British slang comes in many variations and in this article, we give you the low-down on some Brit slang you should know (look at this post about things British People say and what they really mean).
For anyone who is striving to crack a genuine British accent, you’ll need to know the slang in order to get started.
In the UK, over 40 British dialects are spoken, and each has unique slang words. No doubt, you’ve already heard some of the British slang that is heard across the country by native speakers, but this is your chance to learn even more!
If you’re looking to work with a native British voiceover artist, it’s essential to not get lost in translation. By familiarizing yourself with some common slang heard across British accents, you’ll be able to better speak to your audience.
So, let’s dive in and get acquainted with the whacky, odd, and magical slang of British English.
What is Slang?
To define ‘slang’ we can turn to the dictionary which defines it as a ‘type of language which consists of phrases and words that are very informal in nature and more common in speech’.
Generally, slang is spoken between people who originate from the same geographical region or social group.
Everyone uses slang of some sort, though some accents use more British slang words than others. Examples of British accents that use a lot of slang include Scouse, Geordie, Cockney, Estuary, and Irish.
Though slang and jargon are similar in the sense that not every social group may understand the words used, jargon differs.
Jargon more commonly refers to the language used within a professional context, and therefore, it is often more formal.
How many British Slangs are There?
There are countless slangs across British English and because of this, it’s hard to quantify in the form of a number.
Some of the most characteristic slang in the UK is found in the North, where there is a higher association with a working class day-to-day life.
The first recorded use of slang in Britain dates back to the 16th Century, where it was observed in the plays written by William Shakespeare and other famous playwrights.
In modern day Britain, slang is used nationwide and varies greatly depending on the area you are in. For example, in Birmingham, the slang dialect is known as ‘brummie’.
Whilst Received Pronunciation is common in the south of England, the strongest use of slang words in the UK today are found in London, where the city has a large multicultural population and four major dialects.
In the northeast of England, Newcastle is home to a ‘Geordie’ population who use a lot of Geordie slang in their dialect, such as ‘howay’ to mean ‘come on’.
Another example of where slang is used often is in Scottish English, where the word ‘little’ is ‘wee’ in slang.
15 Must-Know British Slang Words
As you learn the ways of common British slang phrases, there are some words that you should definitely know. We’ve included a list and meanings below:
- Barmy – meaning ‘crazy’
- Bloke – meaning ‘man’
- Cheers – meaning ‘thank-you’
- Dead – meaning ‘very’
- Fiver – meaning ‘five-pound’
- Innit – meaning ‘isn’t it’
- Loo – meaning toilet
- Lush – meaning ‘nice’
- Mint – meaning ‘great’
- Nippy – meaning ‘cold’
- Pint – meaning ‘a beer’
- Porkies – meaning ‘lies’
- Skint – meaning ‘without money’
- Slog – meaning ‘major effort’
- Wee – meaning ‘small’
10 Must-Know British Slang Phrases
In addition to British slang terms, there are many slang phrases that are commonplace across the UK. We’ve included 10 of the top examples below, to help you crack the slang that Brits speak:
- All right? – meaning ‘hello’
- Leg it – meaning ‘run’
- Have a gander – meaning ‘have a look’
- Lost the plot – meaning ‘acting mad’
- Bugger all – meaning ‘nothing’
- Get in – meaning ‘something good has happened’
- All to pot – meaning ‘it’s all gone wrong’
- Canny good – meaning ‘very good’
- Sod off – meaning ‘leave me alone’
- Winding up ‘ meaning ‘getting frustrated’
British Slang Dictionary
Urban dictionaries can be a great way to learn the slang of a language. We’ve recommended some of the best dictionaries that you can find online related to modern British slang:
1. Highsnobiety – if you’re looking for a lighthearted approach to learning slang phrases, you’ll find plenty of useful information (and entertainment) in this dictionary of British slang.
2. Oxford International English – a reputable resource for learning slang and accents heard in the UK, this site is sure to help you along the way!
3. Britain Visitor – designed for anyone visiting the UK who needs to get acquainted with the country’s slang, this site offers a great A-Z slang dictionary.
British English Localization Specialists
GoLocalise is a one-stop shop for all of your voiceover projects. We ensure that our clients never get lost in translation with access to a wide range of professional voiceover artists (like Loise!), audiovisual translation services, and subtitling.
Every voiceover artist we work with is an expert, assuring our clients with quality voiceovers. To consult with our team and learn more about what we can offer, contact us today.
Look at our blog post Friend Translated: Exploring the Etymology of Friends.