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British slang terms and other relevant terms for non-British media consumers. See also: British Accents for the multitude of ways you'll hear them spoken, or this site for an utterly exhaustive list of words, phrases, definitions, examples and etymologies.

The sister tropes to this are, of course, American English and G Day Mate. Italicised words are also heard in Australian English. For tropes encompassing all branches of English, see Separated by a Common Language.

  • Abseil: Descend a wall on a rope. Equivalent to US "rappel".
    • The word is originally German, but is pronounced "ab-sail", not in the German manner which would be closer to "up-sile".
  • Across the pond: "In America". "The Pond" is an informality for the Atlantic Ocean; "leftpond" and "rightpond" are sometimes used as slang for America and Europe respectively.
    • Ironically, this term is actually now used more commonly in America than England. Often when referring endearingly or condescendingly to Britain.
  • Advert: The UK version of America's "ad". In addition, "advertisement" is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable, so it sounds like "ad-vert-is-mint".
    • Saying it like that is actually something you see down south. It's very rare for someone in the north of the country to pronounce it like that - up north it's pronounced 'ad-ver-tise-ment'.
  • ae spelling: Pronounced "ee" in words of Greek or Latin etymology. Some words in US English eliminated this, for example the prefix "paedo-" often becomes "pedo-" and "haemo-" becomes "hemo-". The pronunciation may or may not change. Posh typesetters will use the ligature 'æ', as in "Encyclopædia Britannica".
    • There's also the oe spelling, as in "oestrogen" or (etymologically incorrect) "foetus" (or œstrogen and fœtus). Also pronounced "ee".
  • Aeroplane: US airplane.
  • Afro-Caribbean: A polite way to say "black" (as a race), similar to the phrase "African American".
    • The difference in terminology is due to the fact that most of Britain's black population can trace their lineage to slaves brought to work the sugar plantations on British holdings in the West Indies, whereas blacks in the US were brought over to work the Tobacco plantations. And later, cotton.
  • Alright?: A non-formal equivalent of "hello". Only semi-intended as a question and only expected to be answered in a non-committal vaguely positive but not too positive way and a return of the question itself

 Person 1: Alright?

Person 2: Not bad. Yourself?

Person 1: Not bad.

  • Arse: the British version of "ass", as in your backside. "Ass" is sometimes used to refer to a donkey, either literally or figuratively, often as a joke playing on the double meaning.
  • Asian usually refers to someone from South Asia (typically India, Pakistan or Bangladesh), as opposed to the American usage which tends to refer to East Asians (from Japan, China, Korea, etc.). "Oriental" has no negative connotations when used to refer to East Asians.
  • Autumn: Fall, as in the season; although this is used interchangeably in America, the opposite is not true, in that Brits will never say "Fall" to mean the season.
  • Barking mad: Not just crazy, completely crazy.
  • Be called to the witness box: To "take the stand" in court.
  • Beer garden: Outdoor area of a pub.
  • Bellend: Idiot, annoying person, lit. the end of one's penis, similar to dickhead.
    • The word "dickhead" itself tends to be read (nonsensically, it's true) as "person with a penis on his head" rather than this, and there's an obscene gesture denoting such.
  • Bender: Homosexual. Probably the reason Avatar: The Last Airbender had its name changed.
    • It's also rather old slang for a sixpence.
  • Bent: Similarly, this sometimes means homosexual (interestingly, it makes sense in opposition to "straight"), but more often means 'corrupt', as in a 'bent policeman,' very similar to the American term "crooked".
  • Bill: US 'check' (the slip of paper demanding payment in a restaurant, hotel etc.). "Bill" does not refer to paper money - GB says "a five-pound note" where US says "five dollar bill".
    • This is actually a common usage in the US as well, though more often applied to regular expenses received in the mail (utilities, telephone, etc). Even in areas where "check" is more commonly used, almost nobody will be confused if you ask for your bill in a restaurant.
  • Billion, trillion, etc.: Historically, a billion was 1012, a trillion was 1018, and so forth, called the long scale. In the USA, they used the short scale, where a billion was 109 and a trillion was 1012. In the 1970s the British government changed their official usage to the short scale, and this is reflected in common usage now. There are still some people who use the long scale, but they're very much a minority, and the words now almost always refer to the same numbers that they do in the USA. The older terms "British style" and "American style" for the numbers are also obsolete, and could be confusing. The Other Wiki has an article about it.
  • Billy No Mates: Someone with few friends, regardless of their given name. Typically used by juveniles.
  • Bin, Dustbin: Trashcan. References to the overhead lockers on planes as "bins" is amusing to Brits.
  • Bird: A colloquialism for a woman. Use (and the politeness thereof) may vary, although one generally wouldn't use the term to refer to a prepubescent girl, an older woman or a family member. Understood by most Americans thanks to the British invasion (of music).
    • Compare the US English "Chick".
    • Also used to mean "prison time": eg "He's doing bird in Dartmoor."
    • In older works, "bird" may instead be a term for an older man, usually resulting in a modern audience becoming quite confused.
  • Biscuit: A "cookie" in American English, cookie is still used to describe larger biscuits with chocolate chips.
    • Frasier's Daphne Moon fluctuates between using "biscuit" in the British sense and then in the American sense (to describe what her countrymen would call a "scone").
  • Bloke: Man, guy.
  • Bloody: A very mild swearword, most commonly used in the phrase "bloody hell", and often seen as a way to Bowdlerise things. However, it can still come off oddly when American authors use it in the wrong context.
  • Bob: In pre-1971 works, a shilling. Survives in the phrases "he's worth a bob or two" ("he is rich") and "he's as queer as a nine bob note" ("he is as gay as the day is long", an American version is "queer as a three-dollar bill").
  • Bog: Slang for the toilet. Derived phrases include "bog roll", "gone straight down the bog", etc.
  • Bollocks: Slang for testicles. May also be used in place of the phrase "bullshit" One exception: The phrase "the dog's bollocks" means something good. Compare "Shit" and "The shit", respectively.
    • To receive a "bollocking" is to get a right telling-off; can be Bowdlerised to "rollicking".
    • A similar term "Bollix" (meaning foul up) is used in some parts of the US. John Wayne used it in the movie Chisum ("Don't make a bollix of it").
    • "Bollocks" is also used to denote discontent, as in "Oh bollocks"; simliar to "Damn it".
  • Bonnet, boot: In addition to their traditional sartorial meanings that non-Brits would be familiar with, these also refer to the hood (lid of the front, usually engine, compartment) and trunk (rear compartment) of a car, respectively.
  • Bottle: Nerve, courage; e.g. "He wanted to chat up the fit bird but he hadn't the bottle."
  • Brilliant: A more general term roughly meaning excellent, wonderful, amazing, etc. Something described as "brilliant" may not be particularly clever or ingenious.
  • Brew, a: A cup of tea.Note that it is only used when it is given an ordinal indicator (so someone would speak of "a brew" or "some brews" they would never call their drink "my brew").

