British slang

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British slang is English language slang used and originating in the United Kingdom and also used to a limited extent in Anglophone countries such as the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, especially by British expats. It is also used in the United States to a limited extent. Slang is informal language sometimes peculiar to a particular social class or group and its use in Britain dates back to before the 16th century. The language of slang, in common with the English language, is changing all the time; new words and phrases are being added and some are used so frequently by so many, they almost become mainstream.

While some slang words and phrases are used throughout Britain (e.g. knackered, meaning "exhausted"), others are restricted to smaller regions, even to small geographical areas.[1] The nations of the United Kingdom, which are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all have their own slang words, as does London. London slang has many varieties, the best known of which is rhyming slang.[2]

English-speaking nations of the former British Empire may also use this slang to a certain extent, but also incorporate their own slang words to reflect their different cultures. Not only is the slang used by British expats, but some of these terms are incorporated into other countries' everyday slang, such as in Australia, Canada and Ireland.

British slang has been the subject of many books, including a seven volume dictionary published in 1889. Lexicographer Eric Partridge published several works about British slang, most notably Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, revised and edited by Paul Beale.[3]

Many of the words and phrases listed in this article are no longer in current use.

Definitions of slang[edit]

Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's dialect or language. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo (see euphemism). It is often used to identify with one's peers and, although it may be common among young people, it is used by people of all ages and social groups.

Collins English Dictionary (3rd edition) defines slang as "Vocabulary, idiom etc that is not appropriate to the standard form of a language or to formal contexts, may be restricted as to social status or distribution, and is characteristically more metaphorical and transitory than standard language".[4]

The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar (1994) defines it as "Words, phrases, and uses that are regarded as informal and are often restricted to special contexts or are peculiar to specific profession, classes etc".[5]

Jonathan Green, in his 1999 book The Cassell Dictionary of Slang, defines slang as "A counter language, the language of the rebel, the outlaw, the despised and the marginal".[6] Recognising that there are many definitions, he goes on to say, "Among the many descriptions of slang, one thing is common, it is a long way from mainstream English".[6]

History and dating of British slang[edit]

The dating of slang words and phrases is difficult due to the nature of slang. Slang, more than any other language, remains spoken and resists being recorded on paper (or for that matter any other medium). By the time slang has been written down, it has been in use some time and has, in some cases, become almost mainstream.[7]

The first recorded uses of slang in Britain occurred in the 16th century in the plays of Thomas Dekker, Thomas Middleton and William Shakespeare.[8] The first books containing slang also appeared around that time: Robert Copland's The hye way to the Spytlell hous was a dialogue in verse between Copland and the porter of St Bartholomew's Hospital, which included Thieves' Cant; and in 1566, Thomas Harman's A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors, vulgarly called vagabonds was published. The Caveat contained stories of vagabond life, a description of their society and techniques, a taxonomy of rogues, and a short canting dictionary which was later reproduced in other works.[8]

In 1698 the New Dictionary of the Canting Crew by B. E. Gent was published, which additionally included some 'civilian'[clarification needed] slang terms. It remained the predominant work of its kind for much of the 18th century, until the arrival in 1785 of The Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Captain Francis Grose, which ran to more than five expanded editions.[8] Grose's book was eventually superseded by John Camden Hotten's Slang Dictionary in 1859. In 1889 two multi-volumed slang dictionaries went on sale: A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon and Cant by Albert Barrere and Charles Leland, and Slang and its Analogues by John Farmer and W. E. Henley; the latter being published in seven volumes. It was later abridged to a single volume and released in 1905 as A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English. This book provided the major part of Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (1937).[8] It was not until the 1950s that slang began to make regular appearances in books and in the relatively new media of motion pictures and television.[8]

Varieties and purpose of slang[edit]

There are a number of different varieties of British slang, arguably the best known of which is Rhyming slang. Chiefly associated with cockney speech spoken in the East End of London, words are replaced with a phrase which rhymes. For example: plates of meat for "feet", or twist and twirl for "girl". Often only the first word is used, so plates and twist by themselves become the colloquialisms for "feet" and "girl".[9]

Thieves' cant or Rogues' cant was a secret language (a cant or cryptolect) which was formerly used by thieves, beggars and hustlers of various kinds in Great Britain and to a lesser extent in other English-speaking countries. It is commonly believed that cant was developed from Romany but the Winchester Confessions, a pamphlet published in 1616, clearly distinguishes between Gypsy and Cant words.[10] Now mostly obsolete, it is largely relegated to the realm of literature.

