Every country has its own sayings, phrases, and idioms that only those from that specific country seem to understand. Very much like those little inside jokes we make; with the ones we are closest to. These sayings can be quite useful to learn, especially if you plan on traveling to a different place in order to avoid any embarrassing misunderstandings. It can also be interesting to those who take pleasure in learning about different languages and cultures, in order to expand your own knowledge on the subject.
If this is something you’re interested in, then you better stick around because I’m going to share with you some of the most common British sayings you should know as well as examples to explain them further!
Common British Sayings, Phrases, and Idioms
1. Fancy a cuppa?
This phrase is a way of asking someone if they would like a cup of tea, most commonly in a place of hospitality. That may be in an establishment that offers coffee and tea, perhaps while you wait for an appointment or being a guest in someone’s home.
- For example: “Welcome, fancy a cuppa?”
2. A penny for your thoughts
This phrase is simply a way of asking someone to share their thoughts, perhaps during a conversation about a specific subject.
- For example: “I’d pay a penny to hear your thoughts on COVID-19.”
3. A few sandwiches short of a picnic
This saying is used to describe someone who lacks common sense.
- For example: “He’s really sweet, but he’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic…”
4. Actions speak louder than words
Now, this phrase is widely used around the world, but it’s also a very common British saying. This phrase simply applies that what someone does has a much greater meaning in comparison to what that same person says, you may say this to someone who don’t mean much of what they say.
- For example: “Saying ‘I love you’ and showing that you love someone are two very different things. After all, actions speak louder than words.”
This saying is another way of greeting someone, meaning “Hello, how are you?”. You’d often use this saying on a friend or family member and even an acquaintance as it may seem a bit informal.
- For example: “Alright, Samantha? I haven’t seen you in a while.”
6. Bee’s Knee’s
During the 1920s, this saying became extremely popular in the USA. What many people may not know is that it has British origins! This saying is used to describe something as super cool and trendy.
- For example: “Ariana Grande’s new song is the bee’s knee’s!”
7. An arm and a leg
You’ll hear someone use this phrase when they believe something is way too highly-priced.
- For example: “This bag cost me an arm and a leg!”
8. I’m knackered!
This saying is another way of saying “I’m tired!”, but not just ‘tired’. Really tired. Perhaps after doing a hard workout or working a whole day.
- For example: “Finally I can rest. I’m knackered!”
9. You’re on a bender
You would say this phrase to someone who constantly gets up to no good, that may be drinking too much or continuously getting into trouble.
- For example: “You really need to think about your actions, because you’re on a bender!”
10. The ball is in your court
You would say this to someone when it’s their turn to make a decision.
- For example: “Hey, don’t ask me. The ball is in your court.”
11. You’re a cheeky one
The word ‘cheeky’ in this saying is another word for playful or mischievous, you may hear this phrase often being said in a playful way.
- For example: “My daughter is a real cheeky one, always hiding my things!”
12. The boot of the car
No, cars do not have boots. This British saying is referring to the trunk of the car, replacing ‘trunk’ with ‘boot’.
- For example: “I think I forgot the shopping in the boot of my car.”
13. Barking up the wrong tree
This is a negative saying, often used when someone is in the wrong place or with the wrong person.
- For example: “I don’t know why you hang out with them, you’re just barking up the wrong tree.”
14. I’m chuffed to bits!
You know when you’re so happy, you just can’t seem to find the right words to describe the intense feeling. Well, this is the phrase you’re looking for! This is used when you are feeling a great deal of joy.
- For example: “During our wedding day, I was really chuffed to bits!”
15. A good old chinwag
This common British saying refers to the tail wag of a dog. It’s used when you’re having a conversation with a friend or family member, that consists of a lot of gossips or a much-needed catch-up. It’s called a ‘chinwag’ as the jaw is continuously moving, much like the tail of a happy dog.
- For example: “That was the best chinwag we’ve ever had!”
16. Beat around the bush
You would use the phrase on someone who is clearly avoiding a specific subject.
- For example: “Stop beating around the bush and tell me what happened.”
17. That was bloody amazing!
The word ‘bloody’ is a very common replacement for the word ‘very’ and it can be used for both positive and negative things.
- For example: “That man at the cinema was bloody loud!”
18. Biting more than you can chew
We all know that one person that does way too much, this British saying describes them perfectly.
- For example: “Why did you accept all this work? You’re biting off more than you can chew.”
19. Best thing since sliced bread
Sliced bread has been around 1928, this saying describes an idea or plans to be great!
- For example: “Your birthday surprise was the best thing since sliced bread!”
20. Curiosity killed the cat
Cats are known to be very curious animals; this phrase refers that someone has the same instinct and it will eventually get them in trouble.
- For example: “You should stop going there, after all, curiosity killed the cat.”
British Sayings, Phrases and Idioms | Image