101 British Insults, Slang & Phrases: Did You Know Them All?

Learning to speak English is one thing, learning to speak British English like a native is quite another. With a bewildering variety of slang phrases and idioms, the Brits have a way of expressing themselves that can leave the uninitiated in the dark.

But never fear – over the next few pages is our list of 101 British insults, words and phrases that will have you speaking the lingo as if you were born in England….


British Insults & Slang

  1. Hard lines – originating in the 1950s, this simply means bad luck.
  2. Blast – used to express surprise, particularly when something has gone wrong
  3. Spend a penny – visit the bathroom
  4. Dog’s bollocks – rude expression meaning extremely good (also known as “the mutt’s nuts”)
  5. Knock off – to steal, or sometimes counterfeit (“That’s not Chanel, it’s a knock off”)
  6. Mate – friend
  7. Gormless – clueless
  8. Wonky – unstable or not firm
  9. Collywobbles – extreme nausea or pain in the stomach as a result of stress
  10. Donkey’s Years – ages, as in “I haven’t seen that type of thing in donkey’s years”.
  11. Peanuts – very cheap.
  12. Laughing gear – mouth, as in, “Shut your laughing gear”
  13. The Old Bill – police force or a police officer
  14. Nob – a person with high social status
  15. Fortnight – very common term for a period of two weeks
  16. Bang to rights – caught in the act
  17. Know one’s onions – to have a good knowledge of a particular subject, as in “Ask Jane, I think she knows her onions about flowers”
  18. Dog’s dinner – a mess
  19. How’s your father – sex, as in “A spot of how’s your father”
  20. To have a butcher’s – to have a look

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English Insults

  1. Death warmed up – looking very ill.
  2. Laugh like a drain – laugh very loudly
  3. In the clink – being in prison
  4. Laugh up your sleeve – secretly laughing at something, especially a person
  5. He is as bright as a button – he is very clever
  6. Sweet Fanny Adams – nothing, as in “He’s been doing sweet Fanny Adams all day”
  7. Old Blighty – Britain
  8. Full Monty – Everything or the whole thing
  9. Fanny around – To delay or procrastinate
  10. Gobsmacked – Astounded or amazed
  11. Eating irons – cutlery
  12. Chivvy along – to hurry someone up
  13. Brill – short way of saying brilliant
  14. Rugger – rugby
  15. Stonking – huge
  16. Box clever – use intelligence to get what you want
  17. Across the pond – across the Atlantic Ocean, i.e. the USA
  18. Do a runner – leave abruptly, often without fulfilling a commitment
  19. Make the running – make sure that things get done
  20. Double Dutch – completely incomprehensible

British Slang Words

  1. Take the mickey – To mock someone
  2. Wag off – to waste time
  3. Queer someone’s pitch – spoil someone’s effort, particularly in relation to business, as in “I was about to sign the contract until you queered my pitch.”
  4. Hard cheese – bad luck, used to commiserate with someone
  5. In the club – commonly used to refer to pregnant women, as in “She’s in the club”
  6. Kick your heels – being forced to wait for something or someone
  7. Leave the field open or leave the field clear – get out of the way to allow another person to succeed
  8. Heath Robinson – a complicated and unconventional, but practical or effective system. Often used for machinery.
  9. Money for old rope – a very easy way of making money
  10. Not cricket – unfair
  11. Blatant – really obvious
  12. Botch – to botch something up or do a botch job means to do a job unprofessionally and to a poor standard
  13. Cram – to study hard, especially in the period of exams
  14. Hiya – A friendly way of saying hello
  15. Pukka – very good
  16. Knackered – exhausted
  17. Apples and pears – Cockney rhyming slang for stairs
  18. Lush – great, amazing
  19. Gaffer – employer, boss
  20. Numpty – an unwise or incompetent person

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London chef Jamie Oliver, known for his love of the word “pukka” (By Scandic Hotels

British Slang Insults

  1. Give us a bell – call me on the telephone
  2. Dander – stroll, as in “I took a dander”
  3. It’s brass monkeys out – it’s very cold outside
  4. Big girl’s blouse – a wimp or someone who lacks confidence
  5. Plonker or pillock – idiot
  6. Toodle Pip or Ta ta – goodbye
  7. Gobby – rude
  8. Meat and two veg – a man’s private parts
  9. Knees up – party
  10. Not my cup of tea – not to my liking.
  11. Rozzer – police officer
  12. Tosh – meaningless or nonsense
  13. Miffed – upset or offended
  14. Full of beans – having lots of energy
  15. Getting off with someone – kissing them
  16. Bum – bottom
  17. Cack-handed – not organised or coordinated
  18. Wind-up merchant – someone who is teasing another person, particularly to make them irate
  19. She’s on the chunder bus – she’s going to be sick
  20. Dog in the manger – a person who selfishly withholds from others something useless to himself

British Cuss Words

  1. Chinese whispers – scandal or gossip that gets exaggerated or distorted when repeated
  2. Curate’s egg – something that is only good in parts
  3. Go spare – to lose your temper completely
  4. Green fingers – being talented in gardening, as in “She has green fingers”
  5. Have a riot – to have a good time
  6. Off your chump – irrational or crazy
  7. Watering hole – a pub
  8. Spawny – to be lucky, as in “You had a spawny outcome”
  9. Honk – to smell bad
  10. Earwig – to eavesdrop
  11. Argy-bargy – a heated argument, dispute or confrontation
  12. Bung – bribe
  13. Naff – unfashionable, uncool
  14. Beastly – unpleasant
  15. Knock up – to wake someone, or to make someone pregnant
  16. Have a bash – try to do something
  17. Chav – low class person
  18. Footy – soccer
  19. Brass neck – to have no sense of shame
  20. At a loose end – to have nothing to do with your spare time
  21. Lose your marbles – lose your mind
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That’s our 101 British insults, slang & phrases. What did you learn that was new?

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