List of British words not widely used in the United States

List of British words not widely used in the United States

This is a list of British words not widely used in the United States. In Canada and Australia, some of the British terms listed are used, although another usage is often preferred.

  • Words with specific British English meanings that have different meanings in American and/or additional meanings common to both languages (e.g. pants, cot) are to be found at List of words having different meanings in American and British English. When such words are herein used or referenced, they are marked with the flag [DM] (different meaning).
  • Asterisks (*) denote words and meanings having appreciable (that is, not occasional) currency in American, but nonetheless notable for their relatively greater frequency in British speech and writing.
  • British English spelling is consistently used throughout the article, except when explicitly referencing American terms.
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to descend on a rope (US: rappel). From German abseilen.
calculating and tracking financial matters (US: accounting).
In the UK accounting is explaining your self or actions ("to give an accounting" or "accountability" in the U.S.A.), accountancy is the professional qualification.
Action Man
A toy similar to G.I. Joe.
viper, a species of venomous snake
advertisement (US and UK also: ad, commercial (on TV)).
agony aunt 
the author of an agony column – a magazine or newspaper column advising on readers' personal problems. The image presented was originally that of an older woman providing comforting advice and maternal wisdom, hence the name "aunt". Better known to most Americans as a "Dear Abby" column or advice column. Similarly, agony uncle.
Generally still in wide usage in England, with the alternative among also used. Amongst is considered archaic in US usage.
(originally from trademark Ansafone) automated telephone answering device (US and UK also: answering machine).
direction opposite to clockwise (US: counterclockwise).
approved school 
(old-fashioned) school for juvenile delinquents; reform school. Such institutions have not been referred to officially as "approved schools" since 1969. Juvenile delinquents, depending on their age and level of malfeasance, may now be sent to Secure Training Centres (for ages 15 to 18) or YOIs (Young Offender Institutions – a prison for offenders aged between 18 and 21). (US: juvenile detention center, JDC, juvenile hall, (slang) juvie.)
(informal) a disagreement ranging from a verbal dispute to pushing-and-shoving or outright fighting.
buttocks (US equivalent: ass), backside or anus, depending on context; to be arsed: to be bothered to do something, most commonly as a negative or conditional (e.g. I can't be arsed, if/when I can be arsed). Sometimes used in the US but only as a noun, but usually the euphemism ass is used in its place.
[to fall] arse over tit 
(vulgar, alternatively arse over tip) [to fall] head over heels. (US: ass over tea kettle).
artic (lorry) 
abbreviation of 'articulated lorry' (US: semi, semi-trailer truck, tractor-trailer).
(French) a solanaceous plant bearing a fruit of the same name, commonly used as a vegetable in cooking (US: eggplant). Also a dark purple colour resembling the colour of the fruit.
Auntie – sometimes 'Auntie Beeb' (see below) 
(affectionate slang) the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). Thought to have been coined by English BBC radio DJ and comedian Kenny Everett. Further popularised by English comedian Ben Elton's BBC show, The Man from Auntie.
a prompting system for television announcers (genericised trademark, after a leading manufacturer) (US: teleprompter).


baby minder 
(babysitter) a person who looks after babies (usually in the person's own home) while the baby's parents are working.
(vulgar) error, mistake, SNAFU. See also cock-up. (U.S.A.: screw up, mess up).
(1) a sausage (from the tendency of sausages to burst during frying); (2) a type of small firework; (3) an old car (allusion to their tendency to back-fire), thus the term 'banger racing' = stock car racing. (US: jalopy).
banknote (or note)
paper money issued by the central bank (US: "bill")[1]
(Northern English expression for) soft bread roll or a sandwich made from it; in plural, breasts (vulgar slang), i.e. "Ain't she got a lovely pair of baps".
barmaid *, barman 
a woman or man who serves drinks in a bar. Barman and the originally American bartender appeared within a year of each other (1837 and 1836); barmaid is almost two centuries older (circa 1658).
a small quarrel or fight. From Cockney rhyming slang, trouble, "Barney Rubble" (see for the American animation character of the same name)
the only type of lawyer qualified to argue a case in both higher and lower law courts; contrasts with solicitor. Occasionally used in the US, but not to define any particular type of lawyer.
euphemistic alteration of bastard in its sense a term of abuse for a man or boy, and, with weakened force, as the equivalent of ‘fellow’, ‘chap’; also trivially for ‘thing’, esp. something bad or annoying. As used by Noel Coward.[2]
bedsit (or bedsitter) 
one-room flat that serves as a living room, kitchen and bedroom and with shared bathroom facilities (US: see SRO; compare studio apartment (in British English a studio apartment - sometimes 'studio flat' - would have a self-contained bathroom)' efficiency)
Beeb, the Beeb 
(affectionate slang) the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation). See also 'Auntie' (above). Thought to have been coined by English BBC radio DJ and comedian Kenny Everett. The British band Queen released an album called At the Beeb in the UK and it had to be called "At the BBC" for US release.
Belisha beacon 
orange ball containing a flashing light mounted on a post at each end of a zebra crossing (qv); named after the UK Minister of Transport who introduced them in 1934.
the glans penis, (slang, vulgar) a male oriented insult.
a mildly derogatory term for a silly person. The word is an abbreviation of either 'Berkshire Hunt' or 'Berkeley Hunt'[citation needed] (it is uncertain which is the original phrase), rhyming slang for cunt. (Note that 'berk' rhymes with 'work', whereas the first syllable of both 'Berkshire' and 'Berkeley' is pronounced 'bark', in a manner rather similar to the pronunciation of 'derby' as 'darby'. Note also that it is considerably less obscene and insulting than its basis, cunt)
custom-made to a buyer's specification (US:custom-made)
biccy, bikkie 
a biscuit (US: "cookie")
a condescending and sometimes derogatory term for a woman (from the Arabic for 'daughter').[3] Usage varies with a range of harshness from 'bitch', referring to a disagreeable and domineering woman, to only a slightly derogatory term for a young woman.
(in English IPA: /ˈbaɪroʊ/) a ballpoint pen. Named after its Hungarian inventor László Bíró and the eponymous company which first marketed them.
black pudding 
(US: blood sausage)
(slang) to obtain or achieve by deception and/or ill preparation, to bluff, to scrounge, to rob, to wing it. A scam, tall story or deception.
derogatory term used in place of bloke ("what's that stupid bleeder done now?"); use has declined in recent years.
(informal) an exclamation of surprise. (Originally gor blimey, a euphemism for God blind me, but has generally lost this connotation.)
(informal) man, fellow. e.g. Terry is a top bloke. Also common in Australia. (US guy).
blues and twos 
(slang) emergency vehicle with lights and sirens (emergency services in the UK generally use blue flashing lights and formerly used a two-tone siren) (US: lights and sirens or code)
long shorts used for surfing or beachwear (US and UK also: board shorts or swimming trunks)
police officer, named after Sir Robert Peel, the instigator of the world's first organised police force.
Bob's your uncle 
"there you go", "it's that simple". Sometimes "Robert's your father's brother" (as used in the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)[4] (Some areas of US have the phrase Bob's your uncle; Fanny's your aunt)
something of low quality or (more commonly) someone who lacks ability at something, (e.g. "Our new striker is bobbins") From bobbins of cotton=rotten.
a cheap or poor (repair) job, can range from inelegant but effective to outright failure. 'You properly bodged that up didn't yer.' (you really made a mess of that didn't you) (US: botch or cob, shortened form of cobble) See Bodger.
scientist or engineer, sometimes abbreviated to boff
bog roll
(roll of) toilet ("bog") paper (slang). Occasionally 'shit roll' or 'shit rag' (vulgar). 'Giant bog-roll': kitchen towel.
completely ordinary, run-of-the-mill, unadulterated, unmodified. (US vanilla).
boiled sweet
type of confection (US: hard candy)
(vulgar; originally ballocks, colloquially also spelled as bollox) testicles; verbal rubbish (as in "you're talking bollocks") (US: bullshit). The somewhat similar bollix is found in American English, but without the anatomical connotations or vulgar sense meaning 'mess up'. The twin pulley blocks at the top of a ship's mast are also known as bollocks, and in the 18th century priests' sermons were colloquially referred to as bollocks; it was by claiming this last usage that the Sex Pistols prevented their album Never Mind the Bollocks from being banned under British obscenity laws.[5] Related phrases include bollocksed, which means either tired ("I'm bollocksed!") or broken beyond repair; bollocks up, meaning to mess up ("He really bollocksed that up"); and [a] bollocking, meaning a stern telling off. Compare dog's bollocks, below
bone-idle * 
the panel which covers a vehicle's engine and various other parts (US: hood)
brass monkeys 
cold – from "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey". According to a popular folk etymology, this phrase derives from cannonballs stowed on a brass triangle named after a "powder monkey" (a boy who runs gunpowder to the ship's guns) spilling owing to the frame's contraction in cold weather. (This is however incorrect for several physical and linguistic reasons.) The phrase is a 20th century variant of earlier expressions referring to other body parts, especially the nose and tail, indicating that the brass monkey took the form of a real monkey.
(slang) synonym of breakfast
(musical) a note of two bars' length (or a count of 8) in 4/4 time
(vulgar, rhyming slang) breasts; from football team Bristol City = titty
(informal) umbrella
brown bread 
(rhyming slang) dead; "You're brown bread, mate!"
browned off 
Fed up, annoyed or out of patience.
bubble and squeak 
dish of cooked cabbage fried with cooked potatoes and other vegetables. Often made from the remains of the Sunday roast trimmings. (Irish: colcannon)
(vulgar) an interjection of alarm or frustration, e.g. 'Oh bugger, I've just missed the last bus home'. Also refers to a contemptible, asinine, silly, or bothersome person * ('That little bugger is always late.') In the UK. its meaning is linked to buggery, sodomy, rather than to bug, to annoy. Common in the US, where it is not generally considered vulgar.
(vulgar, literally a synonym for 'sodomised') worn out; broken; thwarted, undermined, in a predicament, e.g. 'If we miss the last bus home, we're buggered' (US: screwed). Also used to indicated lack of motivation as in "I can't be buggered". Uncommon in the US.
bugger all 
little or nothing at all; "I asked for a pay rise and they gave me bugger all"; "I know bugger all about plants"; damn all. US: zip, jack or (offensive) jack shit. Usage is rare in the US.
building society 
an institution, owned by its depositors rather than shareholders, that provides mortgage loans and other financial services (US equivalent: savings and loan association)
bum bag 
a bag worn on a strap around the waist (US: fanny [DM] pack)
to wander aimlessly or stroll/walk without urgency to a destination; usually synonymous with bungle when used in the US.
bumf, bumph 
useless paperwork or documentation (from "bum fodder", toilet paper)
a windfall; profit
bureau de change 
an office where money can be exchanged (US: currency exchange)
burgle *
(originally colloquial, back-formation from burglar) to commit burglary (in the US, burglarize is overwhelmingly preferred, although burgle is occasionally found).
a sandwich (esp. 'chip butty' or 'bacon butty').


