The world of British slang contains hundreds of thousands of fascinating words and phrases. Half of them wouldn’t be recognised outside of their hometowns, whilst the other half are too rude to use in polite company!
Don’t let that scare you, however. The vast majority of weird and wonderful English slang words are rarely used in everyday speech. For practical purposes, it’s not worth trying to learn more than a handful.
If you’re taking a trip to the UK, however, there a few key slang phrases that it’s difficult to survive without. Let’s take a look at the seven most useful slang words to know in English.
First up, we have possibly the most useful word in the English language. ‘Cheers’ means…well, pretty much everything. From hello, goodbye, to thank you, and no thank you, to formal or informal toasts at the bar. It’s difficult to get through a day in the UK without hearing this one a few times. If you learn only one slang word for your trip, make it this one.
This one is often heard as a quick follow-up to the word ‘Cheers’. Mate is used as a term of endearment, but also frequently used to casually ingratiate oneself with a stranger or new acquaintance. You might refer to a waiter or fellow bar fly using the word ‘mate’. When used to address somebody or get their attention, the word mate is usually reserved for men only. However, women might often be heard referring to themselves as ‘good mates’ too.
Here’s one you’re likely to know already. ‘Fortnight’ refers to a period of two weeks – as in ‘we’re staying in London for a fortnight’. The two are used completely interchangeably.
Put this word together with ‘cheers’ and ‘mate’ and you have perhaps the most useful phrase in all of English slang. Ace can certainly refer to a number one in a pack of cards, but to us Brits it also means ‘that’s really great’. Picture yourself being handed a lovely battered fish and chips at the local chippy and replying ‘Ace, cheers mate!’.
If, however, you managed to miss out on the trip to the chippy, then you’re likely to be left feeling a bit ‘gutted’ – that is, disappointed or heartbroken. Gutted is frequently spoken in understatement as a way of diminishing misfortune, for example, “My girlfriend dumped me. I’m feeling a bit gutted”.
If you got a little too overeager at the fish and chip shop and spent all your money on battered Mars Bars, you might end up ‘skint’, meaning without any money.
Who knows how this odd word originated, but it’s certainly a useful one to know. ‘Grub’ means food, and can be used in a variety of different contexts such as ‘grub up’ (food is ready), ‘get some grub on’ (start cooking), or ‘grub down’ (go to get food). You can have a lot of fun with this one.