Some slang was developed because of a need for secrecy, such as prison slang, believed to be derived from thieves cant,[11] and Polari, a variety used by homosexuals in Britain and the United Kingdom. Homosexuality was a crime until 1967 and Polari has a history going back at least a hundred years.[12] Sometimes the purpose of slang is to cause offence, insults such as wanker or gobshite for example; and sometimes the purpose is to prevent it by substituting a slang word for the offensive one, berk (rhyming slang for cunt) for example.[13] Sometimes a Spoonerism, is employed to make taboo speech more acceptable. For example: Cupid stunt and Betty Swallocks.[14]

Slang is also used to create an identity or sense of belonging and a number of occupations have their own slang; most notably the armed forces, referred to as Forces or Service slang; and the construction industry.[5][15] A dictionary of service slang by J. L. Hunt and A. G. Pringle was published in 1943.[16] It was reprinted in 2008. The introduction acknowledges that slang is an ever-changing language with new slang terms emerging all the time. It also recognises that some service slang has made its way into civilian use.[17][18][19] Examples of this include the old naval terms, "Talking bilge" (nonsense) and "A loose cannon" (an unorthodox person with the potential to cause harm).[20]



air one's dirty linen/laundry 
To discuss private matters in public.[21][not slang; just a metaphor]
all to cock 
(Or fall a-cock) Unsatisfactory, mixed up.[22]
all mouth and (no) trousers 
All talk and no action, a braggart, sexual bravado.[23] (The inclusion or otherwise of "no" in the expression is disputed.)[24]
all piss and wind 
All talk and no action. Originally the phrase was, "all wind and piss" (19th century).[25]
Brakes. "Slam on the anchors" to brake really hard.[26]
An argument or confrontation.[27]
1. The buttocks.[28] 2. Someone who acts in a manner which is incompetent or otherwise disapproved of.[28]
arse about face 
Back to front.[28]
arse around 
Mess around or waste time (17th century).[28]
1. The anus.[28] 2. General derogatory term.[28]
arse bandit 
homosexual (offensive, derogatory).[28]
arse over tit 
Head over heels, to fall over or take a tumble.[29]