(slang) faeces (feces); nonsense or rubbish: "what a load of cack" could equally be used to describe someone talking nonsense or as a criticism of something of poor quality. Also spelt "kak" as used in South Africa. Derived from an ancient Indo-European word, kakkos, cognate with German word Kacke, Welsh word "cach" and the Irish Gaelic word "cac" which means 'shit'.
(informal) clumsy * ; left-handed. Derived from cack, meaning "fæces (feces)", with reference to the tradition that only the left hand should be used for cleaning the 'unclean' part of the human body (i.e. below the waist).
device for making coffee (US: French press)
abbreviation for a café; now used mainly for the old-fashioned establishment ("there's a proper caff up that side road") to distinguish from chain cafés.
type of lightweight hooded waterproof clothing (US: windbreaker)
call minder 
(rare) telephone message recorder (US and UK also: answering machine; voicemail machine)
synonymous with candidacy
candy floss 
spun sugar confection (US: cotton candy)
travel trailer (US: RV)
caravan park 
area where caravans are parked (US: Trailer park for near-permanently-installed mobile homes, RV park or campground for areas intended for short term recreational vehicle parking. Trailer parks are typically low-income permanent residencies; RV parks/campgrounds are a holiday (vacation) destination.)
car boot 
storage area of car (US: trunk). Can also mean car boot sale.
car hire 
car rental
car park 
area where cars are parked (US usually parking lot if outdoor, parking garage if indoor).
the part of a road that carries the traffic; see also dual carriageway (US and UK also: lane)
carrier rocket 
(rare) a rocket used to place a satellite in orbit (US and UK usually: launch vehicle).
cash machine, cashpoint 
automated teller machine. ("Cashpoint", strictly speaking, refers only to the ATMs of Lloyds TSB, although the term has become generic.)
cats eye 
reflector used to mark lane divisions and edges of roads, also written cat's-eye, genericised from the trademark Catseye (US: raised pavement marker; Botts' dots are similar)
central heating boiler 
(US: furnace)
central reservation 
physical barrier (usually made from armco) dividing oncoming carriageways (only on dual-carriageways or motorways) (US: median strip)
(slang) an opportunist
char, cha
(informal) tea. From the Chinese.
(informal) see charwoman
see charwoman
Chartered Accountant 
one authorised to certify financial statements; the equivalent of an American CPA (Certified Public Accountant)
a usually South Asian servant whose role is to provide freshly brewed tea on demand. From Hindi chai, tea, and -wallah, -man.
(dated) a woman employed as a cleaner, especially as an office cleaner Tea lady or canteen staff.
(slang, often derogatory) typically a nouveau riche or working class person of most of the time lowish intelligence who wears designer label (e.g. Burberry) copies, fake gold bling, and is a trouble-maker. "Chav" is used nationally, though "charv" or "charva" was originally used in the northeast of England, deriving from the Roma (people) word charva, meaning disreputable youth. The closest US equivalents to the chav stereotype are arguably wiggers, although the cultural differences are existent. To a lesser extent "Chotch" (reference sitcom character Charles "Chachi" Arcola), "chinstrap", or simply "douchebag".
cheeky * 
impertinent; noun form, cheek, impertinence; a child answering back to an adult might be told "don't give me any of your cheek" (also there is the expression "cheeky monkey!" in reaction to a cheeky remark).
(informal, friendly) exclamation of farewell (similar to 'seeya!' and 'ta-ra!'). No connection to the breakfast cereal Cheerios.
chimney pot 
smoke-stack atop a house. But refers to the cylindrical topmost part. The part below is the chimney or chimney stack.
chinagraph pencil 
pencil designed to write on china, glass etc. (US: grease pencil, china marker)
a Chinese takeaway (commonly used in the north of England). "Im going to the chinky, do you want owt?" Considered offensive by some.
chip shop 
(informal) fish-and-chip shop (Scot, Ire: chipper), also chippy (see also List of words having different meanings in British and American English)
(slang) chat
(slang) attractive person - usually referring to a female. Used mostly in a urban youth/chav setting.
chucked (out)
thrown out; expelled (US: kicked out)
(informal, becoming somewhat archaic, originally Liverpudlian) proud, satisfied, pleased. Sometimes intensified as well chuffed; cf. made up
(sometimes chunner) to mutter, to grumble, to talk continuously; "What's he chuntering on about?"
chutney or chutney ferret  
(slang) homosexual person; "Our new P.E. Teacher is a right chutney ferret". Referencing the urban legend about ferrets trained by homosexuals to lick chutney off their anuses.
(informal) a big mistake, blunder, bad joke or faux pas ('to drop a clanger') (US: lay an egg)
clapped out 
(informal) worn out (said of an object)
horse fly
thin plastic film for wrapping food (US: plastic wrap, Saran wrap)
clock-watching * (plural clock-watchings) 
continually looking at the time to see how much longer one has to work or study.
a bread roll of any kind, especially in the West Midlands and East Midlands
shoemakers * ; (slang) a weaker version of bollocks, meaning 'nonsense' (often "a load of old cobblers"), from rhyming slang 'cobbler's awls' = balls
cock-up, cockup * 
(mildly vulgar) error, mistake
codswallop *, codd's wallop 
(becoming old-fashioned) similar to bollocks but less rude, "You're talking codswallop". After Hiram Codd, the inventor of the Codd bottle, which was commonly used in the late 19th Century for fizzy drinks (Codd's wallop). (US: You're talking trash)
(French) master of ceremonies, MC
compulsory purchase 
the power of the governmental authority to take private property for public use (similar to US: eminent domain)
music school (US usually conservatory)
cool box 
box for keeping food and liquids cool (US and UK also: cooler)
air conditioning unit
cop off with 
(slang) to successfully engage the company of a potential sexual partner, to "pull"; to copulate (have sexual intercourse) with.
coriander * 
when referring to the leaves, often called "cilantro" in the US
Cor Blimey 
see Gor Blimey
coster, costermonger 
a seller of fruit and veg
cotton bud 
wad of cotton wool fixed to a small stick, used for cleaning (US: cotton swab, Q-Tip)
cotton wool 
Spun cotton, used for cleaning wounds or make-up (US: Absorbent cotton, cotton ball)
council house/flat , also council housing or estate 
public housing. (US: projects)
counterfoil *
stub of a cheque, ticket etc. (US: stub)
(French) the plant Cucurbita pepo (US: zucchini, from the Italian).
cowl * 
a wind deflector fitted to a chimney top.
exclamation of surprise (once a euphemism for Christ's keys or perhaps Christ Kill Me. Popularized in the US by late Australian herpetologist Steve Irwin)
very thinly sliced fried potatoes, often flavoured, eaten cold as a snack (US: potato chips)
a musical note with a duration of one count in a time signature of 4/4 (common time) (US: quarter note; see Note value)
cuddly toy 
soft toy (sometimes used in the US; also stuffed animal, plush toy)
current account 
personal bank account used for everyday transactions (US: checking account)


