50 British English Slang Expressions

Here are some of my favourite British English slang expressions. In general, you have to be a little careful about learning slang, because it can go out of fashion quickly, but these expressions are still very common.

Remember - British slang expressions can often be a little rude or vulgar. For example, some British English slang expressions use the word "arse", which is the part of the body you sit on!

For slang expressions which are considered "vulgar", don't use them with people you don't know, or in polite or formal situations.

Describing People

50 British English Slang Expressionsbe a sandwich short of a picnic = be a little bit crazy or stupid
If you're short of something, you're missing something - in this case, some intelligence or common sense!

"She's alright, but she's a sandwich short of a picnic if you know what I mean."

Other similar expressions are "a few bricks short of a load" or "a sausage short of a barbie". (barbie = barbecue)

a nosy- parker / nosey-parker = a nosy person

"Don't be such a nosy-parker. I'm not going to tell you how much I earn!"

a proper little madam / a right little madam =  a young girl or woman who expects other people do exactly what / how she wants

"Her 3-year-old daughter attends the nursery, and she's a proper little madam according to the assistants!"

a right so-and-so = someone who is difficult to deal with
We use this expression when we don't want to insult someone, but we want to make it clear that we don't like dealing with this person.

"I hear you had an argument with the man in the newsagents. Don't worry - he's a right so-and-so."

you old so-and-so = when we want to show another person that we find them clever or interesting

"What do you mean, you managed to get an extra day's holiday. You old so-and-so!"

be a wally (be a total wally) = be or act in a stupid way

"Don't be a wally John! You can't drive after drinking all that beer."

be a tight-arse = be mean, not want to pay for things
Your "arse" is what you sit on. It's very informal and a little vulgar. A politer version of "tight-arse" is "tight-fisted" or "tight".

"Her boss is such a tight-arse. They even have to pay for their own training and uniforms!"

toffee-nosed = snobbish

"Oh don't be so toffee-nosed! It's not beneath you to go out for drinks with them!"

be gobby / have a gob on him / her = talk loudly, or have strong opinions
"Gob" is a slang term for your mouth. It's informal and a little vulgar.

"She's so gobby when she's with her school mates."
"Yeah - I think she's showing off."

"What do you think of Dan?"
"He's got a bit of a gob on him, hasn't he!"

be full-on = be intense or a little too much
We can use this expression to talk about people or situations like work.

"His new girlfriend is a little full-on. She kept bombarding me with questions."

Emotions and Behaviour

50 British English Slang Expressionsget a bit shirty = get a bit angry

"When I asked him if he'd checked the dates, he got a bit shirty with me."

 


be gobsmacked
= be shocked / surprised

"I was gobsmacked when they told me I got the job."

be gutted = be very sad

"He was gutted when Lesley left him."

Your "guts" are your intestines, and we use "guts" in a lot of different expressions.

can't stand someone's guts = hate someone
"She can't stand his guts!"

have your guts' full / have a guts' full = have enough (too much) of something
"I've had a guts' full of house guests recently."

have a cob-on = be in a bad mood about something

"What's wrong with you? You've got a right cob-on!"

get up my nose / get (right) on my tits = when something annoys you

"Her attitude really gets up my nose sometimes."

"Tits" is a vulgar word for "breasts", so don't use this in formal or polite situations. (Men also use this expression.)
"John's really getting on my tits at the  moment." (= John's really annoying me.)

get your knickers in a twist = get angry or anxious about something
"Knickers" is an informal word for women's pants (underwear).

"Don't get your knickers in a twist! I only asked you if you could spare me a few minutes!"

be knackered = be very tired

"I'm always knackered at the weekend."

"Knackered" can be considered vulgar, so you might also hear the alternative "cream-crackered". (Cream crackers are a type of plain, dry biscuit we serve with cheese.)

can't be fagged / can't be arsed = when you don't want to do something because it's too much work or effort

"Do you want to go out tonight?"
"No, I can't be fagged."

"I just can't be arsed to explain it to him again."

be arsey = be difficult or uncooperative

"I asked the guy on reception to sort out the air-conditioning in my room, but he got really arsey with me."

be an arse = behave in a stupid or unacceptable way

"What did Dave say to you? He's such an arse at times."
(also "to arse about / arse around" = behave in a stupid or time-wasting way instead of working)

lord it over someone = act in a way that shows you feel superior, or to "boss someone around"

"Ever since he got the promotion, he's been lording it over his colleagues. He's really getting up people's noses!"

take the mickey / take the piss = make fun of someone, or ask too much (for something or of someone)
"Piss" is considered vulgar, as it means "to urinate".

"Don't listen to them - they're taking the mickey out of you."

"All her friends take the piss out of her American accent."

"You're taking the piss aren't you? There's no way I'm going to pay £5000 for this old car."

"He wants us to work overtime this weekend."
"Well, that's just taking the piss."

skive off = avoid working or studying

"She skived off school early to meet her friends."

do a runner = run away or escape from a person or a situation (negative sense)

"Her husband did a runner and now she's left with two kids to bring up."

