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50 Awesome British Slang Terms You Should Start Using Immediately

50 Awesome British Slang Terms You Should Start Using Immediately

British slang is a niche of its own, evolving and transforming and adapting from city to city and from year to year, just as the English language itself has done.

While American slang has become nearly universal with the influx of TV shows, films, and other media filling the screens of a significant majority of the media-viewing global population, there is so much more available once you dig beneath the surface of British slang terms and can discover some real gems beneath the surface.

So, if you’re an aspiring Anglophile looking for some new lingo to help fuel your love for all things British, or you just fancy seeing what kind of words the British find themselves using their day-to-day, check out our 50 best British slang terms for you to start using and incorporating into your vocabulary immediately.

1. Ace

‘Ace’ – a British slang term that means something that is brilliant or excellent. Can also mean to pass something with flying colors.

For example, ‘Jenny is ace at the lab experiments’, or, for the latter definition, ‘I think I aced that exam’.

2. All To Pot

Slightly more of an outdated version, this British slang term is still used, and its meaning remains relevant today. ‘All to pot’ refers to a situation going out of your control and failing miserably.

For example, ‘The birthday party went all to pot when the clown turned up drunk and everyone was sick from that cheap barbecue stuff.’

3. Blimey

‘Blimey’ is used as a way of expressing surprise at something, often used when seeing or looking at something surprising or impressive instead of shocking or upsetting.

For example; you might say ‘Blimey! Look at that!’

    4. Blinding

    ‘Blinding’ – a slang term that is far from something that physically causes someone to lose their sight. ‘Blinding’ is a positive term meaning excellent, great, or superb.

    For example, ‘That tackle from the Spanish player was blinding.’

    5. Bloke

    Bloke is an extremely common term denoting a man, usually it is used in reference to an ordinary man, akin to the US ‘average joe’, but it it not uncommon to hear it used to describe a man generally.

    As such, you can use it like this, ‘That bob is a good bloke.’

    6. Bloody

    You probably don’t need me to describe this, out of all British slang, this is by far the most popular and most commonly used. In the past it was regarded as a swearword but now, due to its common usage, it is generally acceptable. It is often used as an expression of anger or is used to emphasize a comment.

    In anger you might say, “oh bloody hell!”

    Or to use it as emphasis, ‘that’s bloody cool!’

    7. Bob’s your uncle/Fanny’s your aunt

    The first form of this is far more common, and is sometimes used internationally. For those unaware, the expression essentially used in the end of a series of basic instructions. The origin of the expression is unknown, and is quite old, but is still in general use.

    In context, ‘Get the food, put in the microwave, heat it up, then bob’s your uncle, ready to eat.’

    8. Bollocks

    Perhaps one of the most internationally famous British slang terms, ‘bollocks’ has a multitude of uses, although its top ones including being a curse word used to indicate dismay, e.g. ‘Oh bollocks’; it can also be used to express derision and mocking disbelief, e.g. ‘You slept with Kate Upton last night? Bollocks…’; and, of course, it also refers to the scrotum and testicles.

    For example, ‘I kicked him right in the bollocks when he wouldn’t let me go past.’

    9. Bollocking

    Very different to the ‘bollocks’ of the previous suggestion, a ‘bollocking’ is a telling-off or a severe or enthusiastic reprimand from a boss, co-worker, partner, or anyone you like, for a misdemeanour.

    For example, ‘My wife gave me a real bollocking for getting to pick up the dry cleaning on my way home from work.’

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    10. Brass Monkeys

    A more obscure British term, ‘brass monkeys’ is used to refer to extremely cold weather. The phrase comes from the expression, ‘it’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’.

    For example, ‘You need to wear a coat today, it’s brass monkeys outside.’

    11. Brilliant

    ‘Brilliant’ is not a word exclusively in the British lexicon, but has a very British usage. Specifically, when something is exciting or wonderful, particularly when something is good news, ‘brilliant’ can mean as such.

    For example, ‘You got the job? Oh, mate, that’s brilliant.’

    Sometimes brilliant can be shortened to just “brill” to give it a more casual feel.

      12. Bugger All

      ‘Bugger all’ – a British slang term used to be a more vulgar synonym for ‘nothing at all’.