daft * 
odd, mad, eccentric, daffy, crazy – often with the implication of it being amusingly so. "Don't be daft" and "don't be silly" are approximately synonymous.
(informal) a look, reconnoître "I'll take a dekko at it later." – British military slang derived from the Hindustani dhek/dekho meaning "to see". Also less commonly decco, deccie,deek, deeks.
wooded valley or seaside dune (mainly S W England)
dibble (or The Dibble)
Police. From 'Officer Dibble' in the early-1960s Hanna-Barbera animated television programme Top Cat. Most commonly used in Manchester.
div, divvy 
(slang) a fool or idiot; adjective form, divvy, foolish or idiotic. Also abbreviation of diviner, a person with the ability to sniff out antiques at a distance (made popular by Jonathan Gash's character Lovejoy)
something accomplished easily - "It's a doddle", meaning "it's easy".
dodgems * 
fun-fair or fairground bumper cars
dodgy * 
unsound, unstable, and unreliable (US: sketchy). 'That bloke over there looks a bit dodgy'
someone who carries out menial tasks on another's behalf; a drudge (US: grunt)
the dog's bollocks 
(vulgar) something excellent or top quality, the "bee's knees" (the business), the "cat's whiskers". Nowadays is becoming "mutt's nuts" or just "that's the dogs that is" or sometimes even just "the bollocks." (US: the shit). In polite company this phrase may be toned down to "The mutt's nuts", or the phrase "The bee's knees" (the business) may be used as a polite substitute. The etymology of this expression is said by some to derive from printers' slang for the punctuation symbol ':-' when printing involved the use of carved metal blocks to form typesetting.[clarification needed]
dole * 
(informal) welfare, specifically unemployment benefit. Sometimes used in the US, esp. older generation
(slang) money (US: dough) "how much dosh you got on ya?"
(from docile) to be lazy, "I've been dossing all day", also can mean to truant, "dossing off" (similar to bunking off). Additionally it can informally take the form of a noun (i.e. "that lesson was a doss", meaning that lesson was easy, or good (primarily central Scotland). Also "dosser", a lazy person, or a tramp (US bum); "to doss down", to find a place to sleep, to sleep on some substitute for a bed such as a sofa, the floor, or a park bench; "doss-house", temporary accommodation for tramps or homeless people, cheap dilapidated rented accommodation with low standards of cleanliness (US: flophouse)
double first 
an undergraduate degree where the candidate has gained First-Class Honours in two separate subjects, or alternatively in the same subject in subsequent examinations (see British undergraduate degree classification)
double parked * 
(slang) having two drinks in your hand (or on the table) at once (US: double fisting). Could also mean, or even originate, from the term 'double park'; which involves parking a vehicle to the side of another parked vehicle, or being parked on double yellow lines/being parked illegally.
a dealer in drapery (i.e. clothing, textiles, etc.) (US: dry goods [DM])
the board game (US: checkers)
drawing pin * 
pin with a large, flat head, used for fixing notices to noticeboards etc. (US: thumbtack)
dress circle 
the seats in the first balcony of a theatre (US: balcony or loge although dress circle is used in a few very large opera houses that have many levels of balconies)
operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol (US: drunk driving; DUI [Driving Under the Influence]; DWI [Driving While Intoxicated]; OWI [Operating While Intoxicated])
driving licence 
document authorising the holder to drive a vehicle (US: driver's license, driver license)
dual carriageway
road, usually a major one, with each direction of travel separated from the opposing one by a traffic-free, and usually slightly raised, central reservation. Each direction of travel (carriageway) can comprise one or more 'lane'. (US: divided highway)
(sometimes used in the US) receptacle for rubbish, very often shortened to simply 'bin'. (US: trash can; wastebasket)
dustbin man or dustman
rubbish collector (US: garbage man; trash man; sanitation engineer)


an adhesive bandage placed on a minor cut or scrape (UK also: sticking/sticky plaster [DM]; US: Band-Aid)
electric fire 
domestic electric heater (US: space heater)
engaged tone
tone indicating a telephone line in use, (US: busy signal)
estate agent * 
a person who sells property for others (US: realtor, real estate agent)
estate car 
a station wagon
(of a telephone number) unlisted; also informally of a person "he's ex-directory", meaning his telephone number is unlisted
extension lead 
Extension cable typically refers to mains power but may refer to other cables like telephones, (US and UK also: extension cord)


to dither, futz, diddle, “I spent the day faffing about in my room”. Also related noun ("That's too much faff"). Mainly found in the North of England, but also popular in South Wales.
fag end 
cigarette butt
a gift, particularly one given or bought at a fair (obsolete); type of cookie (biscuit) made in Cornwall
fairy cake 
a small sponge cake (US and UK also: cupcake)
fairy lights 
Christmas lights
(vulgar) mild expletive employed as an attenuated alternative to fuck (including fecker, fecking, etc.) (originally Hiberno English and popularized by the television series Father Ted).
requiring dexterity to operate ("the buttons on the tiny mobile phone were too fiddly")
fish fingers 
(US: fish sticks)
five pound note (bill)
fizzy drink * 
carbonated soft drink (US: soda, pop, coke depending on the region)[6]
a road crossing over another road (US: an overpass)
(slang) football (US: soccer)
foot path 
pavement on the side of a road, most commonly shortened to just the word 'path'. (US: side walk)
fortnight *
a period of 14 days (and nights) or two weeks
(old-fashioned) four pence worth (fourpenn'orth is literally "four pennies' worth") (and similarly for other numbers)
a telephone number where the caller is not charged for the call (US: toll-free number)
French letter 
(slang) condom[7][8]
bangs, as in describing collective strands of hair covering part or all of the forehead
a travelling fair with amusements, stalls, rides etc. (US: carnival or traveling carnival)
full stop 
(US: period)