 Stock phrase: "Ay love, make us a brew."

    • More a Northern expression than a UK-wide one. Also very common in Wales.
      • Though very widely used in the Armed Forces; the "brew bitch" is someone - often the most junior - who is expected to make the tea.
    • Can also be used to refer to a cup of coffee.
  • Bugger: Semi-offensive swearword, literally meaning sodomise but pretty much divorced from that meaning in everyday conversation as it's usually only used as an interjection. It's one of the ones that Americans might think sounds "quaint" but is actually reasonably offensive, although nothing like the word "fuck". Offensiveness also varies by region, as in many Northern areas (eg. Yorkshire), bugger is barely swearing at all (although you still wouldn't want to take tea with the vicar and say it then), and its offensiveness tends to vary by context and intonation.
    • Most commonly used in the phrases "Oh bugger", "bugger off" and "buggered up", by the way.
    • It's not entirely unused in the U.S., but on the rare occasion you hear someone here say "bugger" it's not even a mild curse but more of a euphemism for "fucker" along the lines of "dang" or "darn" for "damn".
  • Builder: A fairly specific term for certain types of construction workers.
  • Bum: bottom. Backside. Rump. Sit-upon. "Bum" is understood as a mild swearword in British English, so works produced and set in America often have the word "bum" (used in the American sense) altered to "tramp" if they're intended to reach British audiences.
    • May also be used in a colloquial sense as slang for the act of anal sex (typically with homosexual connotations), and by extension as a way of indicating a preoccupation with something (neither use is very polite). For example "Stop bumming that album."
    • Can also be used to mean "borrow/scrounge", as in "Can I bum a fag off you?" Common in American English as well, especially in conjunction with cigarettes.
      • This usage probably derives from the archaic (or perhaps obsolete) usage of "bum" to mean "bailiff", as seen in one Agatha Christie novel.
    • It's only a swearword in the meaning "sodomise", and then usually humorous (to give you an idea, the associated noun is "bummage"). In the meaning "posterior" it's innocuous, even in works for kids.
  • Burgle: Known in the states as "burglarize", referring to common housebreaking.
  • Candyfloss: Cotton candy.
  • Cashpoint: ATM. Also known as a "cash dispenser", "cash machine" or "hole in the wall".
  • Chap: Old-fashioned term for a man. Tends to be confined to the upper classes or TV adaptations of c.1920s-'50s literature. "Old chap" is a common form of address in these contexts. In Allo Allo, it is signified that characters are speaking "English" when they start talking this way. Expect to see "old bean" or "old boy" in the same context.
    • Can also be a lower-class form of address/greeting, as in "Orright chap?"
  • Chav: Depending on who you ask this can range from a thuggish individual to a member of a particular working class subculture to a general insult directed towards anyone who lives on a council estate. The closest American equivalent would be "douchebag", or possibly "trailer trash". See the other wiki for details - the only thing anyone can agree on is that calling someone a chav isn't intended as a compliment. Other types of Lower Class Lout by region include;
    • In East Anglia they were called "barries" (like the man's name; females were "sharons") in the late '90s and early '00s, but this has been replaced by "chav", to the extent that people have forgotten "barries" ever existed.
    • The North-West likewise had "scally" - possibly derived from "scallywag" - which quickly fell out of use shortly after the turn of the millennium, except by teens.
    • In Belfast, they're "spides" or "chip-eaters", the latter referring to their copious consumption of chips.
    • In Scotland they're Neds. Opinions differ on origin but mostly either Non Educated Delinquent or Ne'er-do-well.
  • Cheers: As well as a salute to other drinkers of alcohol, means "thank you" in informal usage.
  • Chips: Used to describe what would be called "French Fries" in the US. "Fries" in the UK refers specifically to the thin-cut variety they sell at McDonald's, although these are still generally referred to as chips.
    • As in "fish and chips," which can confuse younger Americans. See "crisps" for what Americans call "chips".
  • Coach: Bus; thus the signs all over England reading "No football coaches allowed". No, it's not a prohibition against Rex Ryan, nice as that may sound. Football coach = bus full of soccer fans.
  • The Continent: shorthand for the rest of Europe, although "Europe" is also used to mean the rest of Europe in opposition to Britain, or to the EU.
  • Colour: This is spelt with a U in UK English, as are several other similar words such as "Armour", "Honour" and "Neighbour" plus derivatives like "Colourful" and "Neighbourhood". But beware - words like "humour" still decline to "humorous", and honour to "honorary". As "Technicolor" is a trademark, credits of British movies don't alter its spelling. The same goes for English spelling in most other other Commonwealth nations.
  • Crisps: "Potato Chips" in US English.
  • Crown: "The Crown" refers to the reigning monarch and/or the property held by the monarch, e.g. "These ships belong to the Crown." However, before 1971, a "Half crown" was also a 2.5-shilling coin.
  • Cunt: See Country Matters for more details; it's still extremely rude, but is used to refer to either gender (although it's typical for men to be thought of as behaving more "like a cunt") and thus doesn't come off as unspeakably misogynistic as it does in America. Also, in Glasgow it's a term of affection... make of that what you will. It's also frequently used as a term of camaraderie in certain groups outside of Glasgow as a way of expressing strong friendship.