      For example, ‘I’ve had bugger all to do all day.’

      13. Butchers hook

      This is the cockney rhyming slang version of having a gander, to look at something. Though it may seem strange at first, it’s pretty simple, it is constructed out of the expression’s second word, in this case the way ‘hook’ rhymes directly with ‘look’ however, perhaps contrary to expectations, the word ‘hook’ is often removed, so you may hear someone say ‘have a butchers at this.’

      But like most things cockney, it’s becoming less popular.

      14. Car Park

      One of the more boring and technical terms on this list, a ‘car park’ is in effect, the place outside or attached to a building where people park their cars. The British equivalent to the American ‘parking lot’ or ‘parking garage’.

      For example, ‘I left my car in the car park this morning.’

      15. Cheers

      ‘Cheers’ doesn’t quite have the same meaning that it does in other counties – of course, it still means ‘celebrations’ when toasting a drink with some friends, but in British slang, it also means ‘thanks’ or ‘thank you’.

      For example, ‘Cheers for getting me that drink, Steve’.

      16. Chuffed

      Chuffed is used more or less all over the UK, it seems to be decreasing in popularity, but is still in relatively common usage. Essentially, it is an expression of pride at your own actions or achievements.

      For example you could say ‘I’m feeling proper chuffed I won that.’

      If you’re talking to someone else you can use it as such, ‘I bet you’re pretty chuffed you won!’

        17. Chunder

        Not a wonderfully melodic word, ‘chunder’ is part and parcel of British slang terms. Meaning ‘to vomit’ or ‘to be sick’, ‘chunder’ is almost always used in correlation with drunken nights, or being hugely ill and sick.

        For example, ‘I ate a bad pizza last night after too many drinks and chundered in the street.’

        18. Cock Up

        ‘Cock up’ – a British slang term that is far from the lewdness its name suggests. A ‘cock up’ is a mistake, a failure of large or epic proportions.

        For example, ‘The papers sent out to the students were all in the wrong language – it’s a real cock up.’ Also, ‘I cocked up the orders for table number four.’

        19. Damp Squib

        More of an usual term, a ‘damp squib’ in British slang terms refers to something which fails on all accounts, coming from the ‘squib’ (an explosive), and the propensity for them to fail when wet.

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        For example, ‘The party was a bit of a damp squib because only Richard turned up.’

        20. Do

        A “do” is essentially a party, to my knowledge it doesn’t refer to a particular form of party, so feel free to use it as you like.

        For example, you might say ‘I’m going to Steve’s birthday do tonight.’

        21. Dodgy

        In British slang terms, ‘dodgy’ refers to something wrong, illegal, or just plain ‘off’, in one way or another.

        For example, it can be used to mean illegal – ‘He got my dad a dodgy watch for Christmas’; it can be used to mean something food-related that is nauseous or nauseating – ‘I had a dodgy kebab last night and I don’t feel right.; and it can also be used as a pejorative – ‘He just seems dodgy to me.’

        22. Fortnight

        ‘Fortnight’ – a British slang term more commonly used by virtually everyone in the UK to mean ‘a group of two weeks’.

        For example, ‘I’m going away for a fortnight to Egypt for my summer holiday.’

        23. Gobsmacked

        ‘Gobsmacked’ – a truly British expression meaning to be shocked and surprised beyond belief. The expression is believed by some to come literally from ‘gob’ (a British expression for mouth), and the look of shock that comes from someone hitting it.

        For example. ‘I was gobsmacked when she told me she was pregnant with triplets.’

          24. Grockel

          This is cheating, it is almost exclusively used in the English county Devonshire, but I’m including it as its fun to say. It is used as a derogatory word for tourists.

          For example, ‘I don’t go over there anymore it’s full of grockels these days.’

          25. Gutted

          ‘Gutted’ – a British slang term that is one of the saddest on the lists in terms of pure contextual emotion. To be ‘gutted’ about a situation means to be devastated and saddened.

          For example, ‘His girlfriend broke up with him. He’s absolutely gutted.’

          26. Have a gander

          I believe this expression originates in the English county of Cheshire. The word relates to the way a goose (a male goose is called a gander) cranes its neck to look at something. As such a form of this expression ‘Have a goosey’ also exists, but is much more uncommon.