(slang) house, home. Also any other place: cheap music hall, theatre, pub, club, shop, hangout
(informal) old man; (informal) boss; football manager (US: soccer coach); Also in US: (professional) chief electrician on a theatrical or film set.
gaffer tape
strong, woven, cloth adhesive tape, originally sourced from the gaffer on a film set. (US: gaffers tape, gaff tape)
gangway * 
a path between the rows of seats in a theatre or elsewhere (US aisle; gangway is a naval command to make a path for an officer)
A prison, mostly historical (US: jail)
system of gears in a vehicle or other machinery (US transmission)
In UK transmission typically refers to drive shafts.
gear-lever / gearstick 
handle for changing gears in a vehicle or other machinery (US gearshift[9])
(informal) information, info (short for "intelligence") (US: intel)
get off with * 
to engage in passionate kissing and fondling - does not usually imply sexual intercourse. (US: make out with, technically, engage in heavy petting)
git * 
(mildly derogatory) scumbag, idiot, annoying person (originally meaning illegitimate; from archaic form "get", bastard, which is still used to mean "git" in Northern dialects)
1. (n.) mouth, e.g. "Shut yer gob"
2. (v.) spit phlegm (US: hock a loogie)
(vulgar)(insult) slang term for a person who is being mouthy about something or someone
(slang) utterly astonished, open-mouthed
go pear-shaped 
see pear-shaped
confused (from a cricketing term for a type of delivery bowled, the googly; predates Google)
(slang), (British) The testicles or Bollocks, from Robert Baden-Powell's Scout song and from goli Hindi for ball. (US: genitalia)
"He was getting on my nerves so I decided to kick him in the goolies. That shut him up."
gor blimey 
exclamation of surprise, also cor blimey (originally from "God blind me")
gormless * (mainly N England)
lacking in intelligence; with a vacant expression
a protest in which workers deliberately work slowly (US: slowdown or work to rule)
grated cheese * 
cheese that has been shredded with a 'cheese grater' hand-held kitchen appliance which often has three or four different blade types/widths. (In the US, "grated" cheese tends to be finer than shredded cheese. One would grate a hard cheese such as Parmesan more than a soft cheese such as cheddar or mozzarella.)
disgusting, dirty, poor quality (originally from grotesque, though now rarely used with quite that meaning). In a scene from the 1964 film A Hard Day's Night, George Harrison has to explain the meaning and origin of the word; the impression is given that it was then considered modern slang, known only to trendy youngsters (this is no longer the case).[10]
green fingers 
talent for growing plants (US: green thumb)
a retail trader in fruit and vegetables
a greengrocer's profession, premises or produce (US: Produce or Farmer's Market)
an idiot
gumption * 
will or intent. "You don't have the gumption to jump off the cliff." (US: guts)
running shoes, tennis shoes, maybe from "gutta percha" old source of natural rubber
(slang) From governor, used to describe a person in a managerial position i.e. " sorry mate, can't come to the pub, my guv'nors got me working late tonight"


[as in 'half-eight'] meaning thirty minutes past the hour (Standard English and US: "Half past").
hand brake
Parking brake operated by a hand control, usually a lever (US: Emergency brake. In the US, the traditional "hand brake" is more often to be found on a bicycle or motorcycle as opposed to a car as in the UK.); handbrake turn, a stunt where the handbrake is used to lock the rear wheels and the resulting oversteer enables the car to be turned rapidly in a small space (US related: J-turn, bootleg turn, U-turn.)
(pronounced "HAY-penny" or "HAYP-nee") half a penny; a coin of this denomination belonging to the predecimal coinage which is no longer in circulation. There was also a half penny in the decimal coinage introduced in 1971 which was 1/200 of a pound. Ha'pennies stopped being legal tender in 1985 and were removed from circulation.
(pronounced "HAY-puth") halfpennyworth.
hash sign 
the symbol "#" (US: number sign, pound sign [DM])
headmaster, headmistress, headteacher *
the person in charge of an educational institution (US: principal [DM]; headmaster and the like are usually used for private schools)
Heath Robinson 
(of a machine or contraption) absurdly complex (see Rube Goldberg machine).
high street 
primary business and shopping street (US: main street)
higgledy-piggledy * 
in disarray
hire purchase
a credit system by which debts for purchased articles are paid in installments (US: installment plan or layaway if the item is kept at the store until the final payment is made)
a panel used to display outdoor advertisements, such as on the sides of buildings, or alongside highways (US billboard)[1]
the hot surface on a stove (US: burner)
a bag (US: duffel bag)
person on holiday [DM] (US: vacationer)
(informal) short for holidays [DM]
home and away 
fixtures played at alternating venues (US: home and home). Also 'first and second leg' (US series).
vacuum [cleaner], to vacuum (archaic in the US) (genericised trademark, from The Hoover Company, the first main manufacturer of vacuum cleaners)
hot up 
to become more exciting or intimate (US: heating up). Also a word in Rhyming slang which refers to theft, usually of the opportunist type (i.e. shoplifting)
coloured sugar sprinkles used for dessert decoration (US: sprinkles,non-pareils, jimmies)


ice lolly 
frozen fruit juice on a stick; ice pop (US: Popsicle),
icing sugar 
(US: powdered sugar)
industrial action 
(see article; US: job action)
inverted commas 
quotation marks (see also American and British English differences – Punctuation)
person who monitors an examination (US: proctor [DM])
ironware, hardware; hardware store


jacket potato 
baked potato
jam sandwich 
(slang) police car. So called as, in the past, most UK police vehicles were white with a horizontal yellow-edged red fluorescent stripe along the entire length of their sides, giving a certain resemblance to a white bread sandwich with a coloured jam (jelly) filling. The majority of marked vehicle operated by the Metropolitan Police Service retain this livery, albeit the cars are now (mostly) sliver. Some older vehicles are still in white, while the Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG) use red vehicles. (US: black-and-white. In many cities of the US, police cars are painted black at the hood and trunk and white on the doors and roof.)
jammy (git) 
(slang) lucky (person)
To break into a lock, from the tool that is used in such an occasion as burglary (US: jimmy)
(slang) pejorative term for a German or Germans, (US: Kraut)
Expertly tinker with something in a way that a non-expert or casual observer is unlikely to comprehend.
(Rhyming slang) urinate, as in jimmy riddle - piddle
An alley way connecting two streets.
(slang) Originally a minor clerical/government worker who refuses to be flexible in the application of rules to help clients or customers (as in "it will cost me more than my job's worth to bend the rules"). Also used more broadly to apply to anyone who uses their job description in a deliberately obstructive way.
(slang) a condom (US: rubber, Jimmy-hat)
John Thomas 
(slang) To engage in sexual intercourse. Better known as slang for penis or "dick" (US: cock, dick, or johnson) From the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover
Term of abuse used of someone perceived to be foolish, stupid, incompetent, clumsy, uncoordinated, ridiculous, idiotic. Originated with the appearances of cerebral palsy sufferer Joey Deacon on children's TV programme Blue Peter; still a popular insult among adults who saw the programmes as children.[11]
jumble sale 
(see article; US: rummage sale)
a pullover * , sweater
jump leads 
booster cables used to jump-start a car (US: jumper cables)


Karno's Army
a chaotic, ineffective team (usually: Fred Karno's Army) (related US: Keystone Kops, Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight)
(derogatory slang) promiscuous lower-class female, similar to "kev" or "chav" (from Kappa, a clothing brand supposedly worn by such women, and slapper, a slovenly, sluttish woman)
(informal, also spelt keks) trousers or underpants
keep fit costume 
exercise, dance or training suit
kerfuffle * 
a disorderly outburst, disturbance or tumult, from Scottish origin
(slang) Derivative of "Kevin", has become equivalent to "chav" - typically a working class person that wears designer labels, fake gold, has to always be "in", is most likely a troublemaker and most likely smokes. Its use to describe the majority troublesome teenage subculture predates the use of "chav"; the British comedian Harry Enfield based one of his characters on this use.
(slang) lavatory (numerous alternative spellings are seen, such as karzy, karsey, carzey etc.)
(slang) sleep. (US and UK: nap)
kitchen roll 
paper towels
(slang) exhausted, originally 'sexually exhausted', perhaps derived from knacker's yard
knacker's yard 
premises where superannuated livestock are sent for rendering, etc. (glue factory). Sometimes refers to the same for vehicles, a scrapyard (US: junkyard)
girls' and women's underpants (US: panties)
hence, "Don't get your knickers in a twist" (US: don't get your panties in a wad ,keep calm, hold your horses, chill out)


red and black flying insect (US: ladybug)
self-service laundry (US: laundromat )
also, lavy (informal, increasingly uncommon) lavatory, toilet (in the US, airplane restrooms are typically called lavatories)
past tense of "learn" (US: learned)
legacy accounts 
funds left in a budget (US: funds remaining)
classes (class used more common in US English)
(n.) a means of evading or avoiding something
letter box 
1. a slot in a wall or door through which incoming post [DM] is delivered (US: mail slot, mailbox)
2. (less common) a box in the street for receiving outgoing letters and other mail (more usually called a postbox or pillar box) (US: mailbox)
See also Letterbox (US & UK): a film display format taking its name from the shape of a letter-box slot
illegal gathering in a pub at night to drink after the pub is supposed to have stopped serving alcohol, where the landlord "locks in" his guests to avoid being caught by police. Unless the landlord charges for the drinks at the time, the people in the pub are considered his personal guests; if money is exchanged beforehand or afterwards then it is considered a gift from the guest to the landlord for the hospitality. Since the introduction of the smoking ban in England and Wales in 2006, a "lock in" can now mean a landlord locking the pub doors and allowing smoking inside the premises. (US: may refer to a large and highly chaperoned "sleep over" at a church, school, etc.)
lodger * 
lollipop man / woman / lady 
a school crossing guard who uses a circular stop sign
lolly * 
1. lollipop /ice lolly (US: popsicle); (q.v.)
2. (slang) money
toilet (usually the room, not just the plumbing device) (US: bathroom, restroom)
a large goods-carrying motor vehicle (US and UK also: truck)
megaphone (US: bullhorn)
lower ground 
the lower of two floors at ground level (for example, if a building is built on a slope). See "ground floor". Also used as a euphemism for "basement" when trying to sell a flat [DM].
(hard 'G') 1. An imaginary illness allegedly passed on by touch—used as an excuse to avoid someone. (c.f. US: cooties) From a legendary sketch on the Goon Show. 2. (slang) A fictitious, yet highly infectious disease; often used in the phrase "the dreaded lurgy", sometimes as a reference to flu-like symptoms


