British Slang! English is spoken as a first language by people in several countries spread across the globe, and it isn’t at all surprising that the version of the English language used in one particular country has some words and phrases that aren’t really used anywhere else. This is slang: words, phrases, and idioms that aren’t considered standard in the language, and sometimes only used by people of a certain profession or social class.
British Slang Words
In the UK, there is British slang. There are many words that are used exclusively in Britain, though some also can be heard in New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and other Anglophone countries. At the same time, some other slang words are only used in a specific region. For instance, England and Wales have some of their own slang phrases, and London has its own slang as well. Arguably, the most popular slang in London is rhyming slang.
It’s difficult to say when exactly slang made its first appearance because it’s used in speaking much more often than in writing. In some cases, when slang words are written down, they’ve already become part of the standard language. However, it is known that slang was recorded for the first time in the 16th century, in the plays of William Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton, and Thomas Dekker.
Why to Use Slang Words?
Why do we need slang? Sometimes, it is used as a secret language, so that nobody, except for a certain group of people, understands it; this is why thieves and beggars have their own slang. Slang can also be used to create a sense of belonging to a profession or a social class. For instance, there are many words that are widely used and understood only by the armed forces.
British slang is one of the reasons why English speakers from other countries struggle to understand people from the United Kingdom. Some slang words just sound very unfamiliar, while some other words have completely different meanings in the standard and the slang version of English. To make things even more complicated, new slang words are constantly created and old words become outdated. Many phrases that have been used in a daily speech some thirty years ago are completely forgotten today.
Though difficult and confusing at times, slang is a big part of any language. If you travel to England or have friends from there, you should try to learn some of the most common British slang words; this will make your life and communicating a lot easier. Just remember that slang is casual, so there isn’t a place for it in formal pieces of writing. Also, don’t forget that these words should be used exclusively in Britain because, in other countries, they might be considered offensive.
10 Popular British Slang Words
Here is a list of some popular British slang words, with definitions and examples of their use.
When you say that something is tosh, you mean that this is a bunch of nonsense. The word “baloney” can also be used in the same context. For example, you might say that an article about the Earth being flat that you’ve read was tosh.
When you’re feeling chuffed, you’re pleased, happy, or proud of something. For instance, if your parents give you a birthday present that you’ve been dreaming of, you’ll be chuffed with it. Or, if you go to the gym every week now and have already lost five pounds, you’ll also feel chuffed.
This word is usually used as part of the phrase “take a gander” which means “take a look”. For example, if you’re struggling with your Math homework, you can ask one of your friends to take a gander at the equation and help you with it.
When someone is cheeky, they are doing something disrespectful and maybe even slightly rude, but in a way that everyone thinks is funny and cute. Eating the last biscuit without asking if anyone else wants it might be considered cheeky. If you’re on a diet but still go to your favorite fast food place for dinner, you can say that you’re eating a cheeky burger: something that you aren’t supposed to eat.
When you say that someone is your mate, you simply mean that this person is your friend. For example, you can introduce your best friend to a new company, saying that he’s your best mate. Usually, this word is very friendly and casual. Nevertheless, if you hear someone using it in an annoyed tone, it might mean that you’re in trouble.
This is a very popular British slang word. When someone’s feeling gutted, they’re very sad, disappointed, and devastated. For instance, you might feel gutted if you don’t pass an important exam you’ve spent weeks studying for.
If you’re familiar with American slang, you probably know this word to be an insulting term to use towards someone who’s gay. However, in British slang, it just means a cigarette. Someone you work with might be a smoker, and he’ll say that he’s going outside for a fag: to smoke a cigarette.
This word can mean “bottom” but this isn’t its only meaning. It also can be a verb that refers to using or getting something without paying for it. For example, if you also smoke but forget your cigarettes at home this time, you can ask to bum a fag from your mate.
“Trolly” is a British word for a shopping cart. However, the adjective that comes from this word has nothing to do with shopping carts: in fact, it means being drunk. So, when your mate has had too many beers at a bar, you can describe him as trollied.
This is one more word that has different definitions in standard English and in British slang. In Britain, bloody doesn’t necessarily refer to something covered in blood; it can also mean “damned” and show frustration or anger. So, saying “bloody traffic” will show how angry you are at the fact that you’ll be late for work. “Bloody British slang”, on the other hand, is an expression to show how frustrated and confused you are with so many British slang words and phrases.