to nip to the shops for some messages.
Nae botherNo problem or you're welcomeThanks for helping out, nae bother.
RoasterA silly or annoying personStop being such a roaster and behave yourself!
ScoobyClue or ideaI haven't got a scooby what you're on about.


Commonly used British jargon

Now that you can tell apart the different regional dialects in the UK, let’s get down to business. What are the most commonly used words and phrases in British slang?

Here are 20+ expressions used in British jargon you should know to finally understand what all these characters in British TV shows are actually saying so you can understand and speak like a true Brit.

Two women using british slang words.

Slang word/phraseMeaningExample sentence
AceExcellent or greatThat movie was ace. I loved it!
BagsyTo claim or reserveBagsy the front seat!
Bits and bobsVarious small items or thingsI need to pick up a few bits and bobs from the store.
BlagTo obtain or achieve something through persuasion or manipulationHe blagged his way into the club without a ticket.
BlimeyExpression of surprise or shockBlimey! Did you see the size of that fish?
BollocksNonsense or rubbishWhat you're saying is a load of bollocks.
BonkersCrazy or insaneYou must be bonkers if you think that'll work.
BrollyUmbrellaBetter bring your brolly. It looks like rain.
Budge upMove over or make spaceBudge up, I need some room on the bench.
Bugger allNothing at allI've got bugger all to do this weekend.
ChavPejorative term for someone perceived as lower class or unculturedThose chavs are always causing trouble in the neighborhood.
Chin wagA chat or conversationLet's have a chinwag over a cuppa.
Chuffed to bitsExtremely pleased or proudShe was chuffed to bits with her exam results.
CuppaCup of teaI could really use a cuppa right now.
DaftSilly or foolishDon't be daft. Of course, I'll help you.
DodgySuspicious or unreliableI wouldn't trust that dodgy website. It looks sketchy.
FagCigaretteHe's outside having a fag.
GobsmackedAstonished or amazedI was gobsmacked when I won the lottery.
InnitShortened form of "isn't it" or "isn't he/she," often used for agreement or confirmation in informal speechIt's raining hard today, innit?
KnackeredExtremely tired or exhaustedI've been up all night studying; I'm knackered.
LooBathroom or toiletExcuse me, where's the loo?
MiffedAnnoyed or irritatedHe was miffed when he found out he didn't get the job.
MingingExtremely unattractive or unpleasantThat food looks minging. I'm not eating it.
MintedRich or wealthyHe must be minted if he can afford to drive that car.
MuppetFool or idiotYou're such a muppet for forgetting your keys.
NaffUnfashionable or tackyThat outfit is a bit naff, isn't it?
NumptyFool or idiot, often used affectionately or humorouslyDon't be such a numpty. Read the instructions properly.
PengAttractive or appealing, especially in reference to food or a personThat pizza looks peng. I can't wait to eat it.
PlonkerFool or idiotHe's such a plonker, always messing things up.
PoshUpper-class or elegantShe comes from a posh family.
RubbishNonsense or poor qualityThat movie was rubbish. I fell asleep halfway.
SkintWithout money or brokeI can't go out tonight. I'm skint until payday.
SkiveTo avoid work or responsibilityHe's always skiving off when there's work to be done.
SnogTo kiss passionatelyThey were snogging in the corner all night.
Sod offGo away or leaveWhy don't you just sod off and leave me alone?
TellyTelevisionLet's stay in and watch the telly tonight.
WankerA derogatory term for someone foolish or annoyingHe's such a wanker, always boasting about himself.
WazzockFool or idiotHe's such a wazzock. I can't believe he did that.


Fun and quirky British lingo

Although the British accent is typically perceived as attractive and charming, British slang can sometimes sound either somewhat aggressive or straight-up funny.

Here are some quirky British lingo expressions that will make you chuckle.

Fun and quirky British lingo for eccentric or crazy.

Slang word/phraseMeaningExample sentence
BarmyEccentric or crazyHe's got some barmy ideas, that's for sure.
BodgeTo do something clumsily or hastilyI'll just bodge it together and hope for the best.
ChunterTo mutter or grumble quietlyHe's been chuntering about the weather all day.
CodswallopNonsense or rubbishThat's absolute codswallop, don't believe it.
DoolallyCrazy or insaneHe's gone completely doolally!
FaffTo waste time or ditherStop faffing around and get to work!
Fuddy-duddyA person who is old-fashioned or boringHe's a bit of a fuddy-duddy, isn't he?
GormlessClueless or lacking intelligenceHe stood there looking gormless when asked a question.
KerfuffleA commotion or fussThere was a kerfuffle at the party last night.
MalarkeyNonsense or foolishnessDon't pay attention to his malarkey.
NoshFood, especially a mealLet's go grab some nosh before the movie.
PiffleNonsense or trivial talkI don't have time for your piffle.
SnazzyStylish or impressiveI love your snazzy new jacket!
SquiffySlightly drunk or tipsyAfter a few drinks, he was feeling rather squiffy.
Toodle-ooInformal way of saying goodbyeAlright, toodle-oo, see you later!
ToshRubbish or nonsenseDon't listen to him, it's all a load of tosh!
WallyA foolish or silly personYou're such a wally sometimes.
WangleTo manipulate or obtain by persuasion or trickeryHe managed to wangle a free ticket to the concert.
WibbleNonsense or gibberishHe's talking absolute wibble, don't listen to him.
WonkyUnstable or not working properlyThe table leg is a bit wonky, I'll fix it.


Common slang mistakes to avoid

Here are some common mistakes that non-natives often make when trying to use British slang:

So, take the time to learn about the slang commonly used in the specific region you're in or interacting with.

1. Misusing regional slang words

If you're not from the UK, it's easy to assume that all British slang is the same across the country. But the truth is, there are many dialects across the UK, and the slang is different from region to region. Using terms like "trouble and strife" or "apples and pears" might be perfectly understood in some parts of England, but they could leave people scratching their heads in Scotland.

So, take the time to learn about the slang commonly used in the specific region you're in or interacting with. And always ask the locals for clarification if you're unsure!

2. Using slang words in the wrong context

Some slang terms are considered more casual or even rude, so using them in formal settings or with people you don't know well can be off-putting. For example, referring to someone as a "mate" or "bloke" in a professional meeting might come across as overly familiar.

To avoid this mistake, be mindful of the context and tone in which you're using slang. If you’re unsure if it’s appropriate, just don’t use it!

3. Misunderstanding the meaning of some slang words

As a non-native speaker, it’s easy to misunderstand the real meaning behind certain slang expressions. To avoid misunderstandings, take the time to learn about the cultural context and connotations of the slang you're using. Pay attention to how native speakers use these terms and try to use them in the same situations.


Cheers, mate!

Understanding British slang is like deciphering a secret code. It can be hard at first, but once you figure it out, it's the missing key to fitting in.

But keep in mind that slang isn't a one-size-fits-all deal. It varies based on things like age, social group, and context. So, if you're not careful, you might end up saying something out of place or in the wrong context to the wrong group of people.

To avoid awkward silences and confused looks, pay attention to how the locals use slang in different situations. If you're feeling a bit lost, don't be afraid to ask for clarification.

With a basic understanding of the nuances between the regional dialects and a bit of practice, you'll be speaking like a true Brit in no time. If you’re looking for more examples of English slang, you can explore our fun guide to American slang here, learn more about the differences between American English and British English here, or visit our English blog, filled with language, culture, and colloquialisms from around the world. Happy reading!

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