English Slang

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English people are well known for their use of slang and the wide number of different accents that can be found across the country. The way that people talk can vary greatly within a relatively small area. Take for example the major cities of Liverpool, Manchester, and Chester. Each is within easy reach of the other, yet the accent of locals of each place is considerably different. The slang words used are also different.

Slang Culture in England

Most visitors should be able to understand the core of the English being spoken. There are some slang words that are used across the whole country; what makes this slang special is that you will probably not hear it in other English speaking countries, such as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa – each will have their own national slang. Some slang words and phrases are used in particular regions of England, whilst others are very localised, meaning that they are only really used in particular towns, cities, or neighbourhoods. Of course, the use of social media is informing many people how others speak, which is leading to greater understanding and an increase in the use of certain words and phrases.

Cockney Rhyming Slang

One of the most well known types of slang in England is the fun, and sometimes challenging, Cockney Rhyming Slang. Used in London areas, it evolved as a way for shady characters to be able to communicate without the police or other people being able to understand them. It was based on two connecting words, where the second word rhymed with the word being replaced. Only the first word was then spoken. A large part of being able to understand Cockney Rhyming slang came from context.


Take for example whistle and flute. Flute rhymes with suit. So a whistle is a suit. “I’ve got to take my whistle to the cleaners.” Another example is bread and honey. Honey rhymes with money.  So bread means money.  “When I give the nod, grab the bread and run.” One further example is boat race. Race rhymes with face.  So boat is face.  “Her boat ain’t half bad.”

Cockney rhyming slang is mainly spoken today for novelty value.   

There are also some top slang words and phrases to be aware of when visiting England.

All Right

Asking someone if they are all right is used as a greeting; it is used instead of saying hello. It should not be confused with asking someone how are you?, as all right generally does not need an answer. It can be used with friends or with strangers.  The standard answer would be to say the same back – all right. It used to be more common in the south, but its use has spread. You will also see hiya a lot.

Mint / Ace / Boss / Top / Brill

There are numerous ways in English slang to say that something is great / good / excellent / fantastic.  

Blimey / Crikey / Crumbs / Blast / Gosh / Golly / Cor

These are all ways of exclaiming surprise. The surprise can be good or bad. For example, “Crikey!  That scared me! Don’t do it again!”, or “Blimey, I never expected to win the National Lottery!”

Ta-ra / Tata / Cheerio / Bye Bye

These are all ways of saying goodbye to somebody and bidding them farewell for the time being. Of course, you will also hear phrases such as see you later, in a while, and catch you later. You may also hear the quaint toodlepips!

Cheers / Ta

These are both ways of saying thank you. Ta is perhaps more of a northern saying, whereas cheers seems to be used all over the country.

Duck / Love / Dear / Honey / Hon / Sweetie / My Love

There are many terms of endearment and affection in the English language. Most have a stong regional use. For example, duck is more common in the north east. They are used more and more with strangers in a service setting. A cashier may say, yes dear? A waiter or waitress may ask what can I get for you my love? These words are usually used from men towards women, or from females towards both males and females. It is unlikely that you would hear these words used between two men. When people use them they are being friendly, and do not mean to sound over-familiar. 

Fit

Something pleasant or attractive. It used to be used to refer to a person that the speaker thought was good looking – for example, that girl’s well fit – but it is now used to refer to anything that a person likes. It can be used to talk about food that is delicious, a great looking car, a stylish outfit … and more!

Knackered

This means tired or worn out. Someone who is knackered is really tired. If a car is knackered it is worn old, probably old, and possibly ready to break down.  It can be used in many different situations and to talk about a great many things. 

Quid

A slang term for a UK pound. Ten pounds is often referred to as a tenner, and five pounds is a fiver. 

You will come across many more slang words and phrases when visiting England. You will also hear lots of idioms – English people love to use idioms and talk in riddles! You can usually understand a meaning though based on the context.