  "Bloody hell, how the fuck are you, you miserable old cunt?! I've not seen you in donkeys!" *men will now hug and imbibe at least three pints each*

    • Its use is so ubiquitous in the Armed Forces as to be more-or-less relegated to the role of punctuation or a placeholder noun for pretty much anything and everything.
  • Cuppa: Short for 'cuppa tea'.
  • Daft: A very mild, and clean term meaning stupid or of poor judgement.
  • Divvy: This can describe either an appreviation of "dividend" (or as a verb for dividing something up e.g. "we divvied up the loot" means the same as "we split the loot between us") or an idiot (e.g. "What a bunch of divvies", "He's a bit of a divvy"). The latter is sometimes shortened to "div".
  • Down tools (verb): Stop working. Traditionally understood as a synonym for "go on strike", but it may now also mean "clock out for the day". In sports contexts, the American equivalent is holdout.
  • Envisage: US "envision". This isn't very common.
  • Faff: A hassle; an inconvenient or dull task. Also "to faff about" meaning "to mess about".
  • Fag: Slang for a cigarette. Don't be alarmed if someone says they're going outside to "suck on a fag".
    • As a verb, means having a younger boy act as a servant to an older boy in a public school; considering the US meaning, this has even more potential for humorous confusion.
  • Fanny: Female genitals. This can lead to reasonably inoffensive American humour becoming far more amusing to a British audience.
    • So the US "fanny pack" becomes "bum bag" in the UK.
  • First Floor: The floor above the ground floor, known in America as the second floor. Ground floor is also interchangeable with first floor in the American usage.
  • Fit: Attractive. Can lead to puns really easily.
  • Fiver/Tenner: A five-pound or ten-pound note (Brits call paper money 'notes', not 'bills'. A bill is an invoice for payment). In Australian English, refers to five-dollar notes and ten-dollar notes, respectively. A twenty-pound note is simply called a "Twenty" rather than "Twentier" and a fifty-pound note is likely to simply be called that, given how rarely they're seen.
  • Flat: A one-story apartment. As in, "Hey, babe, want to come up to my flat and snog?"
  • Football: Always used to describe the sport also known as Soccer.
    • Just as football = soccer: table = standings; fixture list = schedule; match = game; draw = tie; etc.
  • Fortnight: Two weeks. Unsurprisingly derived from 'fourteen nights'. Surprisingly useful.
  • Full Stop: Period, as in the punctuation mark; thus the final words of The Abridged History 1066 and All That: "History came to a ." Britain is aware of the word 'period', however, particularly the usage "Period!" to put an end to an argument, going at least as far as having really bad puns on certain adverts for feminine hygiene products.
  • Gaol: Archaic spelling of 'Jail', pronounced the same way.
  • Gardening Leave: A type of forced holiday sometimes used to keep people away from the office in between handing in their notice and their contract actually ending.
  • Geezer: Man. Comes across quite Cockney-ish, or working class. Often has connotations of the geezer in question not being entirely trustworthy.
  • Geordie: A native of certain parts of Tyneside. Exactly who can be considered a Geordie is a topic of some debate, but you're usually pretty safe using it to refer to natives of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. It doesn't refer to just anyone from the North East, and whatever you do, do not use it to refer to a native of Sunderland[1].
    • It can also be used to refer to the distinctive dialect spoken in the city. Some people actually call it, 'Geordie English'.
  • Git: A stupid, obnoxious, incompetent, or childish person. As an insult it's somewhere between "twit" and "wanker," but it can be softened by changing the spelling slightly to "get," which is the preferred form in some parts of the United Kingdom. Not to be confused with the American South's corruption of the verb "get."
    • Though it's derived from the word "get", in the sense of offspring (cf. "begat") as a euphemism for "bastard".
  • Gob: The noun form is a synonym for the mouth ("Oi you, shut yer gob!"), while as a verb it means "to spit," typically a viscous wad of phlegm.
    • Hence the British term "gobstopper" for the large spherical candy known as a jawbreaker across the pond.
  • Government: the current Prime Minister and his Cabinet. In America, this is referred to as "the administration", while "government" is reserved for what Brits call "the state".
  • Guv: short for "governor". Used for a boss, often in British cop shows.
    • Denotes some respect: 'Boss' if he's neutral / unliked, 'Guv' if he is liked/respected. Can be used for female leaders.
    • In Victorian upper-class slang "The Guv'nor" meant "my father". Appears in the Sherlock Holmes story The Gloria Scott, a couple of Flashman stories and elsewhere.
    • Formerly used by Cockney street-urchin types in place of "sir", as in the Stock Phrase "Shine ya boots, guv'nah?".
  • Handbag fight (N.B. UK "handbag" = US "purse"): A fight in which not much harm is (or is likely to be) done, due to the belligerents' inability/inebriation/pacifism, i.e like two girly-girls whackin' each other with their purses. "Handbags at dawn" is also heard.
  • Hard man: Tough guy, Badass.
  • Hen night/do/party: Bachelorette party. Usually seen stumbling around town on Friday and Saturday nights in a skimpy uniform involving pink bunny ears. Tackier variations add an L plate to the bride-to-be. *shudder*
    • Just visit Newcastle-upon-Tyne on a weekend. Go on, I dare you.
  • Herb: is pronounced with an "h" at the start. Brits find it slightly odd/amusing when an American mentions "erbs". The same tends to apply to other words with an unpronounced "h" sound.
  • Hiding: A beating or spanking. Often used to describe an umpteen-nil football match. (Note that the verb "hide" is not used as a synonym for "beat" or "spank".)
  • Holiday: A day off from work, whether prescribed by tradition (e.g. Christmas) or taken on the employee's own volition. "He's on holiday/on his holidays" in Britain means the same thing as "He's on vacation" in America.
  • How D'you Do?: Common semi-formal greeting in certain circles, almost never pronounced as the original "how do you do?", but closer to "Howjadu?". Contrary to popular belief, it's meant as a rhetorical question and the only response should be either a polite nod or a reciprocal "How d' you do?".
  • Innit: Shortened form of "isn't it?" used most commonly in London and South East Wales. Overused to the point of stereotype by some, in the same way that Canadians like the word "eh".
