80 British Words To Know Before Visiting the UK

80 British Words To Know Before Visiting the UK

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If you're a tourist, or more specifically, an American visiting Britain, you should brush up on some of the local slang. Sure, you might think - it's just English - how confusing can it be? Well, don't worry, I'll tell you.


Some words are relatively obvious but others make you scratch your head and wonder where they ever even came from. Even if you're not an Anglophile, you've likely heard most of these terms before, unless you live under a rock and never watch any British tv or movies. Which is crazy. Because they're awesome. 


However, some of these terms you would have no way of knowing and would have to figure them out from contextual clues alone. Everyone may know what a loo or a lift is, but do you know what an aubergine or courgette or a hob is? Maybe not. I didn't. I was pretty surprised to discover that rocket doesn't meant an actual rocket. 


And watch out for some wildly inventive enunciations of words as well. Like the word aluminum, where they not only change the emphatic syllable, they also turn 4 syllables into 5. It's total mayhem.


Here I've collected some of my favorite slang words for any visitor to know before you go. If you want to get by as a local, that is. Or try to.

all right?  a greeting, asked in a question, as in hi / how are you. you're expected to repeat it back.


aubergine  eggplant 


bangars  sausages


bin  trash can


bits and bobs  items to do or buy 


bobby  police officer


bog  toilet. also called a loo. toilet paper is called bog roll or loo roll.


bonnett  hood of a car


boot  trunk of a car 


brilliant  excellent / awesome / well done


cheers  thanks / goodbye / see you later 


chips  french fries


coach  long distance bus


coriander  cilantro


courgette  zucchini


crisps  potato chips


cuppa  cup of tea, used as a noun with the prepositional phrase left off, as in 'do you want a cuppa?' 


drink driving  drunk driving, but in the present tense.


electric fire  space heater


fag  cigarette. not exactly politically correct, but sounds a lot better in a British accent. 


fairy lights  christmas lights. also: see above disclaimer for fag.


fancy  to like or love something or someone, as in "i fancy her'


flannel  washcloth 


flat  apartment 


fringe  bangs


footpath  sidewalk


gherkin  pickle 


grit bin  roadside box full of salt and grit to spread on snowy or icy roads 


gutted  devastated


hamper  picnic basket / gift basket. not for dirty laundry whatsoever.


hen night  bachelorette party. stag do for men. if you see these going into a pub, go to another.


hire  to rent someting, as in a car rental is a 'car hire'


hob  stovetop


hoover  to vacuum


jacket  baked potato / potato with it's skin (jacket)


jumper  sweater 


kitchen roll  paper towels


larder  storage pantry in a kitchen 


lift  elevator 


lorry  truck / semi



lurgy  a transmissible cold or flu, as in 'he caught the lurgy going around'


mange tout  snow or snap peas


mash  mashed potatoes or other root vegetables


mobile  cell phone. accent on the second syllable instead of the first and a long "I" sound.


moggy  cat


mushy peas  literal mushed peas. not bad or spoiled, instead purposefully pre-mushed.


pants  underwear. actual pants are called trousers


paracetamol  acetaminophen (tylenol) 


peckish  hungry 


petrol  gasoline. a gas station is a petrol station.


pissed  drunk


pram  stoller. also called a buggy. diapers are called nappies.


queue  a line or a wait 


quid  equal to a pound, as in currency. the equivalent of a buck to a us dollar. 


rashers  bacon


ring  to call someone on the phone, as in 'i'll ring you'.


rocket  arugula 


rubbish  trash. can be literal trash or something someone doesn't like, as in 'that's rubbish.'


sack  bag, usually to carry groceries. a rucksack is a backpack.


sat nav  gps. shortened from satellite navigation.


skip  dumpster. it does no skipping of any kind.


slip road  entrance ramp or exit ramp on or off a road. not at all for slipping of any kind.


solicitor  a lawyer. higher up is a barrister. not to be confused with a barista at starbucks.


sorted  to plan or schedule or organize or confirm, as in 'we'll get your room sorted.


spotted dick  a pudding. don't ask.


stile  a fence / stair combination that people can climb over but animals cannot. 


surgery  doctor's office (not for surgery - which happens at the A&E: emergency hospital)


swede  rutabaga


swimming costume  bathing suit


taking the piss  joking around / making fun. not literal. unless maybe it's really funny.


tea towel  dishtowel. not for wiping up your tea you've spilled because you're clumsy.


torch  flashlight 


trainers  sneakers


trolly  shopping cart


veg  vegetables. if someone says, 'this is for your veg', they're referring to vegetables. 


voucher  coupon 


washing up liquid  dishsoap. if you're in a shop looking for 'dishsoap', you won't find it. 


wellies  rainboots. which, by the way, you'll probably need if you're going to the UK.


zebra crossing  crosswalk. for people, not zebras. yes, i was disappointed, too.


zed  the letter z is 'zed' instead of 'zee'. can't sing the alphabet song in the UK, it won't rhyme.