English is the de facto national language of Britain, but that doesn’t mean you’ll take to the vernacular like a duck to water. The locals like their slang more than most, and deciphering it requires expert supervision. This guide to British sayings, funny British phrases, dirty expressions, slang words, and more will not only help you understand what the people of England, Wales, and Scotland are saying, but it’ll also help you pass for a local if need be. Just make sure you use these in the right context — if you’re having tea with the Queen at one of her many residences, keep the crude British sayings listed below under wraps. We wouldn’t want to offend Her Majesty or create a major diplomatic incident.



British phrases and slang words and how to use them

Buzzin’

Meaning: To be slightly drunk or to be excited
Example of usage: “John’s had a couple of pints; he’s buzzin'” / “Evie’s passed her exams; she’s buzzin'”

It’s chucking it down

Translation: It’s raining heavily
Example of usage and translation: “It’s really chucking it down; I wish I had my brolly” = “It’s raining hard; I wish I had my umbrella”

Do one

Translation: Get lost
Alternative: Piss off

It’s parky out

Translation: It’s cold outside
Alternative: It’s brass monkeys out

Did you just fluff?

Translation: Did you just fart?
Alternative: Did you just pop?

I’ll give you a bunch of fives

Translation: I’m going to punch you in the face

That’s pants

Meaning: It’s not great, not very good

I’m knackered

Translation: I’m exhausted

Bloody hell

Explanation:“Bloody Hell” is a term used to express anger, surprise, or shock
Example of usage: “What the bloody hell was that all about?” / “The dog needs to go out again — oh bloody hell” / “Bloody hell, Amie, I think I’m in love with you”

I’m gutted

Translation: I’m very disappointed
Example of usage: “I’m gutted, man; I didn’t even have the chance to get her phone number”

On the pull

Meaning: Being on the pull means to be on the lookout for someone to have sex with during a wild night out

I’m skint

Translation: I have no money
Example of usage: “Sorry, lads, I can’t go to Ibiza with you this spring — I’m skint”

Snog

Meaning: A snog is the equivalent of making out. Full-blown, tongue-wrangling kissing.

Taking the Mickey

Meaning: Making fun of or teasing someone
Alternatives: Taking the Mick / Taking the Michael / Taking the piss
Example of usage: “Stop taking the Mickey; I love my new yellow raincoat!”

Gobsmacked

Translation: Utterly astonished
Example of usage: “I was gobsmacked to read that in the papers”

Don’t be daft

Translation: Don’t be silly
Explanation: This slang phrase usually comes about in conversation when you ask someone a favor or apologize for something trivial
Example of usage: A: “Sorry I ruined your tea, Mark” B: “Oh, don’t be daft”

This is mint

Translation: This is awesome
Example of usage: “The concert was mint, mate”

He’s such an anorak

Translation: He’s such a nerd

Waffle

Meaning: To talk on and on and on and on and on about nothing

Sloshed

Translation: Drunk
Alternatives: Shitfaced / Arseholed / Trollied / Legless / Pissed / Battered / Steaming / Hammered / Leathered / Squiffy / Lubricated / Rat-arsed / Pickled / Well-oiled / Merry, etc.

Bodge

Meaning: To bodge something together means to do/write/make something quickly so that it’ll just about do. It usually isn’t good enough and probably won’t last.

Telling porkies

Translation: Telling lies
Explanation: This slang phrase comes from the Cockney rhyming slang “pork pies” which rhymes with “lies”

Slagging someone off

Meaning: To say horrible things about someone behind their back

Wacky-backy

Meaning: Weed, pot
Explanation: The term is a little bit old-fashioned. Don’t use it if you want to look cool.

Faff

Meaning: When someone faffs around they are taking their time and not doing much
Alternatives: Fannying / Fannying around
Example of usage: “Oh my God, sorry we’re late. Tom was faffing about.”

Smarmy

Meaning: Being smarmy means that you hold a certain attitude often accompanied by an air of superiority that instantly makes people dislike you

Jammy

Translation: Lucky

Not too shabby

Translation: Not bad

You alright?

Translation: How are you?

