Have you ever been to the UK or come across some content that seemed unfamiliar to you because of the slang used? Even native English speakers such as Americans have difficulty understanding British slang, probably because it is not as popular as, say, American slang. Slang is an essential part of day-to-day communication. If you find yourself in the UK, you cannot expect the locals to be prim and proper and speak like the characters in Bridgeton. In this article, we will look at as many as 15 different British slang expressions and what they mean. Keep reading to learn more.

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16 British English slang you must know and what they mean

  1. Trollied

This slang originates from the word trolly, the British equivalent of a shopping cart. The vernacular is the adjective of the noun but has no similarity in meaning. When the slang trollied is used, it describes a person who is in a drunken state. E.g. “My mate had a few sherbets last night, and he was trollied.”

  1. Sherbets

In standard British English, sherbets are fizzy sweets. The slang doesn’t have the same meaning as the original words. It almost means the opposite. Inviting a person out to a bar or a pub for a few sherbets has nothing to do with getting sweet treats. It means taking them out to share a few beers. For instance, “does a few sherbets after work sound good?”

  1. Narky

It is common for native British English speakers to use this slang. The word “narky” is used to describe a state of moodiness and being bad-tempered. The term is mainly used in informal settings, as in the example, “you have been narky all morning. What is the matter?”

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  1. Mate

We are sure you know this one. Mate in British slang means friend. You can also refer to a stranger in a public setting such as a bar or public transport. It is usually but not always used amongst men. A synonym for this slang is pal.

  1. Ledge

You’ll find that many slangs are shortened forms of Standard English words. Such is the case with the slang ledge. It is an abbreviated form of the word Legend. Legend is used for a person with extraordinary exploits. The slang, however, is an exaggeration used to overemphasize the importance of a person. It is not limited to famous people, but you can also use it with friends and family members who may have done something awe-inspiring. For instance, “you always show up when I need you. You are a ledge.”

  1. Knackered

Knackered is used to express extreme tiredness. The expression can sometimes be “ready for the knacker’s yard.” The word knackered originates from an old English word ‘knacker,’ which refers to the person who killed old horses no longer fit to work. An example of the word in use is, “I worked 12 hours straight. I am knackered” or “… I am ready for the knacker’s yard.”

  1. Gutted

The word Gut means to remove the insides of an animal before eating it. The slang describes the feeling of utter disappointment. For example, “I was gutted we lost.”

  1. Fluke

Fluke is a British English slang that describes a situation that happened by chance or luck. The word can also be modified to “flukey,” which translates to lucky. A thing or situation described as flukey happens coincidentally. For instance, “this is my third win in a row. I am having such a flukey day.”

  1. Fag

In American slang, this is a highly derogatory term. It is an insult to a gay person. The word has a very different meaning in British English slang. It simply means a cigarette. For example, “can you spot me a fag?’

  1. Cuppa

British stereotypes exist, and they love some tea. This slang is proof of that. The slang ‘cuppa’ is an abbreviated form of the phrase “cup of tea.” When using slang, you are only required to specify what you would like to drink if it is something other than tea. For instance, “a cuppa coffee.”

  1. Cracking

The word cracking is used to say that a thing is excellent. It also describes people who are considered fantastic. In American slang, ‘cracking’ means ‘get started on something. In this light, it is similar in meaning to British English. 

The slang can be modified to ‘cracker,’ which describes a particularly good person at something. The American cognate is quite derogative. It is meant as an insult to white people in rural areas.

  1. Chuffed

To be chuffed is British slang used to express happiness and joy. It is used when the speaker is pleased with a situation or circumstance. For example, “I am chuffed you came with your daughter.”

13. Cheeky

You can use cheeky on two different occasions. It is most commonly used to mean a person is rude or disrespectful, typically in a way that seems cute and comic. For example, “did you just hit me? That is so cheeky”. The other instance in which cheeky can be used is when you are drinking, eating, or doing something that you shouldn’t be doing or isn’t good for you. E.g., “I will have one cheeky drink before I take off.”

14. Bum

This is another word that differs in meaning from its American cognate. A bum in American slang is generally broke and struggling financially. Bum could also mean “bottom,” which is the same as British English expressions. However, the word has another meaning which is to get something from somebody else without paying for it.

15. Bloody

While the word bloody in standard English is used to describe something drenched in blood, slang is an intensifier used to add emphasis and stress to a situation. Sometimes it can also be used as a mild swear word. For example, “bloody hell!”, “it is bloody exhausting to wake up so early every day.”

16. Bants

You may be more familiar with the word banter which means to joke or exchange funny comments with other people. The slang “bants” is an abbreviated or shortened form of the word. The word is used in casual settings, as in, “I am meeting up the girls for some bants over super and cocktails.”


Was that hard? It could be bloody confusing learning British slang expressions, but it’s not rocket science. You can get it right if you just put in a bit of effort. Soon enough, you’ll be a ledge in the field and start speaking like a true brit. More good news to make you chuffed; italki has all that you need to help you talk like a native speaker in no time. With customizable lessons and a flexible payment plan, you can be on top of your game. Need an English teacher online? Get cracking! Sign up for classes with italki today. Thank you for reading.

British English vs. American English