          In context it works like this, ‘Come here and have a gander at what he’s doing.’

          27. Hunky-Dory

          ‘Hunky-dory’ – a neat little piece of British slang that means that a situation is okay, cool, or normal.

          For example, ‘Yeah, everything’s hunky-dory at the office.’

          28. Jammy

          Jammy is in semi-common use in the north west and south west of England. It is a descriptive word, used to describe someone who is extremely lucky for something, without putting in much effort for it.

          For example, ‘I can’t believe you won that, proper jammy.’

            29. Kerfuffle

            Another rather delightful and slightly archaic words in this list of British slang terms is ‘kerfuffle’. ‘Kerfuffle’ describes a skirmish or a fight or an argument caused by differing views.

            For example, ‘I had a right kerfuffle with my girlfriend this morning over politics.’

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            30. Knackered

            ‘Knackered’ – a great word and phrase used by Britons to describe their tiredness and exhaustion, in any given situation. Often substituted in friendly circles for ‘exhausted’.

            For example, ‘I am absolutely knackered after working all day.’

            31. Lost The Plot

            ‘Lost the plot’ is one that can actually be discerned by examining the words themselves. To ‘lose the plot’ can mean either to become angry and/or exasperated to a fault, or in a derogatory – if slightly outdated sense – to mean someone who has become irrational and/or acting ridiculously.

            For example, ‘When my girlfriend saw the mess I’d made, she lost the plot.’

            32. Mate

            ‘Mate’ – one of the commonly used terms of endearment and affection in British slang terms. Used when you are talking to a close friend, and is often easily substituted for the American ‘buddy’, ‘pal’, or ‘dude’.

            For example, ‘Alright, mate?’

            33. Minging

            Minging (pronounced: ming-ing) is a lovely alternative to the word “disgusting” or “gross”. I feel there is something appropriate about it.

            For example, ‘Don’t it that mate it looks minging.’

            34. Muck

            Muck is a substitute for “dirt” however, in many ways I find it a superior word. There is something oddly onomatopoeic about it and seems to have a dirty quality of itself.

            In context, ‘I can’t come in, my shoes are all mucky.’

            35. Nice One

            ‘Nice one’ – used almost always sarcastically in common British lexicon, although it can be used sincerely depending on the context.

            For example, ‘You messed up the Rutherford order? Nice one, really.’

            36. Our Kid

            I’m cheating a bit with this one, as this is used almost exclusively used around Manchester and the North of England. But there is something wonderfully tender and endearing about it.
            It is a term denoting your younger brother/ sister, or close family member such as a cousin.

            For example, ‘Did you hear about our kid Kevin? He got a new job.’

            37. Pork pies

            This term comes from cockney rhyming slang,[1] a form of communication originated in old east London by merchants to communicate with each other in a way that is disguised and incomprehensible to outsiders. Unlike most rhyming slang expressions, it is still in semi-popular use both in London and outside.

            The expression is a synonym for ‘lies’. Note how the second word ‘pies’ rhymes directly with ‘lies’.  As such when you hear it in use, even if you aren’t familiar with expression you can often tell what is being said by the rhyme and the context it is being used in.

            For example, ‘Don’t listen to him he’s telling pork pies.’

              38. Posh

              Generally, ‘posh’ denotes the English upper classes. However it can be used to describe anything flashy or needlessly classy or expensive. It is similar to the American word ‘fancy’, however it has a much more entrenched class basis.

              In this way “posh” can be used in the following two ways:

              • I’m going to a posh restaurant tonight.
              • Have you met Bob’s girlfriend? She’s pretty posh.

              39. Proper

              This has two different meanings depending on location or social classes. From a higher social class, ‘Proper’ denotes actions appropriate to certain circumstances. For example, ‘Don’t do that, it’s not proper!’ However such a usage is becoming less common.

              More common, and common in the north and southwest England. “Proper” is used as an alternative to “very” or “extremely”, something that can give a term extra weight. For example, ‘that meal was proper tasty’ or sometimes ‘that was proper.’