  • -ise/-isation: E.g. "Bowdlerise", "Bowdlerisation". Spelt (that's the British spelling, by the way) with Zs in the Oxford English Dictionary, but the S variation is more common.
  • Jobsworth: Unhelpful public service employee, from their catchphrase "it's more than my job's worth to do X".
  • Johnny: Condom
  • Juggernaut: A large truck.
  • Jumper: A sweater. Both words are used, but the former is more common.
  • Kerb: curb. It’s a homonym.
  • Kerb-crawling: driving slowly by the curb, i.e., soliciting prostitution.
  • Kerfuffle: Commotion or fuss.
  • Knob: Slang for the penis, or, in verb form, vulgar slang for sex. Slang form can also be spelled "Nob". Also commonly used as an insult - usually to describe males who frequently make mistakes, similar to "boob", or someone who is unpleasant, similar to "dick".
  • Knock up: To knock on somebody's door in order to wake them up. The "knocker-up" was an employee whose duty was to go round the town knocking on people's doors to awaken shift workers whose shifts started at ungodly hours, in the days before alarm clocks were common/reliable. Of course nowadays the phrase is more commonly associated with unwittingly getting someone pregnant.
  • Kosher: used much more (in the idiomatic sense of 'legitimate') in Britain than in the States.
    • Similar to 'pukka' - truthful or correct. 'Kosher' - 'the real thing'/'legal'.
    • So much so that some Orthodox Jews of my acquaintance Hebraicize to "Kashrut" when they specifically refer to Jewish dietary law (eg, "I keep Kashrut at home")
  • Leg it: Essentially, run like hell. A close American analogue would be to "hoof it."
  • Lift: "Elevator" in US English. Also the equivalent of "ride", as in "I'll give you a lift to the station".
    • -although 'taken for a ride' means to be tricked or exploited.
      • Both "I'll give you a lift" and "taken for a ride" would be perfectly understood by Americans (not sure about other countries). As would lift to mean elevator for that matter, although it is not the usual term.
      • "Lift" is sometimes used in American media (Star Trek being an example with its turbo-lifts), but only to refer to the more spartan sorts such as service elevators or dumbwaiters.
  • Loo: Toilet, lavatory, "the gents'" or "the ladies'". The "bathroom" is the room where the bath is (and it's a "bath", not a "bathtub").
  • Lorry: A truck. Something knowingly stolen is often said to have Fallen Off The Back Of A Lorry. Pickup trucks and the like are called "light trucks", though.
  • Love: Largely similar to "Mate". Mostly used by any member of the opposite sex to the other when their relationship is only friendly, but otherwise used amongst hetero friends or relatives.
  • Manc: Slightly derogatory term for someone from Manchester (who are rightfully called Mancunians, by the way).
  • Manky: filthy, disgusting. One unintentionally funny consequence of this comes about when you realise that there's a Pokémon called Mankey...
  • Mate/Chum: Friend, pal, companion. "Mate" can also be a mode of address, or an exclamation of surprise, approval or disgust, depending on the tone ("Ah, MATE!" equivalent to "dude").
    • It doesn't mean partner, unless you're talking about animals. This is one of the most confusing things when reading this word written by American authors!
  • Mackem: Slang for a person from Sunderland (usually preceded by Dirty Monkey, when used as an insult).
  • Maths is the way of shortening mathematics, not "math".
  • Meat and two veg: Another slang for the penis (and testes).
  • Milliard: Back when the Long Scale (see above) was still in use, "a milliard" was a way of saying a thousand million. Today, you'd just say "billion."
  • Minge: Female genitals.
  • Minger: Ugly person. Mingin' is the equivalent adjective. Rhymes with "singer", not "finger". Unrelated to the above.
  • Mini-break: A vacation lasting less than a week.
  • Mobile phone: A common mistake among American writers is to have British characters refer to handheld phones as "cell phones" or "cells". Brits tend to just refer to them as "mobile phones", "mobiles", or simply "phones".
  • Mohican: Another name for the mohawk hairstyle. Both words are used and understood.
  • Monged: Very high (on drugs). Rhymes with "wronged". "Mong" (short for "mongoloid", an archaic and now offensive term for people with Down Syndrome) may be used as a semi offensive insult, similarly to the way "retard" is used on both sides of the the Atlantic.
    • In recent times "mong" has become more offensive since, being based on the apparent physical similarities between people who have Down's Syndrome and people of Mongolian descent ("Mongols"), it manages to offend both groups quite spectacularly.
  • Motorway: The equivalent of a US "freeway" or "interstate highway".
  • Muff: Slang term for female pubic hair or genitalia - also North American, but rarer.
    • Unrelated to Mufty Day which is a regional name for a day when children (and teachers) need not wear school uniforms (or dress like a teacher). Some parts of the country simply use "non-uniform day" or "civvies day". (This is from the older military term 'mufti', meaning 'civilian clothes'.)
  • Mum: Mom.
    • Or Mam in much of northern England. It is frustratingly difficult to get cards with Mam instead of Mum on them, because even over here Britain Is Only London sometimes.
    • Mam in Wales too. And Mom in the West Midlands.
  • Nicked: Arrested. Prison is "the nick", or "chokey"/"stir" in Wodehouse-era works.
    • Also "stolen", generally in the context of petty theft.
  • Nought: "Zero" in American, in Australia "Zero" is for numbers, "nought/naught" is used the same way as "all for nought", not sure about New Zealand. Strikes many Americans as odd, even though the phrase "all for nought" is fairly common in America.
  • Noughts and Crosses: Tic-tac-toe. (Zeros and X's, get it?) Still, Americans call their "naughts" in Tic Tac Toe after the letter "O".
  • Noughties: An uninspired name for the 21st century's uninspiring first decade. Americans may find this humorous.
  • Numpty is very similar to "plonker" (see below) but is usually gentler with more of an implication of affectionate exasperation.
    • Used mainly in Scotland, Northern England and Wales.
    • Other favourites include "prat" and "muppet".
  • Off-licence: Liquor store (the name comes from the fact that they're licenced to sell alcohol to be consumed off the premises). Sometimes called an "offie".
