UK Slang: The ultimate student guide

POV: You’ve arrived in the UK and can’t understand what anyone’s saying. Cracking the code to British slang can be confusing – especially with different rules for each region.

Even a simple bread roll has 20 name variations around the UK, including: roll, bap, bun, barm, teacake and cob. Don’t panic! From London to Scotland, YourTRIBE’s student guide is here to decipher common UK slang and get you up to speed.

The Queen’s English

Slang isn’t just modern-day dialect. It dates back to the 1900s. The Queen’s English, the classic British accent everyone knows (think Downtown Abbey), was taught to the upper and middle classes. Today, it’s predominantly spoken in London and Southern England. Common slang words include:

Slang word Meaning Example sentence
Bloke / Chap A man Who is that bloke/chap you were talking to?
Bloody An intensifier (used for emphasis) What a bloody awful day.
Cheers Thank you or goodbye Cheers!
Chuffed Pleased or delighted She was chuffed with her present.
Gutted Very disappointed I was gutted that I didn’t get the job.
Knackered Very tired or exhausted I’m knackered from working all day.
Mate Friend or companion Hey, mate!
Quid £ (GBP) It cost 5 quid.

Cockney (East End of London)

While the upper and middle class spoke in The Queen’s English, the working-class Londoners created their own. The Cockney accent was born to create a coded language among the working class communities, using rhyming phrases to replace words. Common slang includes:

Slang word Meaning Example sentence
Adam and Eve Believe I don’t Adam and Eve this!
Apples and pears Stairs Mind the apples and pears as you go up.
Barnet Fair Hair I need to cut my Barnet Fair.
Butcher’s hook Look Take a butcher’s hook at this view.
Dog and bone Phone Ring me on the dog and bone.
Frog and toad Road Meet me at the end of the frog and toad.
Plates of meat Feet My plates of meat are killing me.
Ruby Murray Curry Fancy a Ruby Murray tonight?
Trouble and strife Wife I’ll need to ask the trouble and strife.

London (modern day)

While traditional Cockney slang still exists, the modern world has evolved and shaped London’s slang. Slang from different cultures and influences worldwide spread quickly throughout London communities. Common slang includes:

Slang word Meaning Example sentence
Bants/Banter Playful/witty conversation or teasing She’s got great bants.
Chuffed Delighted or pleased I’m chuffed with that.
Geezer Man (used affectionately or sarcastically) Alright, geezer?
Gutted Disappointed or upset He’s absolutely gutted.
Innit Short for “isn’t it” (used to seek agreement or confirmation) It’s a nice day, innit?
Mandem A group of friends, usually boys I’m off to see the mandem.
Mugged off Treated badly or unfairly You mugged me off!
Peng Something or someone attractive or appealing That’s peng!

Geordie (Newcastle upon Tyne and Tyneside)

Arguably one of the hardest dialects to understand (even for some Brits) is Geordie. A concoction of slang, their distinct accent and pronunciation can be confusing. If you’ve seen the reality show Geordie Shore, then you’ve probably heard most of these slang terms:

Slang word Meaning Example sentence
Belta Great or fantastic The concert was a belta!
Canny Good, nice or pleasant The sunset is canny tonight.
Clamming Hungry Am (I’m) clamming.
Deek Look Giz a deek = Can I have a look?
Fettle Foul mood Are ye (you) in a fettle?
Gan doon Go down We’re gan doon the pub.
Haddaway You’re joking or get away A: The test is tomorrow. B: Haddaway, man!
Howay Come on or hurry up Howay, man! We’re going to be late.
Pet Term of endearment How are ye, pet?
Radgie Aggressive person Watch out for that radgie!
Wey aye Yes, of course Wey aye, man! I’m going out tonight.
Wor lass My girlfriend Wor lass is visiting this weekend.

Scouse (Liverpool)

One of the most distinctive accents in the UK is Scouse (think The Beatles). Scousers often speak very fast, blending words together and dropping consonants. Common slang includes:

Slang word Meaning Example sentence
Bevvy Alcoholic drink Fancy a bevvy tonight?
Blag To deceive or trick I blagged my way through the test.
Boss Excellent or great Those shoes are boss!
Boss tha You’re the best Thanks, you’re boss tha.
Our kid A close friend or younger sibling I took our kid to the match.
Scran Food Let’s order some scran.
Sound Good or okay Everything’s sound.

Mancunian (Manchester)

The city’s proud working-class heritage heavily influences Mancunian, or “Manc”, slang. Greetings are informal, responses are direct and there’s a lot of dry humour. Common slang includes:

Slang word Meaning Example sentence

You alright?

Hello (rhetorical question) A: Alright? B: Hi, you alright?
Angin Disgusting That’s angin!
Bobbins Rubbish You’re talking bobbins.
Brew Cup of tea/coffee Fancy a brew?
Butty Sandwich I’ve got a butty for dinner (lunch).
Buzzing Excited I’m buzzing for the weekend.
Dead/Well Very The concert was dead/well good.
Mint/sound Very good That’s mint/sound.
Nowt Nothing There’s nowt better than this.
Our kid Term of affection It’s arr (our) kid’s birthday tomorrow.

Welsh (Wales)

From the valleys to the cities, Welsh slang reflects the down-to-earth personalities of the people with vivid, candid expressions. Common slang includes:

Slang word Meaning Example sentence
Bladdered Drunk I was bladdered last night.
Butty Friend Alright, butty?
Chopsy Talkative or argumentative Don’t get chopsy with me!
Cwtch A cuddle or hug Let’s have a cwtch.
Lush Delicious or attractive This chocolate is lush.
Minging Disgusting or unattractive That smells minging!
Tamping Angry or furious I’m absolutely tamping!
Tidy Good, nice or satisfactory They look tidy.
Ych-a-fi Expression of digust Ych-a-fi, that tastes horrible!

Scottish (Scotland)

Rooted in ancient dialects, Scottish slang changes with the region. There are 5 main varieties: Insular Scots, Northern Scots, Central Scots, Southern Scots and Ulster Scots. Common slang includes:

Slang word Meaning Example sentence
Bairn Baby or child The bairn is crying.
Boak To be physically sick That smell is making me boak.
Bonnie Pretty or beautiful She’s bonnie.
Dreich Gloomy or bleak weather It’s a dreich day.
Glaikit Stupid or foolish Don’t be glaikit.
Greetin’ Crying or whining He’s been greetin’.
Ken Know A ken what yer (you’re) sayin’.
Nae bother No problem or you’re welcome A: Thank you. B: Nae bother.
Scooby Clue or idea I haven’t got a scooby.
Wee Small or little I’ll have a wee slice.

Popular slang

Finally, let’s dive into some of the most popular and quirky slang terms used across the UK today:

Bagsy To claim or reserve Bagsy the front seat!
Bollocks Nonsense or rubbish That’s a load of bollocks.
Bonkers Wild or crazy You must be bonkers!
Faff Wasting time Stop faffing around.
Kerfuffle A commotion or fuss She caused a kerfuffle.
Loo Bathroom or toilet Where is the loo, please?
Minted Rich or wealthy They must be minted!
Muppet Fool or idiot You’re such a muppet.
Snazzy Stylish or impressive Your new bag is snazzy.
Skint Broke or without money I’m skint until payday.
Snog To passionately kiss They were snogging.

There you have it, your guide to UK slang. With such rich diversity across the UK, a little slang can help you fit in like a local and create lasting relationships.

Learn a few phrases for wherever your travels take you, or master your local slang. Remember, slang flows naturally with the conversation and context – you don’t need to overdo it with lots of phrases in a short period.

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