              40. Rubbish

              One of the most commonly-used British phrases, ‘rubbish’ is used to mean both general waste and trash, and to also express disbelief in something to the point of ridicule (in this sense it is a much-more PG-friendly version of ‘bollocks’.)

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              For example, it can be used respectively, in, ‘Can you take the rubbish out please?’, and ‘What? Don’t talk rubbish.’

              41. Scrummy

              One of the more delightful British slang terms in this list, ‘scrummy’ is used as a wonderfully effusive term for when something is truly delicious and mouth-wateringly good.

              For example, ‘Mrs Walker’s pie was absolutely scrummy. I had three pieces.’

              42. Sick

              This is a relatively newer entry to the lexicon of British Slang, most often used by youth. In this case something being “sick” is actually a good thing. It’s like a stronger form of “cool”

              For example, .Yeah I’d love to do that, it sounds sick.’

              43. Skive

              ‘Skive’ – (Pronounced sky-ve)a British slang term used to indicate when someone has failed to turn up for work or an obligation due to pretending to fake illness. Most commonly used with schoolchildren trying to get out of school, or dissatisfied office workers trying to pull a sick day.

              For example, ‘He tried to skive off work but got caught by his manager.’

              44. Taking The Piss

              Given the British tendency to mock and satirise anything and everything possible, ‘taking the piss’ is in fact one of the most popular and widely-used British slang terms. To ‘take the piss’ means to mock something, parody something, or generally be sarcastic and derisive towards something.

              For example, ‘The guys on TV last night were taking the piss out of the government again.’

              45. The Bee’s Knees

              The bee’s knees – a rather lovely term used to describe someone or something you think the world of.

              For example, ‘She thinks Barry’s the bee’s knees’. Can also be used sarcastically in this same sense.

                46. Throwing a wobbly

                This phrase means the same thing as having a tantrum. However there is one notable difference is that throwing a wobbly tends to be used when describing tantrums thrown by adults, or people who should otherwise know better.

                For example, ‘I left when Darren threw a wobbly.’

                47. To nick/nicked

                Depending on how it is used, “Nick” can mean one of two things (three including the name). The most commonly used form is as an alternative to “steal”. As in  “I accidentally nicked this pen from work.” Another way it can be used is as a term for being arrested.

                For example, ‘I got nicked a year ago.’

                What I like about this term and its two/three usages is that the following sentence, “Nick got nicked for nicking something” makes grammatical sense.

                48. Tosh

                A nifty little British term that means ‘rubbish’ or ‘crap’.

                For example, ‘That’s a load of tosh about what happened last night’, or ‘Don’t talk tosh.’

                49. Trainers

                Trainers are the British equivalent of the American sneakers denoting athletic shoes. In some ways, “trainers” is the more appropriate term, after all, athletes tend to wear them while training, not sneaking.

                In use, ‘I just brought some new trainers.’

                50. Wanker

                Oh, ‘wanker’. Possibly the best British insult on the list, it fits a certain niche for a single-worded insult to lobbied out in a moment of frustration, anger, provocation, or, of course, as a jest amongst friends. ‘Wanker’ fits the closest fit by ‘jerk’ or ‘asshole’, but to a slightly higher value.

                For example, ‘That guy just cut me up in traffic – what a wanker.’

                If you’re interested in languages and slangs, you shouldn’t miss these articles:

                Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

                Reference

                [1] Cockney Rhyming Slangs: What Is it?

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                Anna Chui

                Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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                1 5 Real Relationship Goals You Should Actually Strive Toward 2 When You Learn A Second Language, These 7 Amazing Things Will Happen To You 3 15 Things To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Truly Happy 4 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 5 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

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                Last Updated on January 15, 2021

                7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

                7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

                The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

                Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

                Posture

                First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

                • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
                • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
                • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
                • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

                All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

                Facial Expressions

                Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

                • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
                • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
                • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

                If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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                1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

                A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

                The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

                This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

                2. Relax Your Face

                New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

                The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

                To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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                3. Improve Your Eye Contact

                Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

                The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

                To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

                3. Smile More

                There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

                Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

                4. Hand Gestures

                Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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                It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

                5. Enhance Your Handshake

                In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

                “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

                It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

                6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

                As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

                Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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                Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

                Final Takeaways

                Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

                If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

                More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

                Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

                Reference

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