ball bag 
balls up 
A bungled or messed up situation. (WWI Service slang).[15]
bang to rights 
Caught in the act.[31]
bang up 
1. To lock up in prison (prison slang).[32] 2. To inject an illegal drug.[31]
barking mad 
(also just barking) completely crazy; insane.[33]
crazy or foolish.[34]
a noisy quarrel or fight. Sometimes claimed to be rhyming slang (Barney Rubble, trouble) but actually dates back to 19th century.[35]
1. a drinking binge.[36] 2. A homosexual (derogatory)[citation needed]
1. dishonest or corrupt, 2. homosexual (mildly derogatory).[37]
bent as a nine bob note 
Extremely dishonest or corrupt. No nine shilling (bob) note was ever issued, so it would have to be counterfeit.[38]
(also spelt burk) idiot, stupid person (from Berkeley Hunt, Cockney rhyming slang for cunt)[39]
1. Amphetamines (from Billy Whizz, a British comic strip character.)[40] 2. Friendless (Billy No-Mates)[citation needed]
(also spelt billyoh) an intensifier. Going like billyo (travelling quickly).[41]
1. Girl, woman.[42] 2. Prison sentence (From the rhyming slang: Bird lime) [42]
Birmingham screwdriver 
A hammer.[43]
Policeman (Scouse).[citation needed]
As a noun, a robbery or as a verb, to rob or scrounge. Not to be confused with blague, talking nonsense.[44]
(or blah blah) worthless, boring or silly talk.[44]
A very small piece of Hashish, enough for one joint maybe or a decent hot tong. Also used as Traveller Slang with the word bus (Blimbus) for the shortest British coach bodies of the 60s to 80s.
or sometimes 'cor blimey' (archaic). An abbreviation of 'God blind me' used as an interjection to express shock or surprise. Sometimes used to comic effect, in a deliberate reference to it being archaic usage.[45]
(or Old Blighty) Britain, home. Used especially by British troops serving abroad or expatriates.[45][46] A relic of British India, probably from the Hindi billayati, meaning a foreign land.[47]
any man or sometimes a man in authority such as the boss.[48][49]
blooming, blummin'
euphemism for bloody. Used as an intensifier e.g. 'blooming marvelous'.[50]
blow off 
To fart.[51]
1. Policeman.[51] 2. a Tory.[51]
Policeman. After Robert Peel (Home Secretary in 1828).[52]
A male person. Short for body.[53]
(also botch) To make a mess of or to fix poorly.[53]
Toilet [54]
bog off 
Go away (originally RAF slang)[55]
bog roll 
Toilet paper.[55]
Derogatory term for an Irishman, particularly an Irish peasant.[54]
A severe telling off.[56]
(or ballocks) Vulgar term used for testicles. Used to describe something as useless, nonsense or having poor quality, as in "That's a load of bollocks". Is often said as a cry of frustration or annoyance.[56] Also see "dog's bollocks".
A large sum of money as in 'to make a bomb'. Also 'to go like a bomb' meaning to travel at high speed.[56]
Head, crown of the head. Also a large playing marble.[57]
As a noun, an alcoholic drink; as a verb, to drink alcohol, particularly to excess.[58]
1. a pub or bar.[58] 2. Someone who drinks alcohol to excess.[58]
Sleep (rhyming slang).[59]
without money. From rhyming slang boracic lint = skint (skinned).[59]
1. nerve, courage.[60] 2. Money collected by buskers or street vendors.[60] 3. As a verb, to attack someone with a broken bottle.[60]
1. To con someone into believing or doing something.[61] 2. To forcibly eject someone.[61] 3. Swagger, impudence or cockiness.[61] 4. Of a cheque, to be refused by the bank due to lack of funds.[61]
Someone employed to eject troublemakers or drunks.[61]
bovver boy 
A youth who deliberately causes or seeks out trouble (bother).[62]
bovver boots 
Heavy boots, sometimes with a steel toecap, worn by bovver boys and used for kicking in fights.[62]
1. Money.[63] 2. Cheek, nerve.[63] 3. a prostitute.[63]
The female breasts (Cockney rhyming slang, from Bristol bits = tits, or Bristol City = titty).[64]
Without money. Also 'stoney broke', or just 'stoney'.[65]
brown bread 
Dead (Cockney rhyming slang).[66]
Sycophant, toady or someone who attempts to curry favour with another (from the idea of licking another's backside).[67]
1. Bare skin, naked as in 'in the buff'.[68] 2. Having a lean, muscular physique (usually referring to a young man).[69]
anal sex but in slang terms can be used : 1. As a term of abuse for someone or something contemptible, difficult or unpleasant.[70] 2. Affectionately, as in 'you silly bugger'.[70] 3. As an exclamation of dissatisfaction, annoyance or surprise.[70] 4. To mean tired or worn out as in 'I'm absolutely buggered'.[70] 5. To mean frustrate, complicate or ruin completely, as in 'You've buggered that up'.[70]
bugger about (or around) 
1. To fool around or waste time.[70] 2. To create difficulties or complications.[70]
bugger all 
bugger off 
go away.[70]
buttocks, anus or both.[71] Not particularly rude. 'Builders' bum' is the exposure of the buttock cleavage by an overweight working man in ill-fitting trousers.[72]
derogatory reference to official memos or paperwork. Shortened from bum fodder. Slang term for toilet roll.[73]
a toady, creep or someone acting in an obsequious manner.[73]
any short jacket, but in particular an Eton Jacket.[73]
1. a gratuity or more often a bribe.[74] 2. Throw or pass energetically; as in, "bung it over here".[75]
1. To leave inappropriately as in to 'bunk off' school or work.[74] 2. To run away in suspicious circumstances as in to 'do a bunk'.[74]
Look. Rhyming slang, butcher's hook.[76]


