British Expressions that make us so terribly British

British Expressions

What are common British expressions? Britain is a unique country filled with interesting people and places to see. One of the most interesting things about the UK and British people are the expressions that we use here. Tourists visiting the UK are often perplexed by our unusual phrases, and there are a lot of regional differences in how we speak.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most famous British expressions and a short summary of what they all mean. Whether you’re from the UK or would like to visit, it’s worth knowing these terms and phrases so you can understand what’s being said! British things, phrases, and sayings are a common part of the vernacular in the UK, and there are lots of differences between British and American.

Rainy scene of London

1. Alright?

Alright is usually meant to be used as a statement to say that things are fine. However, it’s also often used as a question to enquire how someone is feeling as well as an informal greeting. When meeting with friends, saying “Alright?” is a fairly typical interaction in the UK and no matter where you go, it’s universally used as a greeting. Although it would appear to be asking a question, an answer isn’t usually required in response and saying “Alright?” back is perfectly acceptable.

Note that because this is an informal expression, you wouldn’t use it to greet authority figures such as bosses, teachers or police. Instead, it’s best used between friends.

2. Fancy a Cuppa? 

Drinking tea is famously associated with Britain, where the habit is believed to stretch back to the 17th Century after the East India Company first started bringing back tea from Asia. Since then, it’s become something strongly associated with the country and almost everyone in Britain drinks team regularly. In fact, around 84% of British people drink some kind of tea every day.

This phrase is used to enquire as to whether a person would like a cup of tea. In this case, the word cuppa is used to refer to the cup of tea, but this can be exchanged for simply saying tea, brew or any other word with the same meaning. You’ll commonly hear the phrase fancy a cuppa in homes and workplaces across the country, where tea is used as a chance to relax, socialise and catch up with any gossip.

Two cups of tea with a plate of biscuits

3. Cheeky

The word cheeky implies a sense of mischievousness or playfulness and is often used to describe the classic British sense of humour. Although British people are often portrayed as being quite stern, serious and formal, being cheeky is part of our nature, and we often use humour to cope with bad situations. As well as being a descriptive word for humour, cheeky is often used to describe something that might be fun, frivolous or maybe a bit naughty. For example, we might ask if you fancy a cheeky pint, which would be used to ask if someone wants to join you for a quick drink.

In most cases, cheeky is used in a way to make something sound a bit more fun, upbeat and happy. You could use it to describe a smile, the way someone talks or someone’s sense of humour, and it may even be used in a flirtatious way.

4. I’m Knackered

Have you ever been so exhausted or tired that few words can really describe how you feel? For British people, this feeling is known as being knackered. Whether you’ve just completed a marathon or have had an exhausting week at work, being knackered usually means you can’t take any more and need to take some time to rest and recover. This is a great opportunity to have a cup of tea and chill out.

Knackered can also be used to describe something that’s broken or damaged beyond repair. If your car has broken down, you might describe it as being knackered, and you can also use this to explain an injury you’ve had. For example, “I knackered my knee playing football this weekend”.

5. Chuffed to Bits

This expression is the perfect way to show that you’re really happy with something. Chuffed to bits simply means that you’re incredibly pleased and can be used to describe your feeling about a gift someone has given you or a meal that you’ve just eaten.

On top of this, you can say you’re chuffed to bits as a way to describe the pride that you feel after having done a good job on something. Whether you’ve just completed a work project or you’ve baked a really delicious cake, this expression is perfect for showing just how pleased you are.

6. Mate

Mate is one of the most commonly used words in the English language. Well, maybe not actually, but it certainly feels like it at times. Mate is used to refer to our friends, whether directed at them or when talking about them. Saying you’re going off out with your mates or that you’re going to see a mate are common expressions, and you can also use it in combination with a greeting. “Alright mate?” is frequently used, and you could use this to greet good friends as well as casual acquaintances.

Mate is a very informal word, and you normally wouldn’t use it to greet your boss, and it can be condescending if you use it to a person who you don’t know very well. Despite this, it’s still very common. It can also be used as an expression of surprise, disbelief or even disgust, although this can be more of a regional thing.

7. Bloody

Bloody is strongly associated with the British, and although it’s become much more a stereotype than an actual phrase, it’s still widely used in some parts of the UK. It’s used for just about anything to add emphasis to a point. You can say, “that was bloody delicious!”, “that’s bloody horrible”, or “bloody hell” to show excitement, terror or confusion depending on the context.

Again, this is very informal, and it’s considered a form of swearing by some people, so you should be careful who you use it around.