main * 
pipe that carries gas or water. "The water main has burst!"
mains power, the mains 
230-250V (Typically denoted on domestic electricals as the rounded 240V standard) AC electrical current, provided by the electricity grid to homes and businesses; also attrib. ("mains cable") (US: 120 volts AC, variously called: line power, grid power, AC power, household electricity, etc.)
(slang) feeling ill, rough, out of sorts; filthy, dirty, rotten. (poss. from French "manqué" - missed, wasted or faulty)
(derogatory, mainly Northern and Central England) describes someone who is in a bad mood, or more generally a crybaby or whiner or "grumpy, difficult, unpredictable". Used, for example, by children in the rhyme "Mardy, mardy mustard...", and in the title of the Arctic Monkeys song "Mardy Bum". The verb to throw a mardy means to display an outburst of anger.
mathematics (US: math)
MD (managing director
equivalent of US CEO (Chief Executive Officer), also used in the UK
Mexican wave 
simply called The Wave in the US
mentioned in despatches 
identified for valour or gallantry in action (US: decorated)
one thousand million, or 1,000,000,000 (US: billion or 1,000,000,000) [1] Often 'billion' is used instead, similar to the US. However a British (or 'true') billion is a million million (i.e. the next order of magnitude)
mince * 
1. ground meat, especially beef (US: ground beef, hamburger meat, mince typically describes a chopping style)
2. Walk daintily or effeminately.
3. Mince your words -- to obfuscate or conceal when talking or writing * (US: "He/She doesn't mince words.")
(slang) homosexual. "you just have to look at him to know he's a right mincer".
(vulgar) (rhymes with singe) female genitals or pubic hair
(originally Scottish slang, rhymes with singer) someone who is unattractive
(originally Scottish slang, rhymes with singing) dirty, rotting, smelly, unattractive etc. "The girl I pulled last night was minging". His friend replies, "yeah I know mate, I saw you leave with her, she was a right minger".
a musical note with the duration of two counts in a time signature of 4/4 (US: half note; see Note value)
mither, also moider, moither 
trans. To bother, pester, worry, irritate; intr. To ramble, be delirious; to ‘go on’; to complain, make a fuss, whine.[13] Alternative version in Chambers: to confuse; to work hard; to wander in thought;[14] See also mither, moider and moither at Wiktionary
moggie, moggy 
(informal) non-pedigree cat; alley cat; any cat regardless of pedigree; Morris Minor car; Morgan car
(slang) disgusting, dirty, foul, idiotic person, possible derivation from mongoloid, now obsolete term for someone with Down's syndrome
monged (out) 
(slang) being incapable of constructive activity due to drug use, alcohol consumption or extreme tiredness
MOT, MOT test 
(pronounced M-O-T) mandatory annual safety and roadworthiness test for motor vehicles over 3 years old (from "Ministry of Transport", now renamed "Department for Transport")
motor house 
A residential garage in the first decades of the Twentieth Century.
A controlled-access highway, the largest class of road on the British road network, designed for fast, high volume traffic, usually with three or more lanes in each direction. In reference to a specific motorway may be abbreviated to M, as in M25 or M1. (US: equivalent to freeway)
mouthing off 
shouting, ranting or swearing a lot about something or someone. e.g.: "that guy was just mouthing off about something" (US [DM]: backtalk; often shortened to mouth ["I don't need your mouth".])
move house, move flat, etc. 
to move out of one's house or other residence into a new residence (US: move, move out)
(slang) heavily intoxicated with drink or drugs. Generally used in a positive context. "I tell you what mate, I was proper munted last night, it was awesome."
an ugly woman (rarely, man); similar to minger
casual term for friend, mate, pal. As in "'Ere mush, what's going on?"


(slang) lame, tacky, cheap, low quality (origin uncertain – numerous suggestions include backslang for fan, an old term for a vagina), also gay slang for a straight man (said to mean "Not Available For Fucking")
naff off 
(dated slang) shove it, get lost, go away – a much less offensive alternative to "fuck off" (originally obscure Polari slang, made popular by prison sitcom Porridge and famously used by Princess Anne)
nark * 
1. (v.) (informal) irritate; also narked, the adjective.
2. (n.) (slang) police informer (US: narc, derived from narcotics agent, but often used in a general sense)
absorbent garment for babies (US: diaper)
an English dialect adjective (central and north England), gently derogative of a person, sensitive to the cold, delicate (typical usage, of someone who wears a coat on a mildly cold day: "He's nesh", meaning "He's a bit soft").
strictly a shop owner or shop that sells newspapers, usu. refers to a small shop, e.g. corner shop, convenience store, newsstand, or similar (US: newsdealer)
someone who reads the news on TV or radio. See news presenter for a description of the different roles of a newscaster, a British newsreader and an American news anchor.
1. (v.) to steal
2. (n.) a police station
arrested (as in "you're nicked") - related to "the nick" (a prison or police station - Australian origin "I'm taking you down the nick")
(colloquial) 1 pound, maintains singular form when used in a plural context ("it cost me 2 nicker"), rarely used in the singular
an unpleasant smell
Nissen hut 
hemicylindrical building of corrugated metal. Named for the designer. (US: Quonset hut, named for the place of US manufacture)
see knob
(v.) to sabotage, attempt to hinder in some way. E.g. "Danny nobbled my chances at the pub quiz by getting Gary to defect to his team."
1. (slang) paedophile, pimp, child molester, idiot
2. the present time or occasion – now usually encountered only in the compound nonce word, only used in literary circles, meaning an ad hoc word coinage, and the somewhat old-fashioned phrase for the nonce, meaning "for now". See also the Wiktionary definition.
1. food, meal; also "nosh up", a big satisfying meal ("I could do with a good nosh up") Cf US usage, where nosh means "snack" or "to eat" as in the original Yiddish (i.e., "He's noshing on the shrimp cocktail.")
2. (slang) oral sex
nosy (or nosey) parker 
a busybody (similar to US: butt-in, buttinski, nosy)
Good sense; shrewdness: "Hillela had the nous to take up with the General when he was on the up-and-up again" (Nadine Gordimer). Rhymes with "mouse".
nothing; not anything. "I've got nowt to do later." Northern English. (see also 'owt' - anything; as in the phrase "you can't get owt for nowt" or "you can't get anything for nothing")
number plate 
vehicle registration plate (sometimes used in the US; also license plate or license tag)
(possibly originally Scottish, now widespread) a stupid person
(informal) a crazy or insane person, often violent; also used as a more light-hearted term of reproach ("Oi nutter!") (occasionally used in the US) (US and UK also: nut, nutcase)
nutty gum 
peanut butter


Old Age Pensioner (qv) (US: Senior Citizen)
off-licence / offie
shop licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises (US equivalent: liquor store). Known in some parts of N England as "selling-out shop".
of clothes etc., ready-made rather than made to order (US: off-the-rack)
the entrails and internal organs of a butchered animal.
coarse exclamation to gain attention, roughly equivalent to "hey" ("Oi, you!" = "Hey you!")
the Old Bill 
(slang) The police
old iron 
a junky or dated vehicle (US: (old) jalopy)
one-off * 
something that happens only once; limited to one occasion (as an adjective, a shared synonym is one-shot; as a noun, it has no exact US equivalent, perhaps "one shot deal")
on the piss 
(vulgar) drinking heavily; going out for the purpose of drinking heavily; at a slight angle, said of an object that should be vertical
Oriental * 
used to describe the origin of a person from East Asia (China, Japan etc.) (US:Asian - N.B. In BrE, Asian is generally reserved for people from around the Indian sub-continent: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc.)
orientate * 
less common alternative to orient, deprecated by some as an unnecessary back-formation from orientation
Other Ranks 
members of the military who are not commissioned officers.
money used on a bank account making a debit balance
overleaf * 
on the other side of the page
anything. Northern English. "Why aren't you saying owt?" See also 'nowt' - as in the phrase "can't get owt for nowt" meaning "can't get anything for nothing."
See "oi".