1. A stupid person or someone with no mental abilities whatever. 2. Cloth trimmed from a customer's material by a tailor. 3. Pilfer or steal.[77]
charver or charva 
1. Sexual intercourse (Polari).[78] 2. A loose woman, someone with whom it is easy to have sexual intercourse, an easy lay.[78] 3. To mess up, spoil or ruin(from 1.).[78]
chav, chavi or chavvy 
Child (from the Romany, chavi. Still in common use in rural areas).[79] Also used in Polari since mid-19th century.[79]
Someone who is, or pretends to be, of a low social standing and who dresses in a certain style, typically in "knock off" sports and designer clothing, especially Burberry. Often used as a form of derogation. Popularised by British tabloids during the 00s using the backronym 'Council-Housed and Violent': actually comes from the Romany for child, 'chavi'.[80]
a sign of appreciation or acknowledgement, or a drinking toast.[81]
cheesed off 
fed up, disgusted or angry.[81]
chinky or chinky chonky 
Chinese takeaway, usually considered offensive[82]
1. A carpenter;[83] chip shop 2. A prostitute or promiscuous young woman.[84]
The buttocks or anus.[85]
to be very pleased about something.[86]
1. The face. 2. To spot, notice. 3. To hit as in "clock round the earhole".[87]
1. Penis. 2. Nonsense. 3. A friend or fellow.[88]
as a noun or verb, blunder, mess up or botch.[89]
An upset stomach or acute feeling of nervousness.[91]
The head or the nose. To strike the head or nose.[92]
1. A policeman (short for copper). 2. An arrest or to be caught out, as in 'It's a fair cop'. 3. Used with a negative to mean of little value, as in 'That's not much cop'. 4. To get, as in for example, to 'cop off with', 'cop a feel' or 'cop a load of that'.[93]
A policeman.[94]
cor blimey 
An exclamation of surprise. Originally from "God blind me". See also "blimey".
Someone or something outstanding.[95]
Outstanding, excellent.[95]
A public lavatory.[96]
Homosexual activity in a public lavatory.[96]
1. A gibe. 2. Someone who excels at something. 3. Fun or a good time. From the Irish 'craic'.[97]
Something or someone of notable ability or quality.[97]


To remove someone's trousers by force.[99]
Look. From the Hindi, dekho.[100]
1. Fellow. 2. Penis.[101]
Headlice or nits. "Here comes the dick nurse" "You mean Nitty Nora, the head explorer"
a pickpocket.[102]
idiot (prison slang)[103] From "The Divisional room" where extra reading was taught in the northern comprehensive schools during the 70s and 80s.
do one's nut 
Become enraged.[104]
Something simple or easy to accomplish.[105]
1. Something risky, difficult or dangerous. A 'dodgy deal' for example.[105] 2. Of low quality. "Spurs' dodgy defence had thrown away a 2-0 lead" [106]
1. A rough or unattractive woman. 2. A fellow.[105]
dog's bollocks
1. Anything obvious ("Sticks out like the dog's bollocks").[107] 2. Something especially good or first rate ("It's the dog's bollocks", sometimes abbreviated to, "it's the dog's").[107]
Donkey's years 
(Donkey's ears) a very long time. In reference to the length of a donkey's ears. Sometimes abbreviated to, "donkey's".[108]
Done up like a kipper 
1. Beaten up. 2. Fitted up or framed. 3. Caught red-handed by the police.[109]
An unnamed object.[110]
Someone who might stay in a dosshouse.[111]
A cheap boarding house frequented by tramps.[111]
A term of endearment used in the North of England.[citation needed]
1. broken, not working. 2. To beat, as in 'duff up'. 3. Pregnant (up the duff).[112]


1. To eavesdrop. 2. To twig (rhyming slang)[113]
eating irons 
end away 
to have sex (get one's end away).[115]


fag end
the used stub of a cigarette and by extension the unpleasant and worthless loose end of any situation.[116]
female external genitalia, a woman's pudendum.[117]
fanny adams 
(Usually preceded by 'sweet' and often abbreviated to F.A., S.F.A. or sweet F.A.) Nothing at all. A euphemism for fuck all.[117]
Someone who deals in stolen property.[117]
sexually attractive (Afro-Caribbean).[118]
fit up 
A frame up.[119]
five pounds.[119]
filth (the) 
The police (derogatory).[120]
Someone who indecently exposes oneself.[121]
Motion picture, film. 'The flicks', the cinema.[122]
flog a dead horse 
1. To continue talking about a long forgotten topic. 2. To attempt to find a solution to a problem which is unsolveable.[123]
(To have a flutter) To place a wager.[124]
Quick witted, clever.[124]
fork out 
To pay out, usually with some reluctance.[125]
French letter 
1.(Taboo) To masturbate. 2. When followed by 'around' or 'about', to behave aimlessly or foolishly.[127]
1. The act of masturbating. 2. Used as an intensifier. For example, "You frigging idiot". Considered milder than 'fucking'.[127]
Derogatory term for a Frenchman.[128]
fuck all 
nothing at all[129]
fudge packer 
fuzz (the) 
The police.[130]