Chippy

Meaning: The fish and chips shop, i.e. a no-nonsense place where you can get a bag full of fries, with pies, sausages, and fried cod or haddock

Things British people say that Americans don’t understand

Tea

Explanation: In the north of England, “tea” is another word for dinner

Dinner

Explanation: Again, in the north of England, “dinner” means lunch

I’ve got the hump

Meaning: Feeling blue and grumpy
Explanation: This British expression often refers to feeling grumpy for no real reason
Note: Be careful with the word “hump” because to hump someone means to have sex

Going up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire

Meaning: Going to bed
Explanation: Heading up the wooden hill (the stairs) to Bedfordshire (bed)

I’ve got to go see a man about a dog

Meaning: I need to take care of some business, and I don’t necessarily want to share all the details

Let’s have a butcher’s

Translation: Let’s have a look
Explanation: This slang phrase comes from the Cockney rhyming slang “Let’s have a butcher’s hook” which rhymes with “look”
Example of usage: “Let’s have a butcher’s at your new dress”

I’m off to spend a penny

Translation: I’m going to the bathroom
Alternative: I’m going for a slash

Sweet Fanny Adams

Translation: Nothing
Example of usage: “My boyfriend got me Sweet Fanny Adams for Valentine’s Day. Can you believe it?”

He’s a bit dishy

Translation: He’s good looking

Going up the apples and pears

Translation: Going up the stairs
Explanation: This slang phrase is an example Cockney rhyming slang as “apples and pears” rhymes with “stairs”

Funny British sayings and their meaning

You’re all bum and parsley

Translation: You’re a loud know-it-all
Example of usage: “You don’t know what you’re talking about; you’re all bum and parsley”

She’s a picnic short of a sandwich

Meaning: She’s not very bright
Alternative: She’s a slice short of a loaf / She’s not the full shilling

Pop one’s clogs

Meaning: To pop one’s clogs is a euphemism for dying or death

That went down a treat

Translation: It was very enjoyable
Example of usage: “That cake went down a treat”

Cheap as chips

Meaning: Very cheap, or a bargain
Example of usage: “Only a fiver for a concert ticket — cheap as chips, mate!”

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves

Meaning: If you take care not to waste small amounts of money, then it will accumulate into something more substantial

Happy as a pig in muck

Translation: Very happy
Example of usage: “When he’s left alone to read, he’s happy as a pig in muck”

Not give a monkey’s

Translation: I don’t care
Example of usage: “I don’t give a monkey’s about your baby’s sleeping schedule”

That’s the badger

Translation: That’s it
Example of usage: “That’s the badger! That’s the name I could not remember!”

Bob’s your uncle

Translation: There, you have it
Example of usage: “Just flick that switch and Bob’s your uncle”

Making a right pig’s ear of something

Translation: To do a bad job
Example of usage: “He made a right pig’s ear of this plumbing job. Everything’s leaking!”

Dirty and rude British sayings and their meaning

As the actress said to the bishop

Meaning: This is the British equivalent of “That’s what she said.” It highlights a sexual reference, whether it was deliberate or not.
Example of usage: “Blimey, that’s a big one — as the actress said to the bishop”

For shits and giggles

Meaning: For fun

Pull your finger out of your arse

Meaning: Get on with it

Bollocks!

Translation: Oops, shit, f*ck, crap, oh no

You’ve got your knickers in a twist

Translation: You’re overreacting

Careful, he’s on the chunder bus

Translation: Watch out, he’s going to throw up

He’s the dog’s bollocks

Translation: He’s great
Alternatives: He’s the dog’s danglies / He’s the mutt’s nuts

He’s such a plonker

Translation: He’s an idiot
Alternatives: He’s such a ponce / pillock / tosser / twit / knob / bellend

To get a bollocking

Meaning: To get told off

I can’t be arsed

Translation: I can’t be bothered

Arse about face

Translation: Back to front

They don’t know their arse from their elbow

Translation: They are stupid

It’s piss poor

Translation: It’s not very good

On the piss

Meaning: Going out on the town with your mates to get drunk
Example of usage: “We have not seen Alice all evening. She’s been on the piss with the girls from school.”

Shag

Meaning: Sex
Alternatives: Slap and tickle / Bang / Bonk / Rumpy-pumpy / A bit of how’s ya father / A good rogering
Example of usage: “God, I can’t believe I almost shagged that guy last night.”

What a cock up!

Explanation: Something got messed up
Alternative: It’s all gone pear-shaped
Example of usage: “We went to the theater and all the actors forgot their lines and the orchestra played the wrong songs. What a cock up!”

I just went arse over tit

Translation: I fell very badly

This article is the combined work of five writers: Cory Varga, Lauren Williams, Susannah Rigg, Stacy Ullenes, and Alice Latham.