package holiday 
a holiday whose transport, accommodation, itinerary etc. is organised by a travel company (US and UK less frequently: package tour). Cf holiday [DM]
a Pakistani person; often loosely applied to anyone from South Asia, or of perceived South Asian origin. Now considered racist.
Paki shop 
a newsagents run by a person of Pakistani or other South Asian origin. No longer considered an acceptable term.
panda car 
(informal) police car. Small police car used for transport, as opposed to a patrol or area car (analogous to US: black-and-white) Derives from a period in the 1970s when UK police cars resembled those of their US counterparts, only with blue replacing black.
paper round 
(the job of making) a regular series of newspaper deliveries (US: paper route)
a common and widely available drug for the treatment of headaches, fever and other minor aches and pains (US: acetaminophen, Tylenol)
(informal) park-keeper
(informal) cold, usually used in reference to the weather
pasty, Cornish pasty 
hard pastry case filled with meat and vegetables served as a main course, particularly in Cornwall and in the north of England
usually in the phrase "to go pear-shaped", meaning to go drastically or dramatically wrong (possibly from the idea of a ball deflating). cf tits-up
pelican crossing 
pedestrian crossing with traffic lights operated by pedestrians (formed by analogy with "panda crossing" etc. Could also be   from Pedestrian Light-Controlled;)
people mover or people carrier 
a minivan or other passenger van
fastidious, precise or over-precise (US: persnickety)
refined mixture of hydrocarbons, used esp. to fuel motor vehicles (short for petroleum spirit, or from French essence de pétrole) (US: gasoline, gas). Also variously known as motor spirit (old-fashioned), motor gasoline, mogas, aviation gasoline and avgas (the last two being a slightly heavier type designed for light aircraft)
petrol-head, petrolhead 
someone with a strong interest in cars (especially high performance cars) and motor racing (US: gearhead or motorhead).
phone box 
payphone, public phone (US: phone booth)
a pejorative slang term, used originally to refer to Irish Travellers. Now refers to anyone whose lifestyle is characterised by itinerancy, theft, illicit land occupancy with destruction of amenities, and disregard for authority, without reference to ethnic or national origin.
pillar box 
box in the street for receiving outgoing mail, in Britain traditionally in the form of a free-standing red pillar; also called postbox or, less commonly, letter box (US: mailbox)
See also Pillar box (film): an aspect ratio named for a supposed resemblance to the dimensions of the slot found on a pillar box.
pillar-box red 
the traditional bright red colour of a British pillar box (US: fire engine red or candy apple red)
(slang, very mildly derogatory) foolish person, used esp. in northern England but also common elsewhere. Derived from the Northern English term pillicock, a dialect term for penis, although the connection is rarely made in general use.
pinch * 
to steal.
(vulgar) someone who regularly gets heavily drunk (cf. BrE meaning of pissed).
pissing it down [with rain] 
(slang, mildly vulgar) raining very hard (sometimes "pissing down" is used in the US, as in "It's pissing down out there.") Also "pissing it down the drain" or "pissing it away" * meaning to waste something.
plait * 
braid, as in hair
(derogatory) person of lower class *, from plebs; similar to townie. Also commonly used to mean idiot.
also: guitar-pleck; plectrum (US: guitar pick)
a type of shoe with a canvas upper and rubber sole, formerly the typical gym shoe used in schools (US: sneaker or Tennis shoe)
policeman - from PC Plod in Enid Blyton's Noddy books.[8]
a disparaging term for cheap wine, especially cheap red wine, is now widely known in the UK and also to a lesser extent in the USA. Derives from French vin blanc and came into English use on the western front in World War I.
(very mildly derogatory) fool *. Used esp. in the south-east of England, although not unknown elsewhere. Derived from a slang term for penis, and sometimes used in this fashion, e.g. "Are you pulling my plonker?" (to express disbelief) (US var: "Are you yanking my chain?")
(n.) (slang) someone with overly affected airs and graces; an effeminate posturing man; a pimp. Originates from Maltese slang. (related US: poncey)
(v.) (slang) to act like a pimp; to cadge, to borrow with little or no intention of returning, often openly so ("Can I ponce a ciggie off you, mate?")
ponce about/around 
(v.) (slang) to act like a fop, to wander about aimlessly without achieving anything
ponce off 
(v.) (slang) to mooch, to hit up, to leave in a pompous manner
(n.) (slang) a strong unpleasant smell; (v.) to give off a strong unpleasant smell; (adj.) pongy
poof, poofter  
(derogatory) a male homosexual (US equivalent: fag, faggot)
pouffe, poof, poove 
A small drum-shaped soft furnishing used as a foot rest (related US: hassock, Ottoman)
slang for a lie or lying, from rhyming slang "pork pies" = "lies"
postage and packing, P&P 
charge for said services (US: shipping and handling, S&H; the word postage is, however, used in both dialects)
postal order 
a money order designed to be sent through the post, issued by the UK Post Office (US: money order, or postal money order if the context is ambiguous)
postbox, post box 
box in the street for receiving outgoing mail (US: mailbox; drop box); see also letter box, pillar box
alphanumeric code used to identify an address, part of a UK-wide scheme. (US equivalent: ZIP Code)
poste restante 
service whereby mail is retained at a post office for collection by the recipient (from the Latin) (US: general delivery)
(informal) postman
(slang) something that is unsatisfactory or in generally bad condition.
pram, perambulator 
wheeled conveyance for babies (US: baby-carriage) Similarly, a "pram-face" sometimes refers to a very young or young-looking mum (US: "baby-face" meaning a young-looking person in general, not necessarily a mother.)
prat * 
(slang) an incompetent or ineffectual person, a fool, an idiot
a conditioning exercise in which one lies prone and then pushes oneself up by the arms (outside Britain: push-up)
glue stick, from the trademark of a common brand.
proper * 
Real or very much something. "He's a proper hero" (US: "He's a real hero")
provisional licence, provisional driving licence 
a licence for a learner driver, who has not yet passed a driving test (US: learner's permit)
short for public house (US: bar)
(informal) short for "pudding", which may mean dessert or occasionally a savoury item such as Yorkshire pudding or black pudding; a fool (informal term usually used good-naturedly between family members). pulling his pud, means male masturbation.
(informal) legitimate, the real thing, of good quality (usually Southeastern England term, recently more widely popularised by Jamie Oliver, but dating back to the 19th century). From Hindi.
a fistfight
a usually South Asian servant whose role is to operate a manual fan. From Urdu pankhaa, fan, and -wallah, -man
small basket for fruit, usually strawberries
(informal) bicycle (pre-dates modern safety bicycle q.v. velocipede)
forward-facing baby carriage (US: stroller)


quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation. A semi-public (supposedly non-governmental) advisory or administrative body funded by the taxpayer, often having most of its members appointed by the government, and carrying out government policy.
a musical note with the duration of one half-count in a time signature of 4/4 (US: eighth note). Also compound nouns semiquaver (US: sixteenth note), demisemiquaver (US: thirty-second note), hemidemisemiquaver (US: sixty-fourth note); see note value).
(informal) the pound sterling monetary unit; remains quid in plural form ("Can I borrow ten quid?") (similar to US buck, meaning dollar)
quids in 
(informal) a financially positive end to a transaction or venture "After all that, we'll be quids in!" (US: money ahead)
used in the phrase "quieten down" (US: quiet down)
forelock (initially Hiberno-English); a hairstyle (from the 1950s onward).
(vulgar slang) female genitalia, the vagina


