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Slang in the UK

Slang in the UK

English Slang Explained

English slang is a funny thing. Often seemingly nonsensical, greatly varied between British regions, and greatly evolving, it can be an enigma at best, a linguistic minefield at worst.

Whether or not your English classes at school covered it, it is likely you will need a recap, as it is so dependent on the time and place you’re staying in the UK.

Here at Spen Languages we try to incorporate idioms into our lessons, and encourage you to use them in groups. Here is an A-Z of some English slang words and phrases. Try listening out for them when you’re out and about, or try them in your English lesson.

Tip: We would recommend that unless you are after a particularly casual job, like bar work or similar, that you avoid using these words and phrases in a job interview. Other great places to avoid these phrases are: when meeting the parents of your girlfriend or boyfriend for the first time, if you get on the wrong side of the law, or in a disagreement with a stranger.

Country-Wide Slang

There are many words that are used across the UK, and will often give an indication of cultural or class values.



This is a casual way of greeting someone, and can be used instead of the whole phrase, “Hello, how are you?” It is also used after an incident when someone may be hurt or upset, to check that somebody understands an explanation, or to ask for agreement.


Refers to dessert: the sweet course of a meal that you have after your main course.


This can of course be used in the wider sense of doing something (eg. “Your actions have made me smile”), but single young people may also use it when referring to intimate relations they have had or want to have with a prospective girlfriend or boyfriend: to “get some action”.

Tip: This can be seen as a slightly derogatory term and we would not recommend using it in front of a prospective boyfriend or girlfriend, or indeed in front of anybody unless you know them well.



As well as a reference to making someone blind (cannot see), this can be used to describe a really good time: “We had a blinding night on Saturday,” or, “The night was a blinder”. This usually refers to good times had out at night, rather than daytime activities, although not exclusively so.


“Bling” is a word used to describe very shiny or sparkly jewellery. With its roots in modern Afro-Caribbean culture, it is now a word widely used across the UK and America. It was originally used in reference to diamonds and expensive jewellery (especially when there was a lot of it), but it can now also be used if someone is generally wearing a lot of big, expensive jewellery. In some sectors of society, it is used seriously; in more alternative culture, it is often used flippantly and can refer to any bit of jewellery (even if it’s not big and sparkly).


This adjective describes an object or person that is particularly adorned with jewellery.


This is commonly used amongst young people to describe something that is very clear or obvious.



To scold, sometimes using physical means. It can also mean to swear.


This is used in certain social circles to describe people (often of lower or working classes) who dress and behave in a brash manner. Men who might be described as ‘chavs’ most commonly wear tracksuits, whereas women, when not also wearing tracksuits, will often wear tight or scant clothing, more makeup than is strictly necessary, and a lot of ‘bling’ (see above!) A chav will also have a reputation as behaving loutishly or aggressively.



Something requiring very little or no effort. If a job is a ‘doss’, it’s very easy; the implication is that you can get away with doing almost nothing. Doss can also be something you do (or don’t do): If you had a lazy Sunday afternoon, you might well have ‘just dossed around’.


This can be used as a derogatory term for a lesbian, but has also been reclaimed by the lesbian community to identify with one another.


Something that was very easy to work out, or to do: “That test was a doddle.”



Someone very brainy, who is often seen as socially awkward or inept. However, this is evolving to actually be used as a term of respect for people who can make calculations or work at a higher academic level than most.


Unduly angry or grumpy. This is used mostly in jest, to tease someone who has reacted with anger to a relatively small or unimportant incident.


When describing people, this word has two related but very different meanings: ‘Easy’ is a derogatory way to describe someone who is easy to persuade to enter into intimate relations with. However, if you say ‘I’m easy’, you usually would usually be referring to the fact that you’re relaxed about what you do next. For example, when asked whether you’d prefer to watch a movie or go for a walk, and you really don’t mind which, you might reply, “I’m easy”. This is really shortening of ‘easy-going’, see below.


This is used to describe somebody who is very relaxed in life, and doesn’t take much issue with anything.