An international student’s guide to British slang
Sunday 30th September is International Translation Day, which celebrates languages and linguists all over the world. If you’ve just moved to the UK and you’re learning English, you’ll soon realise that British slang can leave your head spinning! Even if you’re not learning the language from scratch, the accent here can be a struggle to understand. So, if you’ve just started studying in the UK, I’ve compiled a handy cheat sheet of a few of the most common British idioms, phrases and slang I’ve heard myself over the past few years as an international student.
- You alright?
Probably the most common phrase you’ll hear; basically, the British version of “How are you?”
Fun conversation or jokes
Like shouting "SHOTGUN", to bagsy something means to claim it first before anyone else can e.g. "I bagsy the last chip!"
Great British pound, e.g. "This book only costs two quid" (£2)
- Half past
When you ask a British person for the time, they tend to say, "It’s half past seven" (i.e. 7.30pm) or "It’s twenty to ten" (i.e. 9.40pm). They basically tell the time by the minutes to the next hour or minutes passed in the hour. Confusing!
Usually the drink (unless you’re in the North, where ‘tea’ sometimes means ‘dinner’)
To waste time doing very little; procrastinate
- Leg it
To run away
Abbreviation of “Isn’t it”
Overjoyed, pleased or full of pride, e.g. "I’m so chuffed I passed the exam"
Extremely upset or devastated
- Bee’s knees
Something really cool
Adds emphasis to an expression, usually in anger or incredulity, e.g. "I’m still waiting for the bloody bus"
Something or someone that could be considered impolite or bad-mannered, but instead comes across as endearing or funny to others
The best or height of something e.g. "We’ve reached peak GIF" (i.e. this is the best GIF we’ll ever find)
Can also mean unlucky e.g. "You missed the deadline? That's peak"
Astounded, bewildered or shocked
A friend e.g. "My mate Josh"
- Fancy someone
To like someone
Really depends on context and has many connotations – generally means a man; British equivalent of American slang word ‘dude’; a well-dressed man (typically from east London)
Someone who is gullible or easily fooled (but be careful - the same word is used to describe the cups that people drink tea out of)
Eating and drinking
- Go for a cheeky Nando’s
Have a quick bite to eat at the popular chain restaurant Nando’s
- Go on a bender
Go on a spree of heavy drinking
Wetherspoons (a chain of pubs throughout Britain very popular with university students due to the cheap alcohol and food)
This is what British people say when they're toasting a drink
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