Slang words in a foreign language really tunes you into the cultural use of language. A lot of slang is used in languages like English, probably in almost every conversation in fact! English slang words may have historical origins which date back to old English terms and some are modern creations or adaptations from other slang words.
Of course, slang is often used to say something a bit rude or naughty, or to exclaim or express something. However, slang words are useful in conversation and to a lesser extent, in writing. More slang words are getting introduced to the English language and they’re being represented in popular culture and the media more frequently. Earlier, we did an article on the difference in language between our three favourite Asian countries, and now we’re focusing on the different quirky slang words between American and British English.
Lots of English slang words sound funny, or have hilarious meanings. For example, something like ‘do’ means a party, strange right? Mostly, though, the funny slang words are the rude ones!
List of 20 British slang words and examples of how to use English slang words.
There are tons of British slang words but here’s 20 of the most useful ones.
Cheesy – You’ll hear this a fair bit, it means a few things! When something is nice but cringey, it’s cheesy. Like an old song, maybe some Rick Astley or some Abba. It can also mean cheap or low quality, like a cheesy motel room.
Corny – Corny is similar to cheesy. A corny song might be one which you’re a bit embarrassed about liking but can’t help it!
Dodgy – Dodgy means when something is something you ought to be wary of. For example, a dodgy railing on a bridge would seem stable but the material used to build it looks like it has the potential to shake upon contact.
Cheers – Cheers is almost as common as ‘thank you’. It’s used when you say goodbye to someone too, it comes from an old term exclaimed when you raise a toast. A toast is when people raise their drinks and drink together and when you do this you’d say ‘cheers!’
Bloke – A bloke is simply another name for a man. ‘That bloke over there’.
Daft – Daft is a great word which means silly or stupid.
Ass/Arse – Both of these can mean your backside. Ass is used in words like badass too, which means someone who is cool or radical.
Fit – Fit means hot, meaning physically good looking
Mug – A mug has a surprising meaning other than a cup. It means someone who is a bit silly or naive. For example, if someone trips over you might say ‘you mug!’
Lad/lass – A lad is usually a younger boy and a lass is a younger girl.
Bollocks – Meaning testicles, this word is also used as an exclamation when you make a mistake. You might drop a vase on the floor and shout ‘Oh bollocks!’
Gutted – Gutted means to feel let down or upset. It’s a common term, for example, if you fail your test you might be gutted.
Dear – Dear is a confusing one. It’s one letter from deer, the animal, and also means someone who is precious. It’s also used to address people. For example, a letter might start off with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, or as a term of endearment it’d be ‘my dear grandma’. Apart from all of these, dear also means expensive. ‘The coffee is dear here’.
Posh – Posh means high class or sophisticated
Debbie downer – This term means someone who puts a downer of things. A downer is a negative spin.
Plastered/battered/smashed – All of these terms can be used for drunk. There are a lot of these terms in English!
Damn – Damn is short for damnation and is used as an exclamation. ‘I forgot my ticket, damn!’.
Twat/prick – Twat and prick are used as insults. They’re pretty similar, they’re not really really offensive, perhaps similar to calling someone a dick or a cock.
Pussy – As well as meaning female genitalia this means someone who is often scared. ‘If you don’t climb the mountain then you’re just a pussy!’ It is insulting.
Cock – As well as meaning a male chicken (short for cockerel), this is the male genitalia and an insult too.
Wicked – This means really good, which is surprising as wicked normally means evil. ‘That roller coaster was wicked!’
Jam – Jamming means chilling out and relaxing, it also means playing music with other musicians too.
Now check out some American English slang words and phrases
Ass – Americans don’t see arse, only ass!
Darn – Americans don’t use damn, they tend to say darn as a replacement. ‘Darn it!’
Pass the buck – This features in England but it’s more common in America. It means to pass the blame.
Trash – Trash means rubbish, it’s used as a slang word to point out something which is bad or rubbishy. ‘That movie was trash!’
What’s up? – This features in England and America and generally means how are you. ‘Hey mate, what’s up?’ ‘Not a lot, I’m doing okay mate’.
Yo – This word also features in English slang but originated in America. It’s slang for hi, or hello, but is also used to call someone. ‘Yo! Any of you order pizza?’
Homey – This means your best mates. ‘I went cinema with my homies’.
Amped – More common in America, this means to be excited and ready for something. ‘I’m so amped to go snowboarding!’
Sick – This is really common in America and England. It’s an odd one, because it actually means that something is really good. ‘That rock concert was sick!’
Jonesing – This American slang terms means to crave something.
Slang words often have a few meanings and sometimes they all differ! This is a blessing and a curse, as they’re useful for expressing certain things efficiently in conversation but can be also be confusing. Using slang is a great way to get into the mind of a native speaker and really home in on the way their language works in day to day conversation. So many English slang words crop up in most conversations in England and America, if you know and understand them then it’ll help your conversation skills massively!