House or flat.[131]
Boss, foreman or employer.[131]
Usually preceded by 'have a' or 'take a'. To look.[132]
1. Surplus to requirements, unnecessary.[133] 2. Derogatory term used for female genitalia.[134]
(informal) Man. Particularly an old one.[135]
Variant of git.[136] Insulting suggestion; one born through incest - 'Begotten-beget. "Son of your uncle".
incompetent, stupid, annoying, or childish person.[137]
go down 
To go to prison.[138] oral sex as in "did you go down on her?"
go spare
To become angry, frustrated, distressed, enraged.[139][140][141][142][143]
1. Mouth 2. To spit. 3. Spittle.[138]
(Taboo) A stupid or despicable person.[138]
flabbergasted, dumbfounded, astounded, speechless.[138] Possibly either from the gesture of clapping one's hand over one's mouth in surprise, or the idea that something is as shocking as being smacked in the mouth
A medal. Usually a military one.[145]
The male genitals and in particular the testicles.[146]
originally London (rhyming) slang for informer.[147]
Rubbish or dirt.[149] hence also porn as in "grot-mags"
1. Ridiculous talk. Nonsense.[150] 2. Flatulence. Probably from the Norwegian gufs, a puff of wind.[151]


to steal (rhyming slang for 'pinch')[152]
Penis (rhyming slang from, Hampton Wick = prick; and Hampton Rock = cock).[153]
a harmless fight especially between two women.[154] (from "handbags at dawn" an allusion to duelling)
hard cheese 
Bad luck.[155]
The glans of the penis.[156]
A henry is (or was) an eighth of an ounce (as in Henry the 8th) = in weight to a decimal penny
hook it 
To run away quickly.[158]
hooky or hookey 
1. Something that is stolen (probably from hook = to steal).[159] 2. Loosely used to describe anything illegal.[159]
1. To carry or heave.[161]


idiot box 
In or into prison.[163]
1. Teeth. 2. The keys of a piano. 3. Dice.[164]
I'm all right, Jack 
A remark, often directed at another, indicating that they are selfish and that they don't care about it.[165]


jacksy (or jacksie) 
The buttocks or anus.[166]
Jack the lad 
A young man who is regarded as a show off and is brash or loud.[166]
jack up 
Inject an illegal drug.[166]
1. A drug taking, or sometimes drinking, binge. 2. A period of uncontrolled activity.[167]
1. Lucky. 2. Pleasant or desirable.[168] as in "More Jam than Hartleys" when an impressive pool shot is pulled off.
A chamber pot.[169]
A German or German soldier.[169]
An effeminate man or one that is weak or afraid. (Originally Scottish slang) [170]
jism, jissom
word or term of address for a Scot.[171]
Joe Bloggs 
A man who is average, typical or unremarkable.[172]
Joe Soap 
An idiot, stooge or scapegoat.[172]
Condom.[171] Sometimes also a 'Johnny bag'[173] or 'rubber Johnny'.[174]
John Thomas 
A cretin or simpleton.[176]
As a noun or verb, sexual intercourse.[177]


1. Sleep, nap 2. Bed or lodging 3. Brothel (mainly Irish) [178]
1. Exhausted, tired, 2. Broken, beyond all usefulness.[179]
vulgar name for testicles.[179]
A lively party or dance.[179]
1. Penis.[180] 2. (of a man) To have sexual intercourse.[181]
a stupid, irritating person.[181]
knob jockey 
homosexual (to ride the penis like a jockey rides a horse).[181]
an idiot, or tip of penis (see bell-end).[181]
knocking shop 
know one's onions 
To be well acquainted with a subject.[182]


A five-pound note. Rhyming Slang, Lady Godiva-Fiver
1. Convict, particularly a long serving one (an old lag).[183]
1. Urinate.[184] 2. Alcohol.[184]
very inebriated. Also 'on the lash' meaning to go out drinking with the intent of getting drunk.[184]
laughing gear 
A louie is (or was) a sixteenth of an ounce (as in Louie the 16th) = in weight to a decimal halfpence
A public house close to one's home.[186]


