British Slang You Think You Know – But You’re Probably Wrong!

You’ll hear it on television, in films and maybe even in person if you find yourself travelling, but the slang you’ll hear in Britain is unlike any you’ll hear in any other English speaking country.  British slang can be some of the hardest English to understand and to master – check out our unique list of things that sound like one thing, but mean something very different!

1. Gormless

Confused by  CollegeDegrees360, Flickr

Confused by CollegeDegrees360, Flickr

What you might think it means: A shirt that doesn’t have any arm holes or a person with no shape.

What it actually means: Completely and utterly clueless; having no idea what’s going on.

How to use it: “The new guy is completely gormless – he tried to send a fax with the photocopier!”


What you might think it means: When your dog stumbles trying to catch a ball.

What it actually means: A feeling of nausea or stomach pain caused by stress or anxiety.

How to use it: “This pop quiz has given me the collywobbles!”

3. Chin wag

What you might think it means: A way of saying no when your mouth is full.

What it actually means: A long chat with a friend, often times about gossip.

How to use it: “Jessica and I had a good chin wag when she came back from her vacation.”

4. Her Majesty’s Pleasure:

Buckingham Palace by [Duncan], Flickr

Buckingham Palace by [Duncan], Flickr

What you might think it means: Being invited to Buckingham Palace.

What it actually means: Being incarcerated or put in prison.

How to use it: “My uncle has been staying in Her Majesty’s pleasure for the last 3 years, and he’s got one more to go before he’s out on parole.”

5. Knackered

What you might think it means: Getting beaten with a tool, like a hammer.

What it actually means: Feeling incredibly tired or exhausted.

How to use it: “I’m completely knackered after teaching 12 screaming toddlers for 8 hours today.”

6. Slapper

What you might think it means: A kind of fish, or maybe a person who often slaps other people.

What it actually means: A promiscuous female.

How to use it: “How dare you call her a slapper just because she’s wearing a tight skirt!”

7. To Have a Butcher’s

What you might think it means: To own a place where you can buy fresh meat.

What it actually means: To take a look at something or someone.

How to use it: “Have a butcher’s at this motor – it’s the most expensive piece of rubbish car I’ve ever seen.”

8. On The Pull

Pulling on the tail by Tambako The Jaguar, Flickr

Pulling on the tail by Tambako The Jaguar, Flickr


What you might think it means: Living off the government in hard times.

What it actually means: Looking for sex, or trying to pick up someone for sex.

How to use it: “She must be on the pull, she’s wearing her highest heels and her lowest cut top.”


Have these interesting bits of slang tickled your fancy? Want to learn more? Contact us now to see what courses we have available!