British slang will probably leave you “gobsmacked”. It’s a weird phenomenon which leaves many tourists puzzled, not understanding why “a storm is brewing” when there is sun outside, why they are served an evening meal when they ordered “tea,” and how to react when they are told “to do one”. Here’s a guide to some of the most interesting British slang, so you can better understand this hip culture.
Here are 18 slang words and phrases you need to know before traveling to the UK.
Brits are not referring to the sound of the bees, so no need to run away just yet. Buzzin’ means to be slightly drunk and have the buzz on. When you are at the pub, you will probably be buzzin’ after a couple of pints. Buzzin’ is also a way to tell others you are excited. If someone just passed an exam, chances are, they are “buzzin’ mate!”
2. Chucking it down
Let’s get this clear: Brits use over 50 words for rain. We don’t like the rain, but it’s so common, it’s part of the daily life in Britain. You can’t avoid it unless you’re off on holiday somewhere warm. Chucking it down is a way of saying “there is torrential rain”. It’s the sort of rain which definitely requires an umbrella.
3. Bloody hell
The explanation for this one is a bit vague because Bloody Hell is a term used to express, anger, surprise, and shock. I guess you need to figure it out based on the conversation.
“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.”
On the bright side, you can probably include bloody hell in any conversation. Chances are, it will probably make sense.
Gutted used as a slang word has nothing to do with disembowelment. So worry not, nobody had their abdomen cut open. When someone tells you they are “gutted” it means they are just extremely disappointed. For example:
“I’m gutted, man, I didn’t even have the chance to get her phone number.”
When someone tells you they are skint, they’re not announcing they had a weird medical procedure, they are just informing you they have no money. You will hear this a lot amongst students especially and in the Northern cities in the UK.
6. Take the Mickey
Taking the Mickey, the Mick, the Michael, or taking the piss means making fun of someone. So next time someone is making fun of your new yellow raincoat, just tell them to stop taking the Mickey.
Being gobsmacked means utterly astonished. This type of slang is incredibly popular in the North in the UK and locals use it to dramatize. “I was gobsmacked to read that in the papers”.
8. Don’t be daft
When you have a conversation with someone in the UK, you will inevitably be told to not be daft. Being daft means being silly or foolish. This usually comes about in conversation when you ask someone a silly favor or apologize for putting too much milk in their tea.
“Hey Marc, sorry I ruined your tea.”
“Oh, don’t be daft.”
Northerners can be so confusing when they tell you they are off to get tea. One could even think that Brits really live to their stereotypes with their tea because, after 5 PM, virtually everyone is “off to get tea”. They are not talking about tea as in the beverage, but about dinner.
Wait, so if tea is another word for dinner, then what could dinner possibly mean? In some Northern cities of the UK, dinner is another word for lunch. So when you visit Manchester from London and are asked to go to dinner, don’t assume it will an evening meal, but be ready for lunch.
Supper is referred to as the main evening course. It’s essentially the same as tea (dinner). However, in a certain region, people refer to supper as their late evening snack, after they already enjoyed their tea. Are you confused yet? The best bet is to just go along and eat as much as possible, at any time of the day.
12. This is mint
Not everyone feels the need to announce they found mint, as in the plant, growing at the side of the road. Mint is a slang for awesome. So next time someone tells you “mint” during the conversation, take it as a positive statement. For example:
“The concert was mint, mate”.
Brew is one of the most versatile British slang words.
“Let’s make a brew” is an indication that someone is about to make a cup of tea or coffee.
You can also say something like “Let’s brew a plan” in which case brew becomes slang for devising a secret plan.
And just to confuse you even more, some Brits love saying something like “a storm is brewing”. This means there is going to a storm, or in a personal conversation, it means there is going to be trouble or emotional upset.
If you arrive in the UK as a student and just made a best friend, chances are, you two are brew brothers (which means drinking buddies). Probably you will be spending a lot of time in the pub where you will quaff a brew (drink a beer).
14. Not too shabby
This is the reply you will get when you ask someone “How are you?” Not too shabby means not bad. It is also a term used by many sports fans in the football context.
“United scored 3 goals last night, not too shabby!”
15. Do one
Annoy a Brit and chances are, they will tell you to “Do one.” It’s basically classed as an insult and they are telling you (for shorters) to do a disappearing act. If someone tells you that, you might want to grab your coat, your umbrella and do one home.
Brits are not testing their hearing when they keep on replying to you by saying “sound.” It’s their way of saying that it’s all ok and it’s good, awesome. When you talk to younger generations, chances are, you will hear this in any standard conversation.
When someone tells you “Let’s go to the chippy” you should absolutely say yes! The chippy or chipper is a slang for the fish and chips shop where you can get a bag full of chips, with pies, sausages, fried cod or haddock. Just be aware that in the UK, people put salt and vinegar on their chips, so make sure to specify if you only want one or the other.
18. You alright?
This is one of my favorite slangs as every foreigner in the UK gets really puzzled by the question. “You alright?” is just another way of asking “How are you”. Your reply should be something like, “Not too shabby”.
Best Travel Credit Cards
Top offers from our partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
100,000 bonus points
The Platinum Card®
100,000 bonus points
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 bonus points