Someone upset and shouting at someone else

8. Blimey

Blimey is less commonly used than some of the other words on this list, but it’s still common in some regions. It’s a way of expressing surprise, confusion or alarm and can also be used in a sarcastic way. This is a really fun word to say, and although its usage has decreased in the UK, it’s also commonly used in Australia.

9. That’s Rubbish

In the UK, trash or garbage is known as rubbish, and this can also be used to describe something that’s not very good. Whether it’s regarding food, a TV show, British unattractive jobs, or the result of a football match, that’s rubbish is a commonly used phrase to indicate someone’s displeasure. You can also use this expression when disputing what someone’s saying if you believe them to be telling lies. “That’s total rubbish” is used for even greater emphasis on just how rubbish something is.

10. Pissed

Pissed is commonly used in American English to describe someone who’s angry about something. You might say, “He’s really pissed after he dropped his plate of food all over himself”. However, in British English, it usually means something very different. Here in the UK, we say we’re pissed if we’re incredibly drunk. If you’ve had one too many pints and are seeing double, you’re definitely pissed and are probably going to be feeling worse for wear in the morning.

A person looking drunk and holding a pint

11. To Bodge

Bodge is a great example of British slang because no one knows where it really comes from. It’s also a very fun word to say, and the meaning of it seems to suit the word. You use bodge to describe the action of fixing something in a haphazard manner. For example, you might say, “he really bodged that renovation” or “I fixed it, but it’s a bit of a bodge job”. Few things are as British as persevering and carrying on despite obvious hardship, and bodging is a great way of showing British spirit. Whether it’s a bike, car, house or anything else, bodging a repair job is something that every British person should try at least once. Just be sure to call the experts if it’s something that could be dangerous!

12. Lovely

In our often overly-polite country, the word lovely can have many different meanings. While it’s normally used to describe something in a positive way, it can also be used to hide our true feelings about something and can also be used in a sarcastic manner. You can use lovely to describe almost anything, including people, places, things and even words. You might say “what a lovely person” or that was a lovely gift”.

If you’re British, you’ll probably not want to reveal just how much you dislike something, and lovely is a great word to use if you don’t want to offend anyone. For example, if you get served a rubbish meal in the pub, and the waiter asks you how it was, the standard response is “That was lovely, thanks”. You can also use it sarcastically. For example, if it starts raining and you forgot your umbrella, “lovely” is a great way to express your displeasure at the situation.

FAQ

What are the differences between British and American English?

There are lots of differences between British and American English, and it’s a common source of frustration among British people, especially online when they see the American spellings and uses of words. Some common examples of spelling differences are colour and color, organise and organize, tyre and tire, metre and meter, catalogue and catalog, travelled and traveled, burnt and burned.

There are also differences in the words we use such as shop and store, trousers and pants, flat and apartment, lorry and truck, university and college, crisps and chips, chips and French fries, films and movies, elevator and lift, cookie and biscuit, sneakers and trainers. As you can see, there are lots of differences between these two languages, which can often be confusing to people when they first learn English.

What are the most common British expressions?

The most commonly used British expressions depend a lot on the region of the country as well as the age of the people and whether the setting is formal or informal. However, the likes of “Alright”, “Fancy a cuppa”, and “That’s rubbish” are all very commonly used. “I’m pissed” is also very common and is usually heard mostly on nights out at pubs or clubs around the country.

What are some Old English phrases?

Old English is the language that the Anglo-Saxons spoke in what is now Great Britain. This was before the Normans invaded in 1066, and life and the language were very different back then. If you’re a big fan of history, this period of time is fascinating to learn about, and the language that the Anglo-Saxons spoke is worth looking at. Some common words and phrases include:

Uhtceare – Used to describe the feeling of lying awake before dawn and worrying, this word should definitely make a comeback in modern Britain.Grubbling – This word was used to describe the act of rummaging in your pockets. It’s a good idea to grubble in your pockets before you leave the house to make sure you haven’t forgotten your keys or wallet.Rawgabbit – Used to describe a person who talks with authority on a subject they know nothing about. We could definitely find some uses for this word, and it’s a shame it’s no longer used in our language today.

What are the most popular British sayings?

There are lots of famous English sayings that are still commonly used today. Some of these include:

Don’t count your chickens – An expression that comes from the longer version “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”. It means that you shouldn’t get overconfident about something.Donkey’s years – Used to refer to a really long time. Thought to have originated from the fact that donkeys can live for many years.Taking the piss – Taking the piss is where you’re playing poking fun at someone. It can also be used to express displeasure at how you’re being treated. “You’re taking the piss!”Lost the plot – Losing the plot is a way of saying that someone has lost their temper and gotten out of control.Having a chinwag – A chinwag is another way of saying a conversation. If someone wants to have a chinwag with you, they’re after a friendly chat.

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