British vocabulary is a niche of its own, developing and transforming and adapting from city to city and year to year. Although American slang has become almost ubiquitous with the proliferation of TV shows, videos, and other media flooding the screens of a vast portion of the world’s media-viewing populace if you search under the surface of British slang words, there is so much more possible and you will find some genuine gems under the surface.
So, whether you’re an aspiring Anglophile searching for a new lingo to help feed your passion for all British things, or you just want to know what kind of words the British find themselves using their day-to-day, check out some best British slang words to start instantly using and implementing into your vocabulary.
- All to Pot
These British slang words are still used, slightly more of an obsolete form, and its sense remains significant today. ‘All to pot’ applies to a scenario that falls miserably outside of your reach and collapses.
‘Blimey’ is used instead of startling or disturbing, as a means of showing excitement about something, sometimes used when witnessing or gazing at something surprising or spectacular.
For starters, you might say, ‘Blimey! Look at it!’
‘Blinding’- one of the most used British slang words that means far from something that allows anyone to lose their sight physically. ‘Blinding’ is an optimistic word that implies fantastic, great, or outstanding.
For starters, ‘The Spanish player’s tackle was blinding.’
‘Ace’ describes anything that is fantastic or excellent. It may even imply passing with flying colours.
For example, ‘Jenny is an ace in the laboratory tests’ or ‘I think I aced that exam’.
Bloke is an incredibly popular word that describes an individual, commonly used in reference to an ordinary man, equivalent to the ‘average joe‘ of the US, although it is not unusual to have it used to generally identify a man.
‘Bob is a nice bloke.’ You might use it like this.
Out of all British slang words, this is by far the most prominent and most widely used. You really don’t need any explanation for this. It was known as a swearword in the past, but now it is widely appropriate due to its widespread use. It is also used as an expression of dissatisfaction when used to illustrate a statement.
You could say, in frustration, “Oh bloody hell!” or ‘that’s bloody cool’.
‘Hunky-dory’ implies when a condition is okay, nice, or natural, a neat little bit of British slang words.
For starters, ‘Hey, everyone at the office is hunky-dory.’
In the north-west and south-west of England, Jammy is used semi-commonly. It is a descriptive term used to define anyone who, without putting any thought into it, is incredibly fortunate about something.
‘I can’t believe you earned that, proper jammy, for one.’
- Our boy
it’s used almost entirely around Manchester and Northern England. Yet there is something in it that is beautifully tender and endearing.
‘Have you heard of our boy, Peter, He was offered a new position.’
- Throwing a wobbly
This term suggests the same thing as throwing a tantrum. However, one significant distinction is that when explaining tantrums held by parents, or those who may otherwise know better, tossing a wobbly seems to be used.
‘I left when Kim threw a wobbly, for starters.’
Shouting bagsy is similar to a shotgun on the front seat or a dib on the remaining cupcake. Don’t bend the bagsy rules. It is one of British slang words used by gen Z.
Used more commonly used by everyone in the UK to mean ‘two weeks’. For example, ‘I’m going away for a fortnight to Ireland for my sabbatical.’
So ‘naff’ is a term with an intriguing tale. Back in the 1960s, it was unlawful to be homosexual in the UK and gay men started to use a sort of code language or dialect that was a combination of Italian, Roman and rhyming slang. ‘Naff’ was one of the terms that really implied that someone was straight. Today, the term ‘naff’ is used to indicate that there is a lack of elegance or good taste in something.
When someone is chuffed, they are very pleased or happy. “I’m absolutely chuffed with my birthday present.”
- Pork pies
This word is extracted from the cockney rhyming slang, a mode of communication originated in Old East London by merchants to interact with each other in a manner that is veiled and nonsensical to outsiders. Unlike other rhyming slang terms, it is also in semi-popular usage both in London and abroad.
The word is associated with ‘lies.’ Notice how the second word ‘pies’ rhymes directly to ‘lies.’ As such, when you hear it in usage, even though you’re not acquainted with the word, you can always tell what the rhyme is saying and the meaning of which it’s being used.
For eg, ‘Don’t listen to him talking about pork pies.’
‘Skive’ – (Pronounced sky-ve) one of the British slang words used to signify that someone refused to show up for work or an obligation to claim to have a false illness. And often used for schoolchildren seeking to get out of school, or dissatisfied office staff trying to get out of work for a sick day.
For eg, ‘he tried to skive away from work but was caught by his boss.’
- To nick/nicked
Based on how it is used, “Nick” may mean one of two things (three including the name). The most widely used one is the “steal” alternative. As in “I accidentally nicked this pen from work.” Another way it can be used is as a phrase for detention.
For eg, ‘I got nicked a year ago.’
“Nick got nicked for nicking something”.
Botched means to mess up or poorly do. Don’t get it confused with the similar-sounding “bodged” — that adjective actually means improvised.
When somebody is cheeky, it indicates that they are being somewhat rude or disrespectful, but generally in a way that is witty and endearing (cute).
“That is a cheeky smirk…are you up to something? ”
“Did you just take the last biscuit? That was a bit cheeky! ”
It could also be used if you are eating, drinking or doing something that you perhaps should not or that is not good for you.
“I’m just going to have a cheeky burger on my way home.”
“You’re going to the bar tonight? ” “On a Tuesday, huh? Well OK, just a few cheeky drinks.”
- Lost The Plot
‘Lost the plot’ is something that can be discerned by analysing the terms themselves. ‘Losing the plot’ may imply either being frustrated and/or exasperated by a mistake, or in a degrading sense implying someone that has been insane and/or behaving ridiculously.
For eg, ‘When my mother saw the mess I had made, she lost the plot.’
Who knows how this strange term developed? It’s definitely a good word to remember. ‘Grub’ means food and may be used in a number of ways, such as ‘grub up’ (food is ready), ‘get some grub on’ (start cooking) or ‘grub down’ (go to get food). You will have a lot of fun using this one.
Do you think you know how to order French fries in the UK? You’re wrong, dude! In the United Kingdom, they have a worryingly substantial number of terms for various forms of potato food. They name French fries only fries, and the thicker fries that come from a chip store are called chips. Then you have thick, triangular bits that we call potato wedges, which are not the same as round fried slices (otherwise regarded as chips in other countries) that we call crisps. That’s all before you pass on to more nuanced, crisp types like Tortilla Chips (which qualify as crisps but are named chips, but they’re not chips like real chips). Maybe just adhere to a balanced lifestyle to prevent confusion?
Do you want to study at a university in the United Kingdom? Be sure you call it by the correct name. In Britain, college represents anything entirely different from what it means in the US, where it means another term for university. UK colleges are built for students between 16 and 18 years of age who graduate from there and go to university, which is simplified to uni. If you don’t have it right, you could end up studying in the wrong place with people 2 years younger than you!
If there’s something that leaves you sad or irritated, you might complain that you’re miffed. This may not be the coolest slang to have for the younger generation, they’d probably use something more NSFW. It’s better to be as respectful as you can and use the PG13 version.
This one is so popular that you can’t get by without understanding it. There’s a one-pound coin slang in the UK. Be sure to spell out all terms before that end in’s’ or else it’ll sound like you mean squid, which is funny yet inaccurate.