(informal) having sexual desire, lustful, horny (now more common in the US because of the Austin Powers franchise)
an enlisted soldier or airman or (more rarely) a commissioned officer who has been promoted from enlisted status ("the ranks")
rashers *
cuts of bacon
(slang) extremely drunk
(informal) reconnoître, reconnaissance (pronounced recky) (US: recon)
recorded delivery 
certified mail
Register Office, Registry Office 
official office where births, marriages and deaths are recorded; usu. refers to local Register Office (in each town or locality). General Register Office is the relevant government department. In England and Wales until 2001, almost all civil (non-church) marriages took place in the local Register Office; different laws apply in Scotland and N. Ireland. "Register Office" is the correct legal term, but "registry office" is in common informal use.
upgrade or repairs of roads (US: construction; roadwork [singular])
hard candy in cylindrical form often sold at holiday locations and made so that the location's name appears on the end even when broken. (US: no exact equivalent, but similar to a candy cane)
(vulgar) to engage in a sexual act, or suggest it. e.g.: "I'd give her a good rodgering!"
(informal) chancy; of poor quality; uncertain (see dodgy). Can also mean unwell when used in the form to feel ropey
row * 
a fight or argument (rhymes with cow)
reverse charge call 
a telephone call for which the recipient pays (US and UK also: collect call); also v. to reverse [the] charge[s] *, to make such a call (dated in US, used in the 1934 American film It Happened One Night – US usually: to call collect)
a roll call or roster of names, or round or rotation of duties
(the) rozzers 
1.(rare slang) Police ("Quick, the rozzers! Scarper!") – possibly from Robert Peel, who also gave his name to two other slang terms for the police: peelers (archaic) and bobbies (becoming old-fashioned).
2. (slang) male genitalia. the flasher waved his rozzers at me
a pencil eraser (US: eraser. The word eraser is additionally used in the US to refer to a blackboard eraser. "Rubber" in the US is a slang term for a condom.)
worthless, unwanted material that is rejected or thrown out; debris; litter (US: trash, garbage)
rucksack *
a backpack.
rug muncher 
a lesbian. also carpet muncher.
rumpy pumpy 
(informal) Sexual intercourse, used slightly jokingly.


to be released from work (US: fire)
a four door car (US: sedan)
(informal) an overweight person
(informal) sarcastic (abbrev.) "why are you being so sarky?" (US: snarky)
sarnie, sarny, sannie 
(informal) sandwich (abbrev.)
sat nav 
a person from Liverpool
a lower class, (usually young) woman of low morals
cloudy cider, often high in alcoholic content
action of stealing apples from an orchard; also v. to scrump
self-raising flour 
self-rising flour
gardening tool for pruning plants (US:garden shears, pruners or clippers)
(/sɪˈkɒndmənt/) the assignment of a person from his or her regular organisation to temporary assignment elsewhere. From v. second (/sɪˈkɒnd/)
from Cellophane, transparent adhesive tape (genericised trademark) (US: Scotch tape)
a musical note with the duration of four counts in a time signature of 4/4 (US: whole note; see Note value)
send to Coventry
ostracize, shun (US: send to Siberia, vote off the island)
(from French) table napkin [DM]. Regarded as a non-U word, but widely used by non-U people.
broken beyond repair - can also be used to describe extreme exhaustion
a drink consisting of lager or beer mixed with a soft drink, originally ginger beer but now more usually lemonade, in near equal parts.
shanks's pony 
on foot, walking – as in "The car's broken down, so it's shanks's pony I'm afraid". An ancient reference to the King of England Edward I, known as 'Longshanks', the idea being that riding on a pony his legs were so long he was still effectively walking.
(vulgar) variant of shit, often seen as more jocular
(slang) an adjective describing low priced goods for sale that are cheap because they are low quality or roughly used.(similar to dime-store/dollar-store/thrift-shop goods in USA)
in the sense of "retail outlet" (US: store)
sick *  
(vulgar) means great or wicked often known as a 'chavs' common word.
sixes and sevens 
crazy, muddled (usually in the phrase "at sixes and sevens"). From the London Livery Company order of precedence, in which position 6 is claimed by both the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors and the Worshipful Company of Skinners.
skew-whiff / skew-whift 
skewed, uneven, not straight
(informal) out of money (US: broke)
industrial rubbish bin (US: dumpster)
skive [off] 
(informal) to sneak off, avoid work; to play truant (US: play hookey)
slag * 
similar to 'slut', a woman of loose morals and low standards; sometimes implying the woman is of an undesirable age or has become aged by her lifestyle. Occasionally used to refer to a male, though does not then have sexual connotations.
slag off * 
to badmouth; speak badly of someone, usually behind their back
(informal) bald man (pronounced slap-headed or slap-'ed)
(vulgar) similar to slut but milder. Implies drunken, flirtatious behaviour as opposed to frequent sexual conquests
sleeping partner 
a partner in business, often an investor, who is not visibly involved in running the enterprise (US: silent partner)
sleeping policeman 
mound built into a road to slow down vehicles (UK also: hump [DM]; US & UK also: speed bump)
(slang) smooth, wet, with no friction or traction to grip something (US: slippery)
(slang) a slow person (US: slowpoke)
(slang) loose change
underclothing, underwear, particularly underpants
smart dress
formal attire
(slang) idiot; a general term of abuse (for discussion of origin, see smeg (vulgarism)). Popularised by its use in a 1980s BBC sitcom, Red Dwarf.
(slang) a 'French kiss' or to kiss with tongues (US [DM]: deep kiss, not necessarily with tongues)
soap dodger 
one who is thought to lack personal hygiene
sod off 
(vulgar, moderately offensive) go away; get lost
spacker, spacky, spazmo 
(vulgar, offensive to many) idiot, general term of abuse: from "Spastic", referring in England almost exclusively (when not used as an insult) to a person suffering from cerebral palsy. (variant forms spaz/spastic, are used in American English) See also Joey.
Spanish archer
The elbow ("El Bow",) almost always used in the context of "to give someone the elbow;" to fire, spurn or discard an unwanted person, often a spacker.
(US: wrench)
(slang) an idiot, a contemptible person (US: a less pejorative synonym for tool.) An object that, while useful, is not known for its intellect. "He's as stupid as a bag of spanners." (US var.: "He's dumber than a bag of hammers".)
(slang) under the influence of illicit drugs. MDMA (ecstasy) In particular.
(informal) very good (old-fashioned, or consciously used as old-fashioned, associated stereotypically with upper-class people) (US: spiffy)
an unemployed person who lives by their wits; someone who shirks work or responsibility; a slacker, a dealer in black market goods (during World War II). The term wide boy is also often used in the same sense
spliff * 
(slang) a hand-rolled cigarette containing a mixture of marijuana and tobacco, also 'a joint.' (Also used in US, j or blunt more widely used)
An early 1980s derogatory expression for someone who performed well at school, did their homework and wore the correct uniform. Somewhat equivalent to US: 'geek'. This has, since the late 1980s, changed to mean someone who spends too much time in internet chat rooms and discussion forums. Also verb: to spod.
spot on * 
exactly (US: right on)
spotted dick 
an English steamed suet pudding containing dried fruit (usually currants) commonly served with custard.
(informal) a non-commissioned soldier (US: grunt)
(informal) soft and soggy (US: squishy)
(informal) intoxicated (popularly but probably erroneously said to be from British Prime Minister (Herbert)Asquith, a noted imbiber). The word can also be synonymous with skew-whiff.
squintie, squint 
crooked; cf on the skunt
(rare) look, most often used in the form to have a squiz at...
sticky-backed plastic 
large sheet of thin, soft, coloured plastic that is sticky on one side; see Blue Peter (US similar: contact paper)
a seller (as a retailer) that stocks merchandise of a particular type, usually a specified brand or model
stone the crows 
exclamation of surprise (US holy cow)
straight away 
immediately (sometimes used in the US; also right away)
to move your hand slowly and gently over something e.g. stroke a dog. (US: pet)
(informal) bad mood or temper
stroppy, to have a strop on 
(informal) recalcitrant, in a bad mood or temper
An underground walkway normally under a road. Not to be confused with the US for an underground railway.
suck it and see 
to undertake a course of action without knowing its full consequences (US: take your chances)
suss [out] * 
(informal) to figure out (from suspicion)
suspender belt
a ladies' undergarment to hold up stockings (US: garter belt)
1. v. to study for an exam (US cram)
2. n. (derogatory) aloof and unpopular schoolchild or student who studies to excess
the same term for candy in US
sweet FA 
(slang) nothing (from "Sweet Fanny Adams", alternative: "Sweet Fuck All"), "I know sweet FA about cars!" (US: jack shit)
swimming costume
swimsuit or bathing suit; also cozzy for short.