    • This can also mean the licence the shop holds that allows it to sell booze. Pubs and restraunts are instead granted an "on-licence" (to sell alcohol to be consumed on the premises) but are never called that.
  • Old money may be used to describe the imperial system of measurement or the predecimal system of currency.
    • "What's that in old money?" can mean the questioner thinks you asked a stupid or unclear question.
    • It also refers to a person's background/'breeding'. Distinctions are often made between families of 'new' and 'old money', with the quiet 'got-nothing-to-prove' attitude of 'old monied' folk seen as something to aspire to.
  • Oi!: Cockney word for, "Hey!" No connection to the Yiddish term "oy". Sometimes written as "Hoi!" for cases where someone is surprised (as in "H-[uh?]...OI!"). And for the record, if it's missing the exclamation point at the end, it's spelt wrong. Also common in Wales.
  • On the Take: Open to bribery; frequently interchangeable with the corrupt definition of "bent" above.
  • Oriental: Adjective for an ethnically East Asian person or people. Possessed of no negative connotations, unlike in American English.
  • P45: The document you get from the taxman after termination of an employment contract, often mentioned in allusion to a dismissal.
  • Pavement: "Sidewalk". Literally one with stone or concrete 'paving slabs'. Usually used to refer to the road surface in America.
  • Pikey: Originally a term for Irish Travellers, it's been of late spreading out into a general insult implying low social status and lower morals -- the kind of people trailer trash look down on.
  • Pillock: similar to "plonker" below.
  • Pint: An imperial pint, 20 imperial fluid ounces, the standard size for a large beer. Whereas Americans say "A pint's a pound the world around," Brits say "A pint of water's a pound and a quarter."
  • Pissed: Slang for "drunk". For "annoyed", use pissed off; again, this can be a source of amusement when the American and British mix (eg "Why is his boss pissed at work?").
    • Side note: in the appropriate context, every single word (or phrase) in British English is acceptable slang for "drunk". Make of this what you will.
  • Plaster: What Americans call a Band-Aid.
  • Plonker: Someone who is oafish or foolish (e.g. "Rodney, you plonker!"). Broadly similar to 'wanker', with the added insult of being a fool. Less offensive than wanker, however. Allegedly originated as a slang term for a particular World War I artillery shell that happened to be somewhat phallic in shape, and from there came to mean a penis, a meaning that's almost entirely disappeared since.
  • Poof/Poofter: a gay man, generally a derogatory term, but mild. Usually implies some level of Camp Gay-ness.
  • Posh: Upper-class; stylish; materialistic. The best usage example is Posh Spice.
  • Pub: Short for public house. The difference between a bar and a pub is sometimes contentious, but pubs tend to have an older style to them, with wooden decor, and will primarily serve beer and cider, with a more relaxed atmosphere. Most will serve a specific kind of stodgy food during the day and may have an outdoor section, or beer garden.
  • Public school: "Private school", confusingly enough; the term comes from such schools originally being founded as free schools for the poor. Even then, this is simplifying a bit, since "Private School" means something slightly different and colloquial usage in Scotland is more in line with the American usage. Use "Government school"/"state school" and "independent school" if you want to be unambiguous.
    • Public schools are more accurately defined as a particular class of independent schools; they do have a special legal status, as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868. But hardly anybody knows that. In general usage "public school" = "fee-paying school".
  • Pull: Can mean either "attempt to persuade someone to have sex with you" or "succeed at persuading someone to have sex with you"; the latter's American equivalent is "score".
  • Pumps: Only ever used to refer to a certain variety of (usually) canvas, rubber-soled flat shoe used in indoor sports (primarily in school.) Never used to describe any other kind of shoe.
    • Also refers to passed gas, along with 'fart', 'trump', etc...
  • Punt: A gamble. "I'll take a punt on that".
    • Also, a small flat-bottomed boat that is propelled by a very long pole, punting is a very popular in the rivers around Cambridge University.
  • Punter: Customers or clients, usually of a business providing entertainment, gambling or illegal goods/services. Funfair owners, casino bosses and the suspicious-looking bloke in a pub selling DVDs of questionable origin might refer to their customers as "punters"; the managers of Harrods or Selfridges are less likely to do the same.
    • Also a term for a prostitute's client ("john" in the US).
  • Purse: A woman's wallet. A US "purse" is a British "handbag".
  • Quid: A pound sterling. "Ten quid" is ten pounds. Generally speaking, "Quid" is the Brit(ish) slang for pounds in the same way that "Buck(s)" is the American slang for [a] dollar(s). It is also Irish slang for the euro, because the currency up until 2002 was the (Irish) Pound (Or Punt) and had similar slang to the Sterling. Most of these (quid, notes, fivers, tenners, etc.) carried over (some older people even refer to the Euro as the Pound) and very few new slang terms (save maybe "yo-yos") were created for the Euro.
    • Common in quite a few countries in fact. "Quid" being latin for "What", it probably simply means "Ten whatever they call their money over here."
  • Randy: Horny. Appears to be at least vaguely known in the US, since Meet the Fockers has a brief joke using it.
  • Ring Road (a.k.a. orbital motorway): A "beltway" or "loop". US newspapers' references to politics "inside the beltway" confuse Britons. References to the "beltway echo chamber" translate roughly as the "Westminster bubble".
  • Root: Have sex with.
  • Rubber: "Eraser", those pink and generally oblong things you use to messily undo pencil writing.
    • The comedian Rene Hicks mentioned how when she was in Britain a local asked if she had a rubber and promised to bring it back. Of course to the American mind this means condom, so hilarity ensued.
  • Sack: fire, dismiss etc. As in "Given the sack", i.e. to put your belongings in.
  • School: Never refers to college or university, unlike in the US. See British Education System for more info about actual schools; it gets quite complicated because different parts of the UK do it very differently.
