An insight into British and American slang


A close up to a dictionary definition of Slang

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




Another way to say London Underground

Take the tube to Piccadilly Circus.



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!’



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

Muck up


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.


A friend

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


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.


Something really good

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


Two week period

Please send in your documents in a fortnight.



Mrs. Patrick’s Sunday roast dinners are scrummy.



Make sure you take the rubbish outside.


A good situation

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


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





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.


To disrespect

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


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.


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


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.


An unpleasant, strange person

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



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. 

All our classes are now available online, click here to learn more.
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