Righto, It’s British Slang, Mate!

The British and the Americans: two people, as it’s said, separated by a common language. And, yeah, that body of water called the Atlantic Ocean.

The linguistic divide between the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes is particularly evident when it comes to slang. For instance, a fanny in American English is someone’s “backside” while in British English, fanny refers to a far more private part of a woman. This can lead to some hilarious misunderstandings—just try asking a Brit for a fanny pack. (Not that the British English equivalent, a bumbag, wouldn’t raise a few eyebrows in the US.)

In the interest of improving diplomatic relations, and avoiding awkward moments, we’ve put together a list of some slang terms from the United Kingdom. And, you might just get some extra mileage out of them, too, as many are also common in Ireland, Australia, and other places where English is spoken around the world.

A quick warning: there will some strong language and adult content ahead.


We’re chuffed to share this list with you. The word chuffed is British slang for “very pleased.”Chuffed may come from an old word, chuff, meaning “puffed up with fat,” apparently taken up in slang as early as the 1860s to imply a sense of satisfaction. Who doesn’t want to be well-fed and happy? Some synonyms for chuffed are delighted or happy.

But, readers of Victorian literature, beware: In the 1800s, chuffed also meant the exact opposite: “displeased.”


If something greatly displeases you in British English, you might say you’re gutted. To American English ears, gutted calls to mind something many may indeed find displeasing: when the guts of an animal, like a fish, have been removed for cooking.

But, in the UK, gutted isn’t so fishy. It means “very upset” or “disappointed.” The slang, found in the 1970s, is thought to originate from the notion of being sick to one’s guts.

If your partner dumps you or your bestie doesn’t get that new job? You’re absolutely gutted.


You might also say you’re gutted if you didn’t get accepted into your dream school—another area of difference between the Brits and Yanks.

In American English, whether you go to a college (typically a four-year school that offers undergraduate degrees) or a university (a school that also offers graduate degrees), you often just say you go to college or school.

But in British English, when you’re talking about higher education, it’s called uni, short for university. The slang shortening, as it happens, originates in Australia.

To make it even more confusing, a college in British English might be the part of uni you go to, as Christ Church is a college part of the larger Oxford University. This sense has some currency in the States, as a university has a College of Education or a College of Nursing.

Back across the pond, a college can also be the school one attends after the age of 16 in preparation for uniSchool in British English, meanwhile, is usually the term for pre-university education. Keeping all this straight almost requires an advanced degree.


Where you’re at university or going to college, you may meet some of the best friends of your life, perhaps in part because of those late-night, laughter-filled conversations.

For the Brits, this can involve having the bants (rhymes with pants). Americans have bants too—they call it banter, the source of bants, though they aren’t quite as adept at it as the Brits.Bants is good-humored, friendly teasing between friends, and it can be loads of fun. But, if it goes too far, your mate may just say: “Oh, it’s just a bit of bants.”

take the piss | take the mickey

In the event you take the bants too far, you might be said to be taking the piss (out of them). This colorful expression means you’re making fun of them in an unkind or aggressive way.

Its origins are thought to be even more colorful. Take the piss has been connected to that full-bladder feeling men have after a certain part of their anatomy is standing sentinel first thing in the morning.

A similar expression is take the mickey or mick. It also means “to make fun of someone.” It’s supposed that mickey is short for Mickey Bliss, rhyming slang for piss—as in take the piss.


Our subject matter, British people might say, has veered into some dodgy territory. It’s a bit “risky.”

This informal expression is found in the 19th-century, from dodge, or “evade,” as in someone dodging an answer with a less-than-honest response. And so, dodgy takes on senses of “dishonest,” “dangerous,” or “low-quality” in British slang. Sketchy or shady is a common American English equivalent for dodgy.

One memorable example comes from the 2003 film Love Actually, when the character Natalie says she lives in “the dodgy end” of Wandsworth, or the less desirable part of that London borough. These days, there isn’t really a dodgy end of Wandsworth—the average home price is over a million pounds (~$1.3 million).


Nothing seems quite as colorful as British slang terms for having sex. Shag is one we all know and love, and it’s older than you might think.

While we closely associate shag with the British—to the point of parody even, as in Mike Myers’s 1999 comedy Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me—one of the earliest records of shag for “have sex with” comes from someone we think of as all-American: Thomas Jefferson. Yes, that Thomas Jefferson.Shag is likely related to shake. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see the connection there. The noun form, as in having a shag, dates to at least the 1930s, as does its more forceful, interjection form: Shag off!

cheeky Nando's

Speaking of sex, cheeky Nando’s may sound like some strange bedroom maneuver to American ears. But, in British slang, a cheeky Nando’s is far more innocent.

Having a cheeky Nando’s means popping in for a bite at the popular chicken restaurant, Nando’s, perhaps with your mates after you’ve had a couple of pints and are having a good time.

Based on earlier meanings of “rash” or “impudent,” cheeky is slang for “indulgent” or “impulsive,” especially with food and drink. The term is seen in the late 1980s and is often used when talking about adult beverages (e.g., I really have to get home, but what the hell, one drink won’t hurt. Let’s grab a cheeky pint.).

Founded in South Africa in 1987, Nando’s is a popular restaurant chain specializing in spicy grilled chicken with locations around the world—and it’s especially popular in the UK.

laldy & yaldi

Last time we checked, the UK isn’t just, um, British. It’s also Scottish, and the Scots have countless, wonderful expressions all their own. (Hey, we love you, too, Northern Ireland and Wales.)

Like the term laldy, literally “a beating, a thrashing.” In Scottish slang, to give it laldy is to “do something with lots of energy and gusto.” It’s particularly associated with singing your heart out—perhaps after you’ve downed some cheeky pints.

According to a 2015 article in The Scotsman, the newer slang word yaldi, which is used to express excitement, possibly comes from a mispronunciation of laldy. Yaldi!


We’ve had the bants. We’ve had some cheeky Nando’s. Now, we’re feeling a bit knackered from all this British slang. That is, “tired,” “worn-out,” “beat,” “exhausted.”

The term, found in the late 1800s, meant “kill” or even “castrate” early on. It might come from knacker, or “a person who buys animal carcasses or slaughters worn-out livestock so they can be rendered into, er, other products.

Click to read more
Word of the Day

Can you guess the definition?


[ sel-kooth ]

Can you guess the definition?

Word of the day

[ sel-kooth ]

Redefine your inbox with Dictionary.com!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.