Students go to English class. They learn grammar and vocabulary. They study hard and score well. Everything is going well. Then they sit on a bus in an English-speaking country and hear:

‘Yo, yo, yo… wuz up, bro?’

As funny as it sounds, this won’t have been in your books and it’s almost incomprehensible. In fact, this type of language frustrates students a lot and they fear that their studies haven’t helped them enough.

But it shouldn’t. This is just slang, common street language that exists in every country. It changes with each new generation and some of it becomes obsolete. Slang isn’t always helpful to learn for professional or academic purposes, but it can help students improve their speaking abilities and puts them at ease in countries they are not familiar with.

To get started with slang, it’s good to distinguish between common types of British and American English. They are both unique in their own separate geographic areas and often can’t be used interchangeably.

Here is some useful slang for you to learn:

 

British Slang Examples

Word or Phrase

Meaning

Example

Tube

Another way to say London Underground

Take the tube to Piccadilly Circus.

Miffed

Irritated

His boss was miffed when Sidney kept showing up late.

Sod it

To give up

When Kendra realised she didn’t have enough money to go to Malta, she yelled, ‘Sod it!’

Peckish

Hungry

On the road trip to Cardiff, Mr. and Mrs. Allison stopped for some sandwiches and coffee as they felt peckish.

Muck up

Ruined

We can’t trust Alvin to not muck up the contracting job. He just never does good work.

Lost the plot

To be confused or uncertain

The manager lost the plot with his business plan and the company lost money.

Ear bashing

A severe reprimand

My dad gave me a real ear bashing for wrecking the car.

Mate

A friend

Dad and his mate like to go to Scotland to explore the castles.

Gutted

To be shocked and sad at the same time

Melora was totally gutted when her thesis was rejected. She spent a lot of time on it.

Ace

Something really good

You really have to try the food down at the local Thai place. It’s ace.

Fortnight

Two week period

Please send in your documents in a fortnight.

Scrummy

Delicious

Mrs. Patrick’s Sunday roast dinners are scrummy.

Rubbish

Garbage

Make sure you take the rubbish outside.

Brilliant

A good situation

You should hire Jenn to do the IT work. She’s brilliant with that stuff.

Dodgy

Something to be aware of, usually negative

Oh, don’t go to that pub. The service and atmosphere is really dodgy.

 

American Slang Examples

Word or Phrase

Meaning

Example

Dude

Friend

Jake’s a good dude. Don’t be afraid to ask him for help.

Couch potato

Lazy person

Frank’s such a couch potato. He just lays on the couch and plays Xbox.

Pass the buck

Not take responsibility

I hate working with Sam. He always passes the buck and I have to do all of his work.

Knock

To disrespect

I hate to knock that café, but their service is really bad.

Sick

Something really good, typically used by teenagers

Did you see the basketball game? It was sick!

Cold shoulder

To ignore

I made my friend angry and she gave me the cold shoulder all week.

Drive up the wall

To anger and irritate

I feel story for Mrs. Corman. Her students drive her up the wall.

Crash

When you fall asleep quickly

The band had to crash at a fan’s house since there were no rooms at the hotel.

Screw up

Like ‘muck up’ in the UK: to ruin something

Oh, I can’t believe I screwed up the game. I was playing so well…

Jack up

Increasing

The government just jacked up state taxes so now cola is really expensive.

Down to Earth

Someone practical

I love listening to Professor Hopkins. She’s down to Earth and makes algebra seem easy.

Hang out

Casually meeting up and spending time

When I was in school, we always hung out at the park.

Creep

An unpleasant, strange person

My sister won’t go to nightclubs. She says there are too many creeps.

Zonked

Exhausted

Although Cam did well on his thesis, it left him totally zonked.

Pig out

To eat too much

My brother Artie loves to pig out on chips and pizza. I can’t stand to see him eat so much.

 

These are only a few examples. If these expressions have you interested in learning more slang, why not check out The Language Gallery’s Speaking Skills elective or One-to-One classes? You can learn this type of slang language and so much more.