dirty, filthy. (Polari).[189]
Manky Snatcher 
Maggie Thatcher
Wits. As in, to lose one's marbles.[190]
A dejected or mopey state.
Woman (derogatory).[191]
A suitable victim for a con or swindle.[192]
Sailor (from the French).[193]
meat and two veg 
Literally a traditional meal consisting of any meat, potatoes and a second type of vegetable; euphemistically the male external genitalia.[194] Is sometimes also used to mean something unremarkable or ordinary.[194]
Crazy or insane.[195]
An Irishman (derogatory).[196]
Upset or offended.[197]
milk run 
A 'safe' mission or patrol.[198]
Vagina [199]
Someone who smells.[200]
Wealthy.[citation needed]
monged (out) 
Severely drunk/high.[203] Derogatory use of archaic phrase for Downs Syndrome.
moniker or moniker 
Name, nickname, signature or mark.[204]
Loiter or wander aimlessly, skulk.[206]
moody gear, or story 
stolen property or an improbable tale.
To expose one's backside (from Old English, mona).[206]
Crazy or foolish.[207]
muck about 
Waste time. Interfere with.[208]
Mate, pal.[208] Romanichal
muck in 
Share a duty or workload.[208]
Civilian dress worn by someone who normally wears a military uniform.[209] Probably from the Muslim dress, popularly worn by British officers serving in India during the 19th century.[209][210] Now commonly used to refer to a non-uniform day in schools.
1. Face. 2. A gullible or easily swindled person.[209]
mug off 
Sell Short, Underestimate, Insult as in "Is he mugging me off?"
Ugly person.[211]
1. Face or mouth.[212] 2. Familiar term of address. Probably from the Romanichal moosh, a man.[212]


Inferior or in poor taste.[213] Also used as sentence substitute as in, for example, "Naff off!"[213]
1. As a verb or noun; spy or informer.[214] from "Narcotics" as in the "drug squad", or from Romany nāk = "nose" 2. Someone who complains a lot (an old nark).[214] 3. Annoy or irritate.[214]
(Scottish) a lout, a drunken brawling fellow, a tough.[215] Often said to stand for Non-Educated Delinquent but this is a backronym. More likely to come from Teddy Boys being a contraction of Edward. More recently, sometimes equated with the English chav.[80]
1. Steal.[216] 2. Police Station or prison.[216] 3. To arrest.[216] 4. health or condition, "to be in good nick"[citation needed]
Arrested or stolen.[216]
Pound sterling.[216]
a lump of Hashish, bigger than a blim but less than a louie
1. Person of high social standing.[217] 2. Head.[217]
Disable (particularly a racehorse).[217]
nod out 
To lapse into a drug induced stupour.[218]
Sex offender, most commonly a child molester. (Prison slang)[219]
Brain. as in " Use your noodle for once"
Hashish codeword, now a type weed with lower THC and higher CBD
nookie or nooky 
Sexual intercourse.[220]
nose rag 
1. Food. 2. To eat.[221] Oral sex.
nosh up 
A feast or large, satisfying meal.[221]
A pound coin, as in golden nugget.
Incompetent or unwise person.[citation needed]
1. Head. 2. Eccentric person.[104]
An insane person.[222]
A lunatic asylum.[222]
In association football, to pass the ball between an opposing player's legs.[222]
nuts or nutty 
Crazy or insane.[222]
Insane person.[222]


odds and sods 
Substitute for 'odds and ends'. Miscellaneous items or articles, bits and pieces.[223]
Someone of a low social standing (derogatory).[224]
off one's head (or out of one's head) 
Mad or delirious.[225]
off the hook 
Free from obligation or danger.[158]
off one's nut 
Crazy or foolish.[104]
old bill, the old bill
A policeman or the police collectively.[226]:::
One and you’re anyone’s, two and you’re everyone’s
A term referring to service men returning from duty, and not being used to alcohol. In the traditional music/dance halls it was said “one drink and they would dance with anyone & two drinks and they would dance with everyone “
one's head off 
Loud or excessively. "I laughed my head off" or "She screamed her head off" for example.[53]
out to lunch 
To doze off drunk or high and neglect a responsibility. also "Lunch Out"


