Unlocking British Slang

21 March 20243 mins read

Welcome to the charming and sometimes baffling world of British slang! Even English speakers from America, Canada, or Australia might have trouble understanding Brits, this is because British slang includes unique phrases, idioms, and expressions that have developed over centuries. But don’t worry—we’re here to help you make sense of it all, or at least, some of it! From casual greetings to expressions of surprise, we’ll get you sounding like a local in no time! Let’s get started!

Greetings and Goodbye

1. Alright?
• Meaning: A casual greeting, like saying “Hello!” or asking “How are you?” or “Are you okay?”
• Usage: You can respond with a simple “Alright?” back, or “Yes, thanks, you?”
2. Cheers!
• Meaning: A word that can be used to say thank you, or as a toast when clinking glasses.
• Usage: Someone holds the door for you, you smile and say, “Cheers!”
3. Ta-ra
• Meaning: A friendly, casual way of saying goodbye.
• Usage: As you’re leaving a casual meet-up with friends, you might wave and cheerfully say, “Ta-ra, see you next time!”
4. Have a good one!
• Meaning: A friendly way of wishing someone well for the day or for whatever they are about to do.
• Usage: As you’re leaving a casual get-together with friends, you might say, “Alright, I’m off. Have a good one!”
5. I’m going to shoot off!
• Meaning: Casual way of saying that you are leaving or need to leave quickly.
• Usage: If you’re at a social event but remember you have an early start the next day, you might find an opportune moment to say, “I’m going to shoot off, need to be up early tomorrow. Catch you all later!”

Comments on Situations

1. It’s tipping it down
• Meaning: It’s raining heavily.
• Usage: On a day with pouring rain, you might cancel outdoor plans, saying, “We can’t go for a hike now, it’s tipping it down outside.”
2. I’m knackered
• Meaning: Feeling very tired or exhausted.
• Usage: After a long and tiring day, collapsing onto the sofa and sighing, “I’m absolutely knackered, can barely keep my eyes open.”
3. I’m gutted
• Meaning: Feeling very disappointed or upset.
• Usage: After hearing disappointing news, such as a cancelled event, you might express your feelings by saying, “I was really looking forward to that concert, I’m gutted it’s cancelled.”
4. It’s not my cup of tea
• Meaning: A way of saying that you don’t like something very much.
• Usage: When declining an offer to attend a heavy metal concert, you might explain, “Thanks, but it’s not really my cup of tea. I prefer jazz.”
5. That’s bang out of order
• Meaning: Something is completely unacceptable or inappropriate.
• Usage: In response to hearing about someone’s unfair treatment at work, you might show solidarity by saying, “That’s bang out of order, you should definitely speak to HR about it.”

Describing People and Behaviour

1. He’s a muppet
• Meaning: Refers to someone acting foolishly or without common sense.
• Usage: After someone makes a silly mistake, you might shake your head and say, “He’s a muppet, isn’t he? Always getting things mixed up.”
2. You’re a legend!
• Meaning: A compliment and way of saying that someone has done something impressive.
• Usage: If a friend goes out of their way to help you, you might express your thanks by saying, “You’re a legend for helping me move house!”
3. Don’t be daft
• Meaning: Telling someone not to be silly or irrational.
• Usage: In response to a friend’s unnecessary apology, you might reassure them by saying, “Don’t be daft, you’ve done nothing wrong.”
4. As thick as thieves
• Meaning: Used to describe people who are very close friends and share secrets.
• Usage: Speaking of two friends who are always seen together, “They’ve been as thick as thieves since high school.”
5. A real piece of work
• Meaning: Referring to someone with a difficult or untrustworthy character.
• Usage: After dealing with someone who is always causing problems, “He’s a real piece of work; always trying to stir up trouble.”

Food and Drink

1. Fancy a cuppa?
• Meaning: Would you like a cup of tea? (Though it can be about any hot drink.)
• Usage: When a friend visits your home on a chilly day, you might greet them with, “It’s cold outside. Fancy a cuppa?”
2. It’s my round
• Meaning: Saying it’s your turn to buy the next round of drinks for the group.
• Usage: At a pub with friends, noticing everyone’s glasses are empty, you might stand up and say, “Don’t worry, it’s my round. What’s everyone having?”
3. Fancy a bite?
• Meaning: Asking if someone would like to eat something.
• Usage: When you’re feeling a little hungry and you’re with a friend, you might ask, “Fancy a bite? There’s a great café nearby.”
4. I’m stuffed
• Meaning: Feeling very full after eating.
• Usage: After finishing a large meal, you lean back and say, “I can’t eat another bite, I’m stuffed.”

Expressions of Surprise or Disbelief

1. You’re having a laugh
• Meaning: Finding a suggestion or situation ridiculous or unbelievable.
• Usage: If someone asks for a very high price for a service, you might say, “£1000 just to paint the fence? You’re having a laugh!”
2. I am gobsmacked
• Meaning: Feeling extremely surprised or shocked.
• Usage: After getting an unexpected gift or surprise party, you might express your surprise by saying, “I was completely gobsmacked when I walked in and everyone shouted ‘surprise!'”
3. I don’t believe my eyes!
• Meaning: A phrase used when seeing something unexpected or remarkable.
• Usage: Seeing a rare bird in the Bell Cambridge garden, you might grab your friend’s arm and whisper excitedly, “Look at that, I don’t believe my eyes! ”
4. That’s a turn up for the books
• Meaning: Something surprising or unexpected has happened.
• Usage: When a usually late friend arrives early for once, you might greet them with, “Well, that’s a turn up for the books. You’re actually on time!”
5. Blimey
• Meaning: An expression of surprise, shock, or amazement, often used to react in the moment to something.
• Usage: After seeing an amazing goal during a football match, you might jump up and shout, “Blimey, did you see that shot?”

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to British slang, but it’s a great starting point for anyone looking to get a feel for everyday conversation in the UK. Remember, the key to mastering any new language is practice, so don’t be shy to use these phrases whenever you get a chance. Who knows? You might just find yourself fancying a cuppa with new British friends, chatting about the rainy weather, and expressing your feelings like a true Brit. Cheers to your learning adventure!