10 fun British phrases (& what they mean)

November 10, 2023

If you go to UK to improve your English, or even just for a holiday, these 10 expressions might help you recognise some popular British phrases.

You might think you know the meaning of some of these British sayings, but the different situations where you can use them and their double meanings might just surprise you!

Here are our favourite 10 British phrases and what they mean:

1. Cheeky

Cheeky is a word used by English people to describe somebody who says something insolent or irrelevant in an amusing way. You might say “Don’t be so cheeky!”

2. Fancy

If a friend invites you for a drink, there isn’t a big chance you’ll hear the question: “Would you like to go out for a drink?”, instead, they are much more likely to say: “Fancy a drink?

3. Knackered

Do you feel extremely tired or exhausted? Then you might say: “‘I am absolutely knackered!

4. Being funny

Being funny” can mean so many different things. As you probably know, it can mean something is comical, but a smell can also be funny: “it smells funny in here”. This means it doesn’t smell very nice, or there is a weird smell. Also the British expression: “ I am not being funny but…” is used to soften a complaint which follows the phrase.

5. Smash it!

Apart from its literal meaning (e.g. “I smashed a glass”) this expression can mean “Go for it!” or “to achieve/win something”. For example, if you have an exam and you feel pretty nervous, your friend might tell you: “Good luck! Smash it!”. On the other hand, if your friend gets a good mark, you might say “He smashed it!”.

6. Nice one!

British people will use this expression both sarcastically and sincerely. When being used sincerely, it can be used to express feelings of gratitude, recognition and likeability… But sarcasm? Imagine your friend spills a drink. You might say “Oh nice one!” – in this context, it loosely means “That was silly…

7. Dodgy

When you hear the expression “this looks a bit dodgy!”, remember it is nothing about dogs!. It actually means that something doesn’t look very honest, legal or simply “not right”.

8. Loo

You will be surprised how many words you will find for bathroom and loo is one of them! Loo, toilet, washroom, bathroom, ladies’, men’s… the list goes on.

9. Bloody

Don’t worry, it’s not a violent word… it has nothing to do with “blood”.Bloody” is a common word to give more emphasis to the sentence, mostly used as an exclamation of surprise. Something may be “bloody marvellous” or “bloody awful“. Having said that, British people do sometimes use it when expressing anger…

10. Boss

You might know the meaning of this word as your supervisor or person in charge at work, but it also has another meaning: you can say that something is “boss” to say something is extremely cool: “Dude, that’s so boss”. Also, if someone achieves something with a high level of success, you can say that they did it “Like a boss”.

So there you have it – as if the English language wasn’t complicated enough.

Listen out for these expressions, and enjoy using them! 

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