25 Cool British English Slang Words Every ESL Student Should Know

July 6, 2016
6 July 2016,

We all love slang, especially the Brits. There’s something wonderfully patriotic yet archaic about slang language, which gives some insight to the local culture whilst allowing you to find some common ground with various types of people. British English Slang varies a lot depending on which area you’re in, some words are not able to be translated even between people from the North or South of England! That’s not to mention Scotland, who might as well have their own language.

Using slang does not always suit people, and it may seem strange to hear slang from a non-native speaker. British people rarely hear others say slang words, although they will find it quite amusing and charming if you use it in the right situation. Even if you do not say it, it’s useful to know what these words mean, as it’s very common that people will use them in everyday conversation. Older people tend to use slang and idioms more, although there are plenty of words that everyone uses that can be understood all over the country. If you travel to the UK and visit some areas outside of London, it may be worth researching some British English Slang words and idioms local to that area, as some of them are truly incomprehensible for the rest of us!

Although slang is used in colloquial situations, knowing a few words can give some great insight to the culture and also how the language has developed over time. As we all know, English is a mixture of French and German, which is apparent in some slang words that sound like a kind of Olde Englishe/German version of more modern words.

Please note – most British English Slang is used in very informal situations, usually between close friends. Therefore, it can sometimes be offensive if used incorrectly – use the following words at your own risk!

25 Cool British English Slang Words Every ESL Student Should Know

Mate – another word for ‘friend’.

“How are you, mate?”

Blatant – something that is painfully obvious.

“It was blatant that she wasn’t listening to me.”

Cheers – another word for ‘thank you’, also used when toasting drinks.

“Cheers for the lift!”

The Bee’s Knees – when something is really, really good.

“That cake was the bees knees.”

Gutted – when you’re upset or disappointed after something bad happened.

“I was gutted that England didn’t beat Slovakia at the UEFA cup.”

Gobsmacked – when you’re shocked about something.

“I was gobsmacked when he told me that!”

Dodgy – something that is unreliable, often illegal.

“That shelf looks a bit dodgy…”

Tosh – another word for ‘rubbish’.

“What a load of tosh.”

Chin-wag – another way of saying ‘chat’.

“I bumped into Sue and we had a chin-wag.”

Crap – another word for ‘rubbish’, although sometimes used in place of more severe swear words.

“Oh crap! I forgot my keys!”

Hunky-dory – when everything is going well.

“My day has been hunky-dory, and your’s?”

Dog’s dinner – when something is really good.

“Last night was the dog’s dinner.”

Sod – a lump of earth, although can be used as an offensive noun or a verb.

“Sod off, I’ve had enough of you now!” or “The dog is being a sod today, he ripped-up the post.”

Skew-whiff – something wonky, off-center.

“That shelf looks a bit skew-whiff.”

Porridge – a type of breakfast but also a slang word for prison.

“Yeah, he’s in porridge again.”

Mug – another word for ‘face’ but also for someone who is quite naïve but used in a more offensive way.

“He took me for a mug.” Or “you’ve got crumbs on your mug.”

Kip – a slang word for a nap.

“I’m going to have a quick kip, see you in 20 minutes.”

Haggle – to negotiate.

“I tried to haggle the price but he just wouldn’t budge.”

Flog – to sell something.

“Did you manage to flog your car?”

Faffing – to dither around, waste time.

“Stop faffing around, we’ll miss the bus!”

Donkey’s years – a really long time.

“I haven’t seen him in donkey’s years.”

Gobby – someone who is loud and opinionated.

“She’s just so gobby, always picking fights.”

Porkies – from the Cockney Rhyming slang ‘pork pies’ which means ‘lies’. Another way of saying ‘lies’.

“He’s been telling porkies again…”

Bloody – used like the word ‘very’.

“It was bloody cold outside yesterday.”

Budge up – another way of telling someone to move or make room for you on a bench.

“Budge up, I want to sit down.”

We hope you enjoyed this list of British English Slang and that you find them useful and entertaining! As mentioned at the beginning, some of these words can be quite offensive, especially if used in the wrong situation, so just bear that in mind when putting them to use. That’s not to say that you should avoid them. Many British people will be very impressed and entertained to hear a non-native English speaker saying slang words! It’s likely they may request a few slang words from your native language too, so be prepared.

We hope you enjoyed this article and find the information useful and entertaining. If you have any questions, feedback or recommendations for future articles or language quirks then we would love to hear from you.

Ready to take your English Speaking to the next level? Sign up for a 30 minute Trial English Lesson 

Improve English Speaking Naturally