  • Series: When talking about TV shows, a series is the US season; perhaps because they don't last for several months. This has caused mild panic among American fans of British television, because when an American hears the term "Series Finale," it means the show is over for good, as opposed to being finished until next year. Incidentally, in British English you tend to talk about TV programmes rather than shows.
  • Seven Shades: A large quantity of shit. Something you don't want beaten out of you.
  • Shag: inoffensive word meaning "to have sex with".
    • Also a kind of carpet. Some believe there is a connection between the two terms.
  • Shite: Pretty much the same as shit, but more often used to describe something, so "That's shite" is a bit more common, and a bit stronger, than "That's shit". Some people think it sounds nastier than shit, and it causes massive dissonance when Groundskeeper Willie uses it on The Simpsons.
    • So a Gobshite is someone who talks a lot of shit.
  • Skint: Broke, as in no money.
  • Skip: Slang for dumpster.
  • Slag/Slapper: slut, US "tramp", etc. Has connotations of less-than-desirable appearance as well as promiscuity.
    • Not to be confused with the American term for scrap metal, usually partially molten, left over from some industrial processes. This sense is known in Britain, especially in the iron and steel industry, and yes the engineers and scientists have a sense of humour about it.
      • Actually, very similar to the American term for scrap metal. Something readily discardable. Just this one's a woman.
    • "To slag something/someone off" means to disparage it.
  • Slash: Go for a piss. (Although it does also refer to the punctuation mark '/') This kinda makes Slash Fiction sound like it's something it's not.
  • Sleeping policeman: speed bump (US), ramp (Ireland). Kipping cop is also heard.
  • Snigger: US "snicker". Used less nowadays, as like the word "niggardly" it has an unfortunate potential for being misheard.
  • Snog: Make out, kiss with tongues. Used a lot more by teenagers than adults, however, so can come off a bit childish.
  • Sod: Used in "sod off", or tends to refer to an idiot, moron, or someone who can be unpleasant ("he's a daft old sod" vs "he's an absolute sod") Comes from "Sodomite".
  • Sot: A drunkard.
  • Spanner: A wrench, as seen in the title of Spanner in the Works. May also be used as an insult along the lines of "tool", though typically with further implications of incompetance (e.g. "Don't do that, you spanner!").
  • Spastic: In America, it means hyperactive or out of control, but to British ears, this is a major insult for the mentally disabled (like "retard", or worse).
  • Spunk: Semen. Of course, this one has double meanings, but can be hilarious when a character (especially female) is described as "full of spunk".
    • Although "spunk" is occasionally used to mean semen in America, it's far less common.
  • Stag (also buck) night/do/party: Bachelor party. See Hen night for the female equivalent. Stag party was common stateside during the mid-20th century, but has faded since. These days many take a Stag weekend and go to a cheap European destination like Prague.
  • Stone: A unit of measurement equal to 14 lb. Brits usually measure their weight in stone, distance in miles, their height in feet and inches, and milk, beer and blood in pints[2], but everything else in the metric system.
  • Stroke: A term for the "/" character, also known as slash, oblique or solidus. Tropers may know the term from Stroke Country (or Northern Ireland/Ulster/The Province/etc/etc/etc...).
  • Subway: Often means "underpass", although interchangeably with the American usage. The subway/metro system in London is always known as the Underground, the Metro, or the Tube (after the shape of the tunnels and trains).
    • In Glasgow, the underground is actually known as the subway (when it's not being referred to as the Clockwork Orange....) Cue amusement upon discovering there's a Subway (as in, the sandwich shop) right next door to the actual subway.
  • Tin: A container or package. Used here on TV Tropes in the trope Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Tip: (Garbage) dump. Also applied, as is "dump" in America, to any unkempt area: "My pad looks a complete tip".
  • Tit: As in every other English dialect, means "Breast" (or more specifically a nipple, though it can be used interchangeably for either), but it has many different uses in British usage. It can be used as a general insult, "You're such a tit"; mean a button or knob control, typically in an aircraft (though this is old-fashioned now); used to mean something has died or gone wrong in the expression "gone tits up"; describe a person who is heavily under the influence of drugs in "off their tits"; and can be used to express annoyance at someone: 'He really gets on my tits'. Obviously the phrase is a corruption of 'gets on my nerves' (Maybe because tits tend to have a lot of nerve endings). But now I think about it, makes no sense whatsoever... anyway, it too can be used irrespective of gender.
    • European birds of the genus Parus, the same as the American chickadees, are commonly called tits. There are Great Tits, Blue Tits and Coal Tits, amongst others. Some people find thistitillating.
    • "Tit" generally only means "nipple" when referring to non-human females, eg. "a three-titted 'un" for a cow with only three functioning teats. In a human context it means "breast".
  • Toff: Posh person.
  • Torch: a flashlight, shortened from "electric torch". Can completely change how a scene is imagined by American readers, as in a scene with a child reading by torchlight under the covers.
  • Tosser: very similar to wanker.
    • Toss-pot used to mean "heavy drinker" (from "pot" meaning a drinking vessel, especially a pint glass, and "toss" being the action of draining it very quickly as if throwing it down one's throat -- see The Hobbit for instance), but now has the same meaning as "tosser".
  • Totty: Attractive women. Almost universally used as a plural noun.
  • Trainers: Short for Training Shoes, called "Sneakers" in US English. Used to be called "plimsolls", but this usage seems to have died out. Usage of "sneakers" in British English tends to be reserved for small, thin shoes like Converse.
  • Tramp: a homeless person, equivalent to the US "bum". Means the same thing in the US, but much less common after the 30's.
  • Twat: As in America, but pronounced to rhyme with 'hat', 'bat', 'cat'. Almost never used literally.
    • Curiously it can also be used as a verb; "to twat someone" essentially means "to hit someone very hard".
  • Twit: nominally "idiot", as in Spike Milligan's Casabazonka, but nearly always used as a humourous or affectionate term rather than an insult.