"They did a runner from the restaurant."

to nick = to steal, or to arrest

"The kids nicked some sweets from the shop."

"Shaun was nicked by the police."

"Nick" is also a slang word for police station.
"He got taken down to the nick for the night."

Work and Results

50 British English Slang Expressions

dogs dinner = a complete mess (also "look like a dog's dinner")

"I made a dogs dinner of the presentation."

"Helen went off to the fancy-dress party looking like a dogs dinner!"

 

not be able to organise a piss-up in a brewery = unable to organise something which should be simple
(a piss-up = a vulgar word to mean a drinking session; a brewery = the factory where beer is made)

"John was in charge of the travel arrangements, but it was complete chaos. He couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery!"

bodge job = repair something badly or unprofessionally

"I've fixed the cupboard door, but it's a bit of a bodge job. You should really get a carpenter in!"

(Also "botch job" = when you do something very badly)
"The mechanic did a real botch job when he put in air-con. It doesn't work very well at all."

to be pants = when something is rubbish

"That film was pants!"

be a doddle / piece of cake / piece of piss  = when something is easy
(Remember: "piece of piss" is vulgar)

"Well, that exam was a real doddle!"

"How was the English test?
"Oh, a piece of cake!"

"You'll easily pass the test. It's a piece of piss."

be a faff = be too much effort or bother

"I'd love to go to London more regularly, but it's a bit of a faff with the trains."

to faff about = do things which aren't important

"Stop faffing about and get down to your work!"

Situations

50 British English Slang Expressionstake the biscuit = when a situation becomes worse and you're unhappy about it

"Well, that really takes the biscuit. First the telecoms engineer said he couldn't fix the problem, and then they send me a huge bill!"

 

sods law = the "law" that says if something can go wrong, it will go wrong

"We spent a fortune on the holiday, but it rained every day."
"Yeah, sods law!"

go pear-shaped = when something goes badly or wrong

"I made a cake for his birthday, but it went a bit pear-shaped."

bog-standard = when something is basic quality

"I got a bog-standard kitchen from them, but if you want something a bit fancier, you should try one of the more upmarket shops."

Talking and Communicating

50 British English Slang Expressionsgrass someone up = inform on someone (often to the police)

"Someone grassed him up to the police."

(A person who tells on you is also called "a grass".)

 

dob someone in = inform on someone

"If you don't give me £10, I'm going to dob you in to the teacher!"

talk bollocks = talk rubbish
"Bollocks" is a vulgar word to mean "testicles".

"You talk such bollocks at times!"

We can also say "bollocks" to mean "rubbish". For example:
"That film is complete bollocks."

But the slang expression "the dog's bollocks" means "the best":
"He thinks he's the dog's bollocks!"

load of (old) cobblers = talk rubbish / nonsense

"I've never heard such a load of old cobblers."

load of codswallop = nonsense

"Don't believe the stories you read about him in the newspapers. They're all a load of codswallop."

be (going) on about = talk for a long time about something

"She's always going on about buying a house. I'm getting bored of it."

put a sock in it = what you say to someone when they keep talking, complaining or arguing and you want them to stop. (Parents often say this to their children.)

"Oh, put a sock in it, you two. I've had enough of you complaining!"

keep your hair on = something you say to someone to tell them not to get angry or agitated

"Keep your hair on Dad! I'm not staying out all night!"

Money

dosh = money

"Have you got any dosh to pay for this?"

be skint = have no money, be broke

"I'm a bit skint at the moment."

a nice little earner = a job or activity that's profitable
(Because we "earn money")

"She set up a little babysitting business, and it's a nice little earner for her."

be quids in = when you make money on something

"His boss gave him £100 for travel, but he only spent £60, so he's quids in!"

Food and Drink

50 British English Slang Expressionsbuilder's tea = strong tea with milk and sugar

"He drinks builder's tea."

We also say "have a cuppa" = have a cup of tea.
"Do you fancy a cuppa?"

a swift half = a half-pint of beer
We say this when we want to drink something, but we know we shouldn't (perhaps because we don't really have time to go to the pub.)

"Shall we have a swift half before doing the shopping?"

be pissed / be off your face / be trollied / be steaming (drunk) = drink too much alcohol
There are lots of slang expressions for this in British English - these are just four of them!

"He was so pissed last night."
"Did you see Gemma? She was off her face."
"We got trollied last night."
"The passenger was absolutely steaming, and they had to call the police."

Death

50 British English Slang Expressionskick the bucket = to die

"How's Len?"
"Oh didn't you know? He kicked the bucket a while back."

People also say "a bucket list" which is a list of things you want to do before you die.

Also "to croak" and "pushing up the daisies":

"He's waiting for them to croak it so that he can inherit their house."

"By the time you've got grandchildren of your own, I'll be pushing up the daisies."