1. A large sum of money (earn a packet).[227] 2. A nasty surprise (catch a packet).[227]
a fit of temper.[228]
(capitalised) An Irishman (derogatory).[228]
(Derogatory, offensive) A Pakistani or sometimes used to loosely describe anyone or anything from the Indian sub-continent.[229]
Paki Black 
High quality Hashish from Pakistan. Very very dark brown hence "black" rumoured to be opiumated.
Unprovoked attacks on Pakistanis living in Britain.[230]
Rubbish; something worthless.[231]
To hit, punch or beat soundly. From a 19th-century variant of baste, meaning to beat thoroughly.[232]
A sound thrashing or heavy defeat.[232]
A cheap, sensationalist magazine.[233]
phiz or phizog 
The face (from a 17th-century colloquial shortening of physiognomy).[234]
pig's ear 
1. Beer (Cockney rhyming slang.[237] 2. Something that has been badly done or has been made a mess of.[237]
Pejorative term used, mainly in England to refer to travellers, gypsies or vagrants.[238] Sometimes also used to describe people of low social class or morals.[citation needed] Someone less than quarter blood Romani who travels, but may have less inclination to keep to the old ways (from Lancs Romanichal oral tradition)
Stupid or annoying person.[239]
1. (noun) A robbery.[240] 2. Sail too close to the wind (nautical slang).[240]
pissed, pissed up 
on the piss 
Getting drunk, drinking alcohol.[242]
Extremely drunk.[243]
1. Something large or substantial (mid-19th century).[244] 2. Penis.[244] 3. A general term of abuse (from 2.; in use since 1960s [244] but may have been popularised by the BBC comedy series Only Fools and Horses.[citation needed])
£25 (18th century).[245]
Lies (from the cockney rhyming slang pork pies)[246]
(To do porridge) A term in prison.[247]
powder nose; as in 'I'm just going to powder my nose' 
going to the toilet (derived from powder room).
a fool
1. To gamble, wager or take a chance.[248] 2. To sell or promote.[248]
1. Customer, patron.[248] 2. Gambler (one who takes a punt).[248] 3. A victim in a confidence trick or swindle.[248]


queer as a clockwork orange 
1. Very odd indeed.[249] 2. Ostentatiously homosexual.[249]
Queer Street 
A difficult or odd situation (up Queer Street).[250]
queer someone's pitch 
1. Take the pitch of another street vendor, busker or similar.[250] 2. Spoil someone else's efforts.[250]
Pound sterling
Vagina (possibly a play on the Welsh word for valley, cwm).[251]


Richard the Third 
A piece of excrement (rhyming slang Richard the Third = turd).[252]
Anal sphincter [253]
1. A curry. 2. Diarrhoea or painful defecation.[253]
Policeman.[254] from "Rosicrucian"
rumpy pumpy 
sexual intercourse, used jokingly. (Popularised by its usage in The Black Adder and subsequent series; the suggestion of actor Alex Norton of a Scots term.)[255][256]


An all purpose term of approval.[257] Popularised during the early rave era 1988-1995.
Knowledge, understanding (from the French, savoir).[258]
A hooligan youth (Scouse), short for scallywag.[259]
Run away. Sometimes claimed to be rhyming slang: Scapa Flow (go).[260][261]
In Britain, a promiscuous woman; in Ireland, a common or working class woman.[262]
Someone from Liverpool.[263]
Term of abuse, from scrotum.[262]
see a man about a dog 
1. Attend a secret deal or meeting.[264] 2. Go to the toilet.[264]
Sexual intercourse.[265]
1. The past historic of shag. 2. Extremely tired (shagged out).[265]
Black eye.[266]
Someone of little worth, originally military slang.[267]
Dirty, particularly of a marijuana pipe.[268] However originally Jamaican Patois for lazy dancing or "The Rasta Swagger" as in Easy Skanking
Without money.[269]
1. Worthless or insignificant person. 2. Promiscuous woman or prostitute.[270]
slag off 
A verbal attack. To criticise or slander.[270]
A bald man.[270]
Promiscuous woman or prostitute.[270]
Urinate, urination.[271]
sling one's hook 
Go away.[158]
French kiss, or any prolonged physical intimacy without undressing or sexual contact.[272]
Annoying person or thing (from sodomite).[273]
sod off 
"Go away".[274]
Lucky (possibly from the Scottish game, Spawnie[clarification needed]).[275]
archaic slang - short for "God's Blood". It was used as a mild curse word. It was used to replace other words seen as blasephmy.
1. Semen, ejaculate. 2. Courage, bravery.[276]
1. Extremely drunk.[277] 2. An intensifier, e.g. "You steaming gurt ninny!" [277] 3. Extremely angry.
1. Sexual intercourse (e.g. "get stuffed")[278] 2. Used negatively to mean bothered, as in, "I can't be stuffed to do that!".[278] 3. having a full belly (e.g. "I am completely stuffed, and can't eat another thing.").[citation needed]