 Diana (Maggie Smith): Twit.

Sidney (Michael Caine): Twit and a half.

California Suite

  • Uni: Short for university.
  • Vanilla Slice: The name for a pastry also known as a Custard Slice, Napolian, French Slice or Mille-feuille. It consists of two or three layers of puff pastry sandwiching whipped cream or confectioner's custard.
  • Wanker: British insult. "To wank" is to masturbate, so calling someone a wanker implies that they spend a great deal of time playing with themselves. Often used where an American would use "Asshole," or, appropriately enough, "Jerk-off."
  • -ward: In UK English this suffix tends to have an s added to the end much more often than in US English (e.g. Forwards/Forward - in UK English "forwards" is an adverb ("to move forwards") and "forward" is an adjective ("forward movement")).
  • Week: When preceded by a weekday (e.g. "Tuesday week"), means "next [weekday]". Although, the further North you go, it may mean "[weekday] after next [weekday]". Just as there is potential for confusion with the American format, it is wise to clarify with the speaker.
  • Wellingtons/Wellington Boots: Rain boots, rubber boots, billy boots, or gum-boots in the USA. Named after the Duke of Wellington, who popularised them in Britain. Commonly abbreviated to 'Wellies'.
    • Also can be used in the phrase "Give it some welly!" Meaning to to put a lot of physical effort into something.
  • Zebra crossing/Pelican crossing: US "crosswalk", as seen on the cover of "Abbey Road". Pelican crossings have lights indicating when it is safe to cross; zebra crossings do not. Another major transatlantic difference is that the lights on a pelican crossing display a red man or a green man siloette (similar to the ones on a toilet door) rather than "Walk" or "Don't Walk".
    • There are also Puffin crossings[3], Toucan crossings[4] and Pegasus crossings[5], which are like Pelican crossings but with minor differences. Most Brits don't know they exist unless they live in an urban area which has had them installed (and actually needs them).
  • Zed: pronunciation for the twenty-sixth letter of the alphabet (not "zee").

Miscellaneous grammar (also applies to Australian English):

  • US "a couple things" is always "a couple of things".
  • Similarly, while Americans write their Congressman, Britons write to their MP.
  • An event may happen on Saturday, not just "Saturday".
  • When reciting numbers, and is always placed in between the hundreds or thousands and the smaller ones; so while 158 is "one hundred fifty-eight" in America, it's always "one hundred and fifty-eight" in Britain.
  • In writing, quotation marks include the exact phrase they are quoting, and don't include extraneous punctuation. Some examples can be seen above, where the full stop (period) is not included in the quotation.
  • A few past tenses tend to use -t rather than -ed, for example spelt, burnt and leant (a homophone with "Lent").
  • Nouns that refer to groups are always grammatically singular in America, but may be plural in Britain. Happens a lot with sports teams, such as "England are winning this game", but also in other phrases like "The band are awful".
  • Dates are either "the fifteenth of May" or "May the fifteenth", unlike in America where one can drop the "the". It can be particularly jarring hearing it without "the" on trailers and suchlike. And of course, the dates are numerically Day/Month/Year, not Month/Day/Year -- so 7/8/2010 is August the seventh, not July the eighth.
    • Additionally, when speaking the year Brits will say "fifteen May" (somtimes/rarely), "Two Thousand and Eleven" (or sometimes Twenty Eleven), rather than the "Two Thousand Eleven" used by the gravelly-voiced men in the aforementioned movie trailers.
  • "Only..." is sometimes used after a question to mean "The reason I ask, is..." (In American English, "Because..." would more likely be used for this.)
  • When seeing something unusual, the Yank says "That's odd", the Brit says "Odd, that".
  • British dictionaries and other references tend to be (viewed as) descriptive, rather than prescriptive: it's the dictionary's job to usefully explain what words you encounter were intended to mean by the author, not necessarily to tell you the "correct" way to use it yourself. While neither British nor American English has an official definition from a language academy (unlike French), these are the respective positions of the two most popular dictionaries in each country, Oxford and Webster's. (However, other dictionaries do exist with varying points of view.) This means that the "rules" of British spelling and grammar are, for practical purposes, much more flexible.

Cockney Rhyming Slang (especially handy when dealing with Fake Brit "Cockneys", but used elsewhere)

  • [Aunt] Joanna: Piano. Down under, it's mutated to "Goanna", a kind of lizard. (Hence Joanna the lizard in The Rescuers Down Under.)
  • Battle cruiser: boozer; ie, pub.
  • Berk[eley Hunt]: Cunt. Nowhere near as insulting as the origin might lead you to believe, and never used to refer to a literal vagina. Sometimes misattributed to the term 'Berkshire Hunt' which makes less sense.
    • Note that, while "berk" is pronounced as spelt ("burk"), the county of Berkshire is said "Barkshire".
    • In more recent years, this has been (appropriately) replaced with "James Blunt".
  • Boracic [lint]: Out of money -- see "skint" above.
  • Brass tacks: facts. This is one of the few examples to have made it into American English; John W. Campbell used it as the name of the Astounding (later Analog) letters page.
  • Bristols: tits ("Bristol City" - titty[6]).
  • Have a Butcher's: look at something. "Butcher's Hook" - look.
  • Charlies: Inoffensive term for a woman's genitals, or sometimes breasts. From "Charlie Hunt", whoever he was. Also "Charlie" meaning "twit", as in Berk above.
  • Me old China: Mate or friend ("China plate"- mate).
  • Nuclear sub: pub.
  • Pete Tong: wrong.
    • Named after a British DJ. Also the name of a Canadian Mockumentary.
  • Porkies [Pork pies]: lies.
  • Ruby [Murray]: Curry. Named after an otherwise obscure singer from Stroke Country.
  • Septic tank: Yank; derogatory term for Americans.
  • Sherbet [dab]: cab (taxi), though "sherbet" can also refer to cocaine.
  • Tin tack: sack; as in, the metaphorical one you're given when you're dismissed from your job.
  • Trouble [and strife]: Wife.
  • Wallace [and Gromit]: To vomit.