(informal) thank you; TA also standing for "thanks awfully"
Taff, Taffy 
standard nickname for a Welshman
food outlet where you can order food to go (or be delivered) (not usually applied to fast food chains). Usage: "we had a takeaway for dinner", "we went to the local takeaway". [DM]; (US: takeout)
take the piss (vulgar) * / take the mickey
(slang) to make fun of somebody; to act in a non-serious manner about something important (also: take the pee). Can also mean to transgress beyond what are perceived as acceptable bounds, or to treat with perceived contempt - "the increases in car tax are taking the piss", "the new boss is really taking the piss with this mandatory car-sharing scheme".
takings * 
receipts of money
loudspeaker (a proprietary brand name), PA system
tapping up 
in professional team sport, attempting to persuade a player contracted to one team to transfer to another team without the knowledge or permission of the player's current team (US: "tampering")
(informal, friendly) exclamation of farewell (similar to 'seeya!' and 'cheerio!' (above)). Originally from Merseyside (see Scouser, above) but now common throughout the UK.
tea towel 
a cloth which is used to dry dishes, cutlery, etc., after they have been washed. (US: dish towel)
a recording of a live television broadcast made directly from a cathode ray tube onto motion picture film. The equivalent US term is kinescope.
(informal) television
A service road or alley behind or between houses, historical 10 feet wide.
ten pound note
a member of the Territorial Army (US: Army Reserve)
thickie - person of low intelligence.
[throw one's] toys out of the pram 
In response to someone being angry/irate ("Stop throwing your toys out the pram".)
throw a wobbly 
(informal) to lose one's temper, throw a tantrum
(rhyming slang) breasts/tits (from thrupenny bits, obsolete British coin)
Tiger nuts
(vulgar slang) small remnants of toilet paper that cling to body hair after bowel movement clean-up (originates from small chocolate covered caramel candy of the same name). (Commonly "tigers") (compare to US dingleberries).
canned as in "tinned soup" or "a tin of tuna"
a dump or to throw something away
white tape or liquid used to make corrections of ink on paper (US: Wite-Out)
very small; tiny (from tich or titch a small person, from Little Tich, the stage name of Harry Relph (1867–1928), English actor noted for his small stature)
(rhyming slang) hat (from tit-for-tat)
[go] tits up 
(mildly vulgar) to suddenly go wrong (literally, to fall over. US: go belly up). cf pear-shaped (appears in the US mainly as military jargon, sometimes sanitized to "tango uniform")
batter-baked sausages, sausages baked in Yorkshire Pudding
(slang) member of the upper classes
toffee apple 
a sugar-glazed apple on a stick eaten esp. on Guy Fawkes Night and Hallowe'en (US: caramel apple or candy apple)
anti-social in a pretentious way, stuck up
(informal) to hit hard, sometimes used in cricket to describe a substantial boundary shot: "he tonked it for six". In Southern England can also mean muscular. (US: ripped or buff).
tosser * 
(slang) Largely equivalent to "wanker" but less offensive; has the same literal meaning, i.e. one who masturbates ("tosses off"). (US: jerk).
(colloquial, archaic) a drunkard; also used in the sense of "tosser".
(informal, offensive to some) sexually alluring woman or women (more recently, also applied to males). Originally a term for a prostitute in the late 19th century.
training shoes, athletic shoes. (US: sneakers).
slang, jovial greeting/term of endearment from male to female i.e. "alright treacle" from SE England, esp. Essex. (US derog. [DM]: gooey, sickeningly sweet, overly sentimental, maudlin -- "I hated that movie! I've never seen such treacle in my life!")
two pence, also infantile euphemism for vagina. cf twopenn'orth
cheap, substandard
turf accountant 
bookmaker for horse races (US: bookie)
direction-indicator light on a vehicle (US: turn signal)
as in a 'lefthand turning' (US: lefthand turn). "drive past the post-office and you'll see a small turning to the right, which leads directly to our farm"
an arrangement at the bottom of trouser-legs whereby a deep hem is made, and the material is doubled-back to provide a trough around the external portion of the bottom of the leg. (US: cuffs)
twee * 
excessively cute, quaint, or 'precious'
when something is stolen or taken without owners consent (T.W.O.C)
twonk * 
idiot. Probably a portmanteau construction of twat and plonker. Used by Timothy Spall in an episode of Red Dwarf.
twopenn'orth, tuppenn'orth, tup'en'oth 
one's opinion (tuppenn'orth is literally "two pennies worth" or "two pence worth", depending on usage); (US equivalent: two cents' worth, two cents). cf tuppence


short for university, used much like US college
up himself 
(informal) someone who is stand-offish, stuck-up, snobby. "He's a bit up himself." Euphemistic variation of up his own arse. (US: snotty)
up sticks 
(US: pull up stakes)


verger (virger, in some churches) 
someone who carries the verge or other emblem of authority before a scholastic, legal, or religious dignitary in a procession; someone who takes care of the interior of a church and acts as an attendant during ceremonies.
a wart which occurs on one's foot. (US: plantar wart)
(vegetable) marrow 
a gourd-like fruit (treated as a vegetable) (US: squash [DM])
vertically opposite angles 
(US: vertical angles)


wives and girlfriends, common in headlines referring to the spouse of a footballer.
wage packet 
weekly employee payment (usually in cash) (US: paycheck)
(informal) buffoon, fool; milder form of idiot.
wanker * 
(offensive) literally, a masturbator; used as a general insult or term of abuse
toilet (short for Water Closet). (US: bathroom [DM], US old-fashioned washroom). See also loo.
washing up
dish washing, "the dishes": "it's your turn to do the washing up"; hence washing up liquid: dish washing detergent (US: dish soap, dishwashing liquid)
an idiot. popularised by the 1981 song "Capstick Comes Home" by Tony Capstick
Extremely, very. "He's well rich" (US: "He's very rich")
Wellington boots, wellies 
waterproof rubber boots, named after the Duke of Wellington. (more common in the US now)
(informal) effort (e.g.: "Give it some welly" to mean "put a bit of effort into an attempt to do something"; US: elbow grease); also the singular of "wellies", for Wellington boots
(slang) condom; stems from "Wellington boots" which are also known as "rubbers"
What ho! 
(interj.) Hello! (warmly)
whilst *
while (US and UK); 'whilst' is in common use in Yorkshire (UK) where 'while' is used colloquially to mean 'until'; (archaic in US)
(informal) complain, whine, especially repeated complaining about minor things (e.g. "Stop whingeing" meaning "stop complaining"); a different word from whine, originated in Scottish and Northern English in the 12th century. Hence whinger (derogatory), someone who complains a lot. As in "My wife Kerry is always whingeing about the state we leave the house in".
white coffee 
coffee with milk or cream.
white pudding 
oat and fat sausage often eaten at breakfast, common in Ireland and Scotland
(informal) to continue to talk trivially about a subject long after the audience's interest has gone. "He wittered on."
(informal) to talk at length aimlessly; but also an exclamation of astonishment.
wide boy 
see spiv, above
(slang) groceries
(US: windshield)
wing mirrors 
the external mirrors on a vehicle – though no longer normally attached to the 'wings' (US: fenders) but to the doors (US: sideview mirrors, side mirrors)
(slang) another childish term for a penis (US: winkie)
wobbler, wobbly (to have or to throw)
(informal) tantrum
(offensive, term of abuse) member of an ethnic minority. The word can refer to a wide variety of non-Europeans, including Arabs, sub-Saharans (and those of sub-Saharan descent), Iranians, and Turks.


men's briefs with an inverted-Y-shaped frontal flap; originally a trademark (US: jockey shorts/briefs; US slang: tighty whities)
yob, yobbo 
lout, young troublemaker (origin: boy spelt backwards)[8]
to move on foot across rough terrain carrying heavy amounts of equipment and supplies without mechanised support (Royal Marines slang popularised by the Falklands war, army equivalent is to tab). Also used informally for any walk across rough ground.
a long time, ages. "I've not seen her for yonks."


last letter of the alphabet, pronounced "zee" in United States
zebra crossing 
(US: crosswalk)
Zimmer frame 

See also


  1. ^ a b c H.L. Mencken et al, The American Language, Abridged Version 1982
  2. ^
  3. ^ Etymonline
  4. ^ "Bob's your uncle", World Wide Words
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (6th ed.), Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-19-920687-2 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Remembering Joey Deacon"
  12. ^ lodger
  13. ^ "mither". OED. Retrieved April 21, 2011. 
  14. ^ Chambers Dictionary, edition published 1998, ISBN 0 550 14005 0, pages 1032,1037


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