30 British Expressions and What They Mean

30 British Expressions and What They Mean

Brits have a way with words that could make even English-speakers from other parts of the world scratch their heads in confusion.

Wordplay is common in everyday expressions, particularly when describing things—from the most mundane occurrences to massive sporting events.

If you want to inject some creatively cryptic (and somewhat bold) expressions into your vocabulary, start off with these common and quirky expressions.
  1. Ace – Excellent; awesome
“Beth is an ace at driving.”
  1. All to pot – Out of control; a situation that has gone wrong
“The meeting will go all to pot if you bring up that issue.”
  1. Anti-clockwise – Counterclockwise
“It was hilarious when they ran anti-clockwise and collided with the oncoming team.”
  1. Bite your arm off – Be overly excited
“He’d bite my arm off for a place in the finals.”
  1. Bob’s your uncle – Another way of saying that’s it or there you have it
“It’s a pretty straightforward recipe. Just boil them all together and Bob’s your uncle!”
  1. Bollocking – Severe lecture or punishment
“She got a good bollocking from the boss after the mix-up.”
  1. Brass monkeys – Very cold weather
“Take your coat with you; it’s brass monkeys outside.”
  1. Chunder – To vomit
“Lay off the bottle because I don’t want you chundering all over the carpet.”
  1. Damp squib – A disappointing event; something  that fails to live up to expectations
“They didn’t allow the audience to stand up and dance. What a damp squib.”
  1. Drop a clanger – To unintentionally say something wrong or make a terrible mistake
“He dropped a major clanger by saying the ex’s name during the wedding vows.”

NBC / Via b-e-s-t-of-f-r-i-e-n-d-s.tumblr.com
  1. Fanny around – To procrastinate, wander off, or waste time
“We've got plenty of time to fanny around. Next class is at three.”
  1. Fortnight – Two weeks
“I’m going on a trip to South America next fortnight!”
  1. The full monty – The whole thing; to be completely naked
“I want a jungle-themed party, with the animals, the trees, the sounds—the full monty.”
  1. Gobsmacked – Amazed; astonished
“I’m still gobsmacked by the game’s last-minute win.”
  1. Grub – Food
“I haven’t eaten all day; I could use some grub.”
  1. Horses for courses – Another way of saying to each to his own
“You prefer your coffee ice-cold? Horses for courses, I guess.”
  1. Hunky-dory – A thing or situation that is normal or alright
“It’s all hunky-dory at work today.”
  1. Kerfuffle – To make a fuss; a commotion
“The loose chickens caused quite a kerfuffle at the fair.”
  1. Knackered – Tired or exhausted
“I am so knackered from the party yesterday.”
  1. Knees-up – A dance party or lively gathering
“I’m planning a knees-up to welcome George.”
  1. Know your onions – To be an expert or knowledgeable about a subject
“Mr Williams has been in the business for decades. He knows his onions.”
  1. Lost the plot – Crazy; to go mad
“Everyone lost the plot when the ball hit the goal.”
  1. Off your trolley – Insane; crazy
“He’s jumping around like he’s off his trolley.”
  1. Quid – Money (equivalent to one pound)
“Could you lend me a quid? I left my purse in the car.”
  1. Scrummy – Delicious
“The pie was scrummy!”

image source: efemontaigne-cotonou.com
image sourse: efemontaigne-cotonou.com

  1. See a man about a dog – To make an excuse for going somewhere; typically said when going to the toilet
“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll just go see a man about a dog.”
  1. Spend a penny – To use a public toilet
“Pull over for a while. I have to spend a penny.”
  1. Take the piss – To mock or make fun of something
“My mates are still taking the piss for what I did on graduation day.”
  1. The bee’s knees – Used in describing something excellent
“Amazing view and ace service—this hotel is the bee’s knees!”
  1. Tickety-boo – Something that is going well
 “No worries. Everything is tickety-boo during my shift.”
These are just for starters if you want to pepper in some UK slang on your everyday talking.

What’s the snarkiest, funniest, or oddest British phrase have you heard someone say?


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