a little bit[279]
take the piss (out of) 
To mock.[280]
take the mickey 
To tease or mock.[196]
Commonly a prostitute or term of abuse but also used affectionately for a lover. Shortened version of sweetheart.[281]
Ten pounds.[282]
Posh person [283]
A British soldier in WWI.
1. A large unspecified amount (18th century).[284] 2. £100 (1940s).[284] 3. 100 MPH (1950s).[284] 4. Any unit of 100 (1960s).[284]
Nonsense [285]
1. Someone who masturbates (to toss off). 2. Someone the speaker doesn't like (from 1.).[285] 3. An affectionate form of address (from 1.) e.g. "All right you old tosser!"[286]
Drunkard or habitual drinker (from tossing pots of ale) [285]
1. The London Underground (19th century. Originally 'Tuppeny tube').[287] 2. Penis.[287] 3. A person (Scottish).[287] 4. A general term of contempt (Irish, 1950s).[288]
bunk off school, play truant. "You off to twag maths" Lincolnshire, Humberside probably from "to wag"
1. Vagina.[289] 2. Term of abuse (from 1.).[289] 3. To hit hard.[citation needed]


wag off 
Skyve or play truant.[290]
1. Masturbation or to masturbate.[291] 2. Inferior.[291]
1. Someone who masturbates.[291] 2. Abusive term (from 1.), someone the speaker doesn't like.[291][292]
1. Very drunk.[291] 2. Exhausted.[291]
wanking spanner(s) 
warts and all 
Including all negative characteristics (from a reported request from Oliver Cromwell to Peter Lely)[293]
1. Urination.[294] 2. Amphetamine Sulphate (also known as speed; from whizz, to move very fast).[294]
Penis (hypocorism).[295]
Acting in an excessively macho fashion.[295]
wind up 
to tease, irritate, annoy, anger [296]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mattiello, Elisa (2008). An Introduction to English Slang. Polimetrica. p. 51. ISBN 88-7699-113-1.
  2. ^ Todd, Richard Watson (2006). Much Ado about English. Nicholas Brealey Publishing. p. 67. ISBN 1-85788-372-1.
  3. ^ Algeo, John (1999). The Cambridge History of the English Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-521-26477-4.
  4. ^ CED 1991, p. 1451.
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  6. ^ a b Green 1999, p. v (intro).
  7. ^ Green 1999, p. vi (intro).
  8. ^ a b c d e Green 1999, p. vii (intro).
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  14. ^ Green 1999, p. 83.
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  • Breverton, Terry (2010). Breverton's Nautical Curiosities. 21 Bloomsbury Square, London: Quercus Publishing PLC. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-84724-776-6.
  • Collins English Dictionary. Glasgow GN4 0NB: Harper Collins Publishers. 1991. ISBN 0-00-433286-5.
  • Green, Jonathon (1999). The Cassell Dictionary of Slang. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-34435-4.
  • Hunt, J. L. and Pringle, A. G. (2008). Service Slang. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-24014-2.
  • Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar. Oxford University Press (1995).
  • Quinion, Michael (2009). Why is Q Always Followed by a U?. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1-84614-184-3.

Further reading[edit]

  • Partridge, Eric (2002). Beale, Paul (ed.). A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-29189-5.
  • James, Ewart (1998). NTC's Dictionary of British Slang and Colloquial Expressions. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-8442-0838-8.
  • Baker, Paul (2002). Dictionary of Polari & gay slang.
  • Baker, Paul (2002). Polari-- the lost language of gay men.
  • Barrère, Albert; Leland, Charles (1889). Dictionary of Slang, Jargon and Cant.
  • Bernstein, Jonathan (2006). Knickers in a twist : a dictionary of British slang.
  • Farmer, John; Henley, W. E. (1905). A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English.
  • Geris, Jan (2003). American's guide to the British language : really, they talk like this every day.
  • Green, Jonathon (2008). Chambers Slang Dictionary.
  • James, Ewart (1999). Contemporary British slang : an up-to-date guide to the slang of modern British English.
  • Parody, A. (Antal) (2007). Eats, shites & leaves : crap English and how to use it.
  • Soudek, Lev. (1967). Structure of substandard words in British and American English.

External links[edit]