UK Slang Terms You Should Start Using
Ever wondered what the difference is between US and UK English? Apart from everyday words—like trainers instead of sneakers and holiday instead of vacation—you’ll see the most difference in the slang.
Language isn’t a set thing. It changes with new words entering everyday use all the time. If you’re heading to the UK, you might hear all kinds of words in informal speech which you’d never hear in the U.S. So, if you want to sound like a real Brit, incorporate these words into your vocab and you’ll fit right in no time.
Top British Slang Words, Including Cockney Rhyming Slang
Let’s start with an easy one. We all know the Brits love a good cup of tea, but did you know that tea can also be called a cuppa. This slang word came from the phrase “cup of tea” which was shortened to “cuppa tea” and eventually just cuppa.
There’s evidence of it being used back in the early 1900s so it’s not new slang, but it’s stuck. Although it’s short for “cup of,” it’s only ever really used to mean “cup of tea.”
Would you like a cuppa?
First thing I do every morning is make myself a cuppa.
£5 for a cuppa? That can’t be right.
Next up is a British slang word that most people around the world would have heard of and one that’s frequently used in everyday life. Bloody is an adverb used to show anger or surprise.
It’s another slang word that’s been around for a while with uses found in the 1600s, and it was even considered a swear word until the 1900s. Now, though, it’s much more acceptable. Bonus: it’s used a lot in Australia, too!
Oh, bloody hell!
That’s bloody ridiculous!
I’m bloody freezing!
Here’s another UK slang word that doesn’t need too much explanation. Mate means friend and can be used to refer to someone you know, but you can also use it when informally addressing a stranger.
Hi mate, good to see you again.
Excuse me mate, can I sit here?
My mates threw me a surprise party.
The nick, to nick, and to get nicked all have slightly different but related meanings. The noun, the nick, means a prison whereas the verb, to nick, means to steal. And, just to make things extra confusing, to be nicked or to get nicked means to be arrested.
He spent three years in the nick.
Don’t leave your car unlocked, it’ll get nicked.
My friend got nicked for speeding.
Chuffed, always used in past tense, means to be happy or pleased about something, usually something you’ve achieved. According to the dictionary, it can also mean the exact opposite—that is, unhappy or displeased—but that version is rarely used these days. So, if you hear a British person say they’re feeling chuffed, you can safely assume it’s positive.
I’m chuffed I got the job.
You must be chuffed with that result.
He got into university, he’s absolutely chuffed.
Not only do Brits love drinking tea, but they’re also known for enjoying a few drinks in the pub, too. And that’s where you’ll most likely hear this slang word: round. A round refers to when you take it in turns buying drinks for everyone in the group instead of all buying drinks separately.
It’s my round, what do you want to drink?
Whose round is it?
Are we doing rounds?
If something is described as dodgy, it’s bad. But just how bad depends on the context. And pretty much anything can be described as dodgy: a person, an object, an action, for example. Dodgy can range from slightly off or questionable to full-blown illegal.
My stomach feels dodgy.
I never liked him, I thought he looked dodgy.
She’s in trouble for doing some dodgy business.
Here’s another slang word with multiple meanings. If you’re pissed off, you’re angry, but if you’re just pissed, you’re drunk. You might also see piss being used for pee, although that’s more vulgar. And taking the piss can mean either to make fun of something or to be unreasonable.
He can’t drive, he’s pissed.
She always takes the piss out of me.
£5 for coffee, they’re taking the piss.
Not only is rubbish the British equivalent of trash, but it can also be used as a feeling or to express a negative emotion.
I’ve been ill all week, I feel rubbish.
You didn’t get in? Rubbish!
Stop talking rubbish.
Knackered is usually used to mean tired but it can also be used when referring to something that’s broken or old. The origins of the word aren’t clear, but it’s thought to have originated from describing old workhorses that couldn’t work anymore.
I stayed up late last night and now I’m knackered.
That run has knackered me out.
I need to buy a new TV, my old one is knackered.
Cockney Rhyming Slang
We couldn’t write a blog post about British slang without giving a special mention to Cockney rhyming slang. Although just used in the East End of London, and technically not used that often anymore in everyday life, it’s a fascinating window into slang words where everything rhymes. Some favorites include:
Apples and pears = stairs. I went up the apples and pears.
Adam and Eve = believe. Would you Adam and Eve it?
Ruby Murray = curry. I’d love a Ruby Murray.
Pete Tong = wrong. Everything’s gone Pete Tong.
Porky pies = lies. He’s telling porky pies.
So, there you have it, our favorite UK slang words to get you talking like a Brit. Inspired to learn new languages beyond English? Download the Pimsleur app and language program to get started with your choice of 50+ languages.
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