Cockney cash (some of these terms are widely used; the rest are understood but seemingly exist only to be on lists such as this):

  • Dustbin lid (quid), Alan Whicker (nicker): £1
  • Lady Godiva (fiver): £5
  • Ayrton Senna (tenner): £10
  • Score: £20
  • Pony: £25
  • Bullseye: £50
  • Ton: £100
  • Monkey: £500
  • Bag of sand (grand): £1000

Also, shrapnel refers to loose change.

Northern Terms (There is some overlap with Scottish words in this area, by the way):

  • Aye: Yes.
  • Bairn: child (also used in Scotland).
  • Beggar: Local and euphemistic pronunciation of bugger, used informally in the same context, ie. a person ('that silly beggar!')
  • Canny: A good thing to be called Oop North, someone finding you canny means they like you. Ironically, elsewhere it means the person is untrustable.
    • Often used similarly to "very" as in "that bird's canny fit".
  • Charver: The northern version of chav.
  • Dee-dar: Native of Sheffield, so called because they supposedly pronounce 'th' as 'd'.
  • Divvent: Do not. The equivalent word for 'do' is dee, not 'div'. Not to be confused with:
  • Divvy: Informally, 'idiot'. Occasionally shortened to div or pronounced divot.
    • Divvy up can also mean divide.
  • Duck: As an informal honourific used mostly by mature women. Comes from the same root as the title 'Duke'
  • Gannin: Going.
  • Ginnel/Snicket: Dialect words for a narrow alleyway, especially a shortcut in suburbia or rural areas as opposed to town centres.
  • Gaumless: Stupid. Outside the North East, it's typically spelt Gormless.
  • Nettie: 'Toilet.' Often used as a shorthand way of identifying a character as northern.
  • Nowt: Nothing, from nought (the negative counterpart of owt).
  • Owt: Anything, from the archaic aught (the positive counterpart, obviously, of nowt).
    • This and nowt lead to the northen phrase: "Whatda we know? Owt or nowt?" which can be used as a greeting.
  • t': In many Northern dialects, particularly Yorkshire, the definite article the is reduced to this -- which is either a glottal stop, or nothing. Most commonly happens after a preposition, such as in t' kitchen or to t' pub.
    • A common mistake is for non-northerners, upon seeing this written down, to pronounce for example down t'pit as "down tuh pit" - it's actually more like "downt pit", with a T-sound added to the end of the preceding word.
    • We're big fans of t'Lion, t'Witch an' t'Wardrobe.
  • Thee/Tha: Yorkshire is the only major English dialect to preserve the T/V distinction common in European languages (French tu/vous etc), with thee/tha being the modern evolutions of thee/thou, used instead of you but only in informal situations between social equals. Thouself has become Thissen, myself becomes missen.
    • Tha knows is a quintessentially Yorkshire phrase, tacked on at the end of the sentence and equivalent to a smug 'you know'.
  • The Toon: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, local pronunciation of town.
  • Us/Is: Me. "Give is a minute"

And finally, key Scottish terminology:

  • Aye: Yes.
  • Back of: A time reference, the back of twelve is anything from 12:01 to 12:59. Very hard to organize things when people are listing their plans in this kind of time frame.
  • Bairn: child (also used Oop North).
  • Bonnie: good, nice.
    • Often (but not always) implies good-looking.
  • Cannae, Dinnae: Can't, don't. There are a few more equivalents like this for the other n't contractions.
  • Crivens: General exclamation
    • The full expression is "Jings, Crivens, Help Ma Boab!"
      • Meaning 'Jesus, Christ, so help me God!'
  • Drink/Bevvy: Alcoholic beverage.
  • Firth: Estuary or fjord. Edinburgh is built on the shores of the Firth of Forth, while Glasgow is near the Firth of Clyde, and that big triangular indentation in the north of Scotland is the Moray Firth.
  • Hen: Slang for a woman; compare "bird" and "hen night" from the main list. Often used in the same way that one would refer to a guy as "mate".
  • Highlander: a Scotch person.
    • Specifically, someone from the highlands (i.e. north) of Scotland. Someone from southern Scotland is a "lowlander", natch.
    • Also known as the more pejorative "Teuchter" from "Teutonic".
  • Juice: Any non-alcoholic beverage.
  • Ken: Know.
  • Lassie: woman, usually young.
    • "Och, aye ye ken, she's a bonnie wee lassie": you can figure the subject of the discussion has a nice figure.
      • Also used in Northern England, although usually Lass, instead of Lassie.
  • Loch: As in Loch Ness, means lake. Or sea inlet, or fjord, sometimes. There are only a handful of lakes that are actually known by the term "Lake" in Scotland. Oh yeah, and "Loch" does not sound the same as "Lock".
  • Ned: The northerly Chav. "Chav" is also used in Scotland, and much like with "Geek" and "Nerd", people come up with their own personal definition. The acronym "Non Educated Delinquent" is often trotted out; it's almost certainly a backronym, however. Ne'er-do-well is another explanation.
  • Noo, The Noo: Now. "The Noo" or, more often "the now" is often used to mean "just now", as in shortly or presently.
  • Och or Ach: Often used in place of 'Oh', and it is also the Gaelic form of 'Alas'.
  • Wean: another word for child, possibly deriving from wee one.
  • Wee: little.
  • Weegie: a Glaswegian person. Not to be confused with Weegee.

Notes

  1. Because they dislike the actual Geordies. The Geordies are totally fine with that
  2. That's 20 fluid ounce Imperial Pints, not those wimpy 16-fluid-ounce U.S. pints
  3. Similar to pelican crossings (in fact they're technically an improved version), except that they use sensors to tell whether or not someone's actually crossing the road or just pressed the button and ran off, have the little green man sign next to the button rather than perpendicular to the traffic lights and use much more detailed silloettes.
  4. Designed for cyclists to cross as well as pedestrians. They have an extra light to indicate when cyclists can cross and are double the width. "Two-can" cross, geddit?
  5. Similar to toucan crossings but with horse riders replacing cyclists. They have an extra control box 2 metres above the other so riders don't need to dismount to press it.
  6. Though one wonders, of all the clubs titled "City", why Bristol was chosen. Why not call them Hulls? Or Stokes? Or my favorite, Chesters?
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