25 brilliant British English slang words and phrases

British English slang

English is commonly accepted as having a larger vocabulary than most other languages in the world. Some words and expressions are tricky for English language learners and others even create difficulties between native English speakers from different countries.

We’re from London and have created a list of some of the most brilliant, creative, confusing and commonly used British English slang words and phrases.

British English slang words and phrases

Check out our favourite expressions and try to use some this week!

1. not my cup of tea

describes something that you dislike or are not interested in

"My friend invited me to an art gallery on Saturday, but it's not my cup of tea."

2. give someone a bell

to telephone someone

"Give me a bell later so we can make plans for the weekend."

3. a chip off the old block

describes someone who has a similar character or personality to one of their parents

"My nephew is a chip off the old block when it comes to computer games. He's just like his dad."

4. get a move on

used to tell someone to hurry up

"You need to get a move on. I don't want to be late for the cinema."

5. go pear-shaped

describes something that goes wrong or has problems

"We were going to buy a new house, but everything went pear-shaped when my husband lost his job."

6. give it some welly

used to tell someone to make more effort and use more energy to do something

"You really need to give it some welly so that you can finish this job today."

7. raining cats and dogs

describes when it rains very heavily

"I don't want to go out for a run today. It's raining cats and dogs."

8. to be happy as Larry

describes when someone is extremely happy

"I'm happy as Larry because we've just finished our final university exam."

9. getting shirty

describes when someone gets angry or annoyed and not in a polite way

"So many customers get shirty when they have to wait on the phone for more than a couple of minutes."

British English slang 2

10. in a (right) pickle

describes when someone is in a difficult or problematic situation

"Jack drunk a bit too much wine at the staff party and got himself in a right pickle."

11. fine and dandy

describes something as very good or going well

"I'm fine and dandy thanks. I've got a great job and still have time to meet up with friends and go to the gym."

12. throw a spanner in the works

describes something (or someone) that creates a problem for a planned activity or project

"This snow storm has thrown a spanner in the works with our holiday. All flights are cancelled!"

13. knackered or cream-crackered

to be extremely tired or exhausted

"I've been working long hours this week and I'm completely knackered (cream-crackered)."

14. take the mickey

describes when you make jokes about someone or tease them and make them look silly

"We were taking the mickey out of our grandfather because he still can't send text messages on his phone."

15. Bob's your uncle

used to emphasise that something will be fine or is easy to do (e.g. a task or a set of instructions)

"Take the car to the mechanic. They'll repair it this afternoon, and bob's your uncle!"

16. hold your horses

used to tell someone to wait and think about something before making a decision

"Hold your horses. You don't need to make such an important decision right now."

17. a piece of cake

describes something that is very easy to do

"My new job is a piece of cake because I've done this so many times before already."

British English slang 3

18. in a jiffy

describes when something will happen in a very short time (in the future)

"Can you just wait for me at the train station? I'll be there in a jiffy."

19. to whinge (about something)

to complain about something in a way that annoys other people

"You're always whinging about your job. Why aren't you looking for new one?"

20. hang on

to wait for a short time

"Can you hang on for a few minutes? I need to do send an email before we go out."

21. a happy bunny

to be happy and satisfied with a situation

"I'm a happy bunny because it's Friday and I have the whole weekend to relax."

22. full of beans

to be lively, energetic and enthusiastic

"My best mate is always full of beans first thing in the morning."

23. cheesed off

to be angry and annoyed

"He's really cheesed off because the concert tickets have already sold out."

24. dodgy

describes someone or something as dishonest, evasive, dangerous, strange or low quality

"We think that this electrician is dodgy and need to get his work checked."

25. chinwag

an informal conversation between friends

"I had a great chinwag with my old friends about what we used to do at university."

Do you want to improve your English fluency?

If you’re not a native speaker, you can try out some of these English social expressions the next time your chatting with a Brit! They are all quite informal, so we don’t recommend using them at a job interview or formal situations with strangers!

We also have English language courses in Munich with qualified language trainers and free online English lessons to help you develop your fluency and communication skills. We can also help you to practise your British English slang words and phrases too!