10 fun British expressions (and what they mean)

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british expressions

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 expressions.

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

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

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!”

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?

Knackered

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

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.

Smash it!

Apart from its literally 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!”.

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…

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”.

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.

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…

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, and enjoy! 

Keen to brush up on your language skills? Start today for free with busuu. 

Harriet is busuu’s Senior English Language Expert. She is from a little village near Stratford-upon-Avon, England, and studied French and Spanish at university in Southampton. Then she went to live in France where she started teaching English. She loves cooking and eating food from different cuisines and singing with her choir.

39 COMMENTS

  1. Really Very , very nice these new words that I learned today in English language of busuu courses , Thank you dudes

  2. I face problem with speaking I know all verbs grammars because my study but for speaking I can not Please can you help me to get out of this problem I being embarrassed when talking english with my own language in the same time when I explain thing to my teacher ?????????

  3. Wow… It’s awesome. Every day I learn more about English language. Thank you for all knowledge that I have. I know that my English still isn’t good, but I improve my English skills every day with your help. It’s very easy and instersting to learn. Thank you very much!!!

  4. Not being funny here mate, but I think it’s a bit cheeky that some people fancy reading these bloody blogs about us british people. If I wasn’t so knackered i’d smash it, and these dodgy people reading this on the loo should all go to their boss and resign, and i’d bet he’d say ‘